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March 10, 2011 / Sarah Ludwig

Reflections on the PSA Project, Week 2

Students in our Middle School are creating Public Service Announcements through their advisor groups. There are ten advisor groups and around ten students in each group. Each student fills a role within the group. Each week they have a different activity: brainstorming, planning, writing, filming, and editing. These activities are guided by the advisors but are totally student-driven. At the end of the project, the PSAs will be screened in front of the students and judged. The winning groups will get a pizza party, their PSA on the school website, and their videos sent out to local media outlets. I want to start blogging about this to document the process, which has been amazing so far.

Each advisor group received a packet with extensive directions, worksheets, jumping-off points, and more.

To begin, I showed the entire Middle School a Prezi with a sample PSA and a brief outline of the project.

Weeks 1 and 2: Brainstorming and planning

The students had to agree on a general topic for their PSA. We provided them with a list of suggested topics, but they could select something not on the list. Then they mind mapped more specific ideas within that broad topic. A lot of them did this on the Smart Board.

Once they had agreed on their specific topic, they moved onto the concept of the PSA. As far as I could tell (I rotated among the groups), this required a discussion moderated by the advisor. The kids had great ideas right off of the bat.

After the concept was agreed upon, the groups talked about the particular roles that could be filled within the group. The students filled out a worksheet with their top choices, giving a justification for why they would succeed at each role. The advisor ultimately made the decisions about who would fill which role.

As I walked from classroom to classroom, the students seemed enthusiastic, throwing out ideas, discussing their plans respectfully and thoughtfully, and thinking creatively. Most groups had a solid idea of what they wanted their PSA to look like, generally, by the end of the second meeting.

Today, the students gathered in assembly to hear from two faculty members. Tomorrow (week 3, which I will write about next week), the students will begin the writing process. This is where the real work begins. Up until now, the groups have been having lots of discussions and making decisions, but now the students must put some serious effort toward the creative process. One or two writers in each group will be responsible for gathering the ideas of their classmates and turning them into a script, which the group will then read together, go over, and eventually act out. So today, the chair of our Performing and Visual Arts Department gave the students an introduction to the practice of storyboarding, giving them several examples to look at and explaining the basic terms of cinematography. Then our theater teacher brought two students up to the stage and explained to the audience how improvisation worked and how to use it as a tool in the writing process. He had the two actors improvise a scene about littering. It was hilarious and illustrated his point perfectly. Then we got another lesson on storyboarding, using the improvised scene as a concrete example.

I’m excited to see where this goes next. I’ll blog more about the writing process once it really begins tomorrow. In the meantime, I’m working on securing some outside judges to come to our screening in May.

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