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A Rainbow of Religion: Illuminating Standards Video Series

Type

Videos

Grade Level

This film features a project in which students interviewed leaders of different faiths in their community, asking questions about life, morality and meaning. It addresses a range of Common Core Literacy standards, and in particular illuminates the process of creating high-quality informative writing. Interview, critique, and editing processes are featured in the film, as well as a powerful and engaging connection between literacy and social studies work with the exploration of fundamental life questions.

The Illuminating Standards Project

In the last two decades of the ‘standards movement’ in American public education, many educators have concluded that ‘teaching to the standards’ and project-based learning are incompatible. Ron Berger (EL Education) and Steve Seidel (Harvard Graduate School of Education), co-directors of The Illuminating Standards Project, wondered if this conclusion was true. Indeed, they speculated that long-term, interdisciplinary, arts-infused, community-connected projects may well be one of the best ways to actually see what state standards look like when fully realized in the things students make in school—to make the standards visible.

Three questions frame the work of The Illuminating Standards Project:
- What does it look like when state standards are met with integrity, depth, and imagination?
- How can we use standards to open up and enrich curriculum, rather than narrow and constrain it?
- How can we use student work to raise the level of our understanding of standards and our dialogue about them?

The Videos

Collaborating with Berger and Seidel on The Illuminating Standards Project, over 30 students at the Harvard Graduate School of Education have explored these questions by choosing projects from the Student Work Archive in the Center for Student Work and considering the ways in which those projects did—and didn’t—meet specific state standards. Further, they examined how the student work illuminated the standards—and vice versa. Many of those students created short films and 13 of those films are presented here.

We invite you to watch these films and we encourage you to use them as the catalyst for discussions with your colleagues about the relationship between your commitment to meet demanding state standards and approaches to designing powerful learning experiences for our students.


Type

Videos

Grade Level

This film features a project in which students interviewed leaders of different faiths in their community, asking questions about life, morality and meaning. It addresses a range of Common Core Literacy standards, and in particular illuminates the process of creating high-quality informative writing. Interview, critique, and editing processes are featured in the film, as well as a powerful and engaging connection between literacy and social studies work with the exploration of fundamental life questions.

The Illuminating Standards Project

In the last two decades of the ‘standards movement’ in American public education, many educators have concluded that ‘teaching to the standards’ and project-based learning are incompatible. Ron Berger (EL Education) and Steve Seidel (Harvard Graduate School of Education), co-directors of The Illuminating Standards Project, wondered if this conclusion was true. Indeed, they speculated that long-term, interdisciplinary, arts-infused, community-connected projects may well be one of the best ways to actually see what state standards look like when fully realized in the things students make in school—to make the standards visible.

Three questions frame the work of The Illuminating Standards Project:
- What does it look like when state standards are met with integrity, depth, and imagination?
- How can we use standards to open up and enrich curriculum, rather than narrow and constrain it?
- How can we use student work to raise the level of our understanding of standards and our dialogue about them?

The Videos

Collaborating with Berger and Seidel on The Illuminating Standards Project, over 30 students at the Harvard Graduate School of Education have explored these questions by choosing projects from the Student Work Archive in the Center for Student Work and considering the ways in which those projects did—and didn’t—meet specific state standards. Further, they examined how the student work illuminated the standards—and vice versa. Many of those students created short films and 13 of those films are presented here.

We invite you to watch these films and we encourage you to use them as the catalyst for discussions with your colleagues about the relationship between your commitment to meet demanding state standards and approaches to designing powerful learning experiences for our students.


Transcript

- [Narrator] A Rainbow of Religion is a book produced by the eighth grade class of Four Rivers Charter Public School in Greenfield, Massachusetts. The book is a compilation of monologues for diverse religious leaders from the Greenfield community with whom the students had conducted interviews with the purpose of learning more about the beliefs and practices of different religions. Wait, what? Religion in the common core standards, really? Robyn Wilson, the teacher who inspired this project, explains her approach.

- Religion is not explicitly part of the Massachusetts state standards, but it’s definitely in there, because you’re studying the golden age of Islam, you’re studying the Middle Ages, the Renaissance, the Reformation. So, I thought that, “Hey, let’s just do this religion project, and then we’ll be touching upon all of these sort of more topical subjects and social studies.”

- [Narrator] That sounds great, but what are some of the more specific skills that this project included?

- [Robyn] Speaking, so they were doing public speaking, interviewing, they were editing, so editing for expository writing, for a very specific audience. I just think that it was really rich, full of really authentic English, social studies skills.

- [Narrator] The book includes interviews with leaders from a multitude of faiths, and their monologues explore issues of faith, community, history, language, and even politics, ethics, values, and many more. So, yes, you can explore, discuss, and learn about religion and still be covering many of the common core state standards and dispositions. As we can see, this one project alone covers a number of standards. Of course, in this video we won’t be able to cover all of them, so for the next few minutes we’ll focus on illuminating one standard as we explore the development and creation of this inspiring project. The process for this project included several stages that the students worked on. The first stage was conducting the interviews. The second stage was editing the monologues, and then the final stage was the production of the final book. We’ll focus on the first two stages. Robyn Wilson explains the learning experience during the interview stage.

- [Robyn] We had an expert come in who is a professional interviewer, and she basically taught the kids how to conduct an interview, how to make eye contact, how to nod, how to smile, how to ask encouraging followup questions. Actually, it was really interesting. It was a great process, in fact, to talk about what questions we should ask, because we started with our own questions, but then how do you formulate the questions into something that is respectful and authentic and open-ended? So, I think just learning how to ask open-ended questions in a thoughtful manner was incredibly illuminating for them.

- [Narrator] The second stage was editing. This time, let’s hear from the students themselves.

- [Maia] That was a long process.

- [Female Student] We had to type exactly what they were saying, and then we would go through and edit it all, and then we would edit again.

- [Maia] I think there were like five or six edits.

- [Female Student] Six edits, they did six edits.

- Remember that thing on the board, and we would check off how many edits we did, and then-

- We had to do six edits.

- Ridiculous.

- [Female Student] And then we had a final draft, and in the final draft we had to reorganize into something that could be easily-

- Part of our book.

- [Female Student] Read, and that was a good piece of writing. So, that was a very long process, and it was the first real English thing I had ever done.

- [Narrator] It was long, but it was real, and that’s what we need to focus on. The final product of this project was not a writing standard or even a book of monologues. As the students so eloquently explained, this project carried far more important messages.

- [Maia] One thing that stuck with me was just that there are so many people that have different perceptions on what they believe in and how they see the world, and how religion can really be a huge, huge part of someone’s life.

- [Dante] I think for me, it was just sort of awe.

- [Kyra] Seeing that kind of really full-hearted openness towards us, like sharing that moment with us and then also feeling that every day, that’s very eye-opening. It definitely changed my perception.

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