Mixing media for a powerful writing experience

Our sixth grade language arts teacher has done it again, inventing a multimedia writing project that has captured kids’ attention and produced some passionate, authentic writing. Last year, his students composed and recorded Reconstruction-era songs and then held a follow-up discussion via online forum. This year, students wrote, acted, and recorded short video skits about gender stereotyping and physical education.

Why video? Carter comments.

Video is important to get kids’ attention and provide fun. There is an element of drama and play. Tracking visually turns on some part of their brain, helps them understand better.


It must be even more effective to have the kids write, stage, and record the video. There are likely to remember every detail of the prompt that leads to all of the subsequent writing.

A comment thread provides the subsequent discussion space.


Kids who struggle with expository writing can really shine in a more argumentative/discussion format. [One student] cares about people listening to her points, being respected. She likes the slangy sound [of kid talk] — it has a nice ring to it. She is also really good at this dialect.

In other words, let us recognize that people demonstrate a number of authentic literacies in the real world, not all of which are represented in schools.

To spice up the discussion, Carter invited eighth grade students to join the conversation. That sure motivated the sixth grade students to write compelling responses!

Students love the forum medium, because they know they are not going to be asked to produce a lot of text, and the topic is going to be relevant to their lives. It is not authentic to write longer pieces — just an artifact of school.

The five-paragraph essay is still a critical student writing competency. It is just not the only one.

Want to join us?

Do you teach middle school students? Would you like them to join the conversation about gender stereotypes in physical education? Go to the conversation web site and submit your comments. Please ask students to identify themselves by first name and school.

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