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Showing Robert Schechter

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3-5 | Reading & Language Arts | Student-created media projects

My Classroom Innovation

I have been a Special Education teacher in the Los Angeles public school system for seven years. Before that, I worked in television, writing scripts for situation comedies and animation. I feel awkward referring to myself as an “innovator.” My goal was to combine my unique past with the current needs of our students. The result became a creative writing program called “An Author You Can’t Refuse,” which encourages children (mostly second-language learners) to produce unique, inventive stories. Thanks to outside funding (including a generous grant from the National Education Association), we slowly incorporated video technology into the curriculum and began writing and producing standards-based videos (i.e. music videos on grammar and digestion). This year, the students brainstormed and co-produced a comedic short about stopping the spread of H1N1 germs. Our objective is to strengthen student understanding of the elements of storytelling, including the difficult (yes, excruciating) drafting process. The top three writers are awarded trophies, and every story is included in a hardbound, published anthology. I don’t know if we have encouraged the next Hemmingway or Spielberg, but I believe we provide our students with an “innovative” (and fun) outlet to express their imagination and originality.

How Students were Engaged

“An Author You Can’t Refuse” offers students a chance to write stories unrestricted by the boundaries of the general writing program. We employ background knowledge to reinforce fundamentals (e.g. modeling a character breakdown of Sponge Bob Square Pants, and using the Winter Olympics to review story structure). As we added technology, the program expanded to include writing and producing standards-based videos. Students brainstorm stories, then work before and behind the camera to put their work on film. When our school nurse asked us to make a video about avoiding the Swine Flu, the result was our submission: “Flu’s Clues.”

PBS Program/Content Used

The Magic School Bus television show and books