Severn News

Severn Second Graders Present and Persuade with Green Screen Tech

Severn second graders recently presented persuasive videos about the most impactful invention in our modern world to their peers and teachers at a schoolwide assembly. Our second graders prepared for weeks to create these videos, developing a complex range of skills from self-reflection, research, and planning to speaking clearly and using techniques to engage the audience. Learning to communicate effectively is one of the most powerful tools we can give our students to connect with the world around them. This project is one example of authentic learning that sticks.

Step 1: Get Thinking

This video project was the first lesson in a new social studies unit about changing communities. Second-grade teachers Ms. Kristin Long and Ms. Nancy Rutledge introduced the lesson with a “see, think, wonder” thinking routine, using a photo of the early telephone to activate students’ prior knowledge and get them thinking about inventions throughout history. They talked about how inventions are created to solve problems in our communities and often leave a lasting impact. Ms. Long and Ms. Rutledge encouraged their students to think analytically, to think backward from an invention and consider what problem it may have solved.

Step 2: Work Together to Take a Stance

After talking more generally about inventions as catalysts for change, the classes watched a video about eight world-changing technological advances in modern history:
  • the engine
  • penicillin
  • the telephone
  • the computer
  • the wheel
  • the printing press
  • electricity
  • the internet
Inspired by the video, each student chose an invention and were placed in groups according to those choices. Working together, the groups created arguments to convince their audience that their particular invention was the most impactful. Ms. Long and Ms. Rutledge gave them a list of questions to facilitate their discussions:
  • Could you live without this invention?
  • How often do you and your family use this invention?
  • How is your life better with this invention?
  • Does this invention help a lot of people or a small group of people?
  • What are some ways this invention will be used to make life better for future generations?
These discussions were also an opportunity for Ms. Long and Ms. Rutledge to help their students develop strategies for working collaboratively like learning to speak up while also listening to others and giving everyone in the group a chance to shine.

Severn School students work together on a project.
Working together to develop their arguments.

Step 3: Research and Video Prep

Once the groups reached consensus about the impact of their inventions, it was time to back-up their opinions with facts, an essential part of forming a persuasive argument. Although this was not their first persuasive writing assignment of the year, it was the most in-depth. They had previously studied the different aspects of persuasive writing — purpose and author's voice — and this was their chance to put that into action. They dove into research — reading books and conducting online searches to find information to support their ideas. Throughout this process, Ms. Long and Ms. Rutledge also stressed the importance of good research skills, helping each group evaluate their sources for accuracy.

As our second graders collected all of the information they would need for the presentation, they also created a plan for presenting their research on screen; who would talk about each section, how they might capture the audience’s attention visually, and more. They collected photos to serve as the backdrop for their videos and prepared them with PicCollage, an iPad photo editing app. Technology Specialist Ms. Vicki Dabrowka guided them through this step of the project, helping them complete a storyboard-style template and assisting with prepping the photos.

Severn School students working together on a project.
Using digital tools along with pencil and paper to finalize their plans.

Step 4: Record and Present!

After all of the preparations were complete, Ms. Dabrowka helped our second graders record their presentations using a green screen and the Green Screen app from DoInk. She coached them on how to stand, how to engage the audience, and how to speak clearly so all of their great research would translate well on the screen. The kids had a blast during the recording and were excited to show their videos to the school.

Severn School students presenting in front of a green screen.
Recording day!

Drumroll please ... the Finished Product!

In addition to presenting their videos for their teachers and peers at the assembly, second graders also uploaded their presentations to Seesaw, a digital portfolio app, for parents to watch from home.

Learning That Sticks

From the initial activating activity to research, writing, practicing and recording, this lesson is an example of how our teachers work together to create rich, memorable learning experiences for our students. Because our second graders had a real audience for their work, they were invested in the process from start to finish. They learned important media literacy, collaboration, writing, and technology skills while exploring new content — this is the kind of learning that sticks.

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