Oct 19 2010

Video-Based Lessons With a Presidential Twist

Students share their knowledge of U.S. presidents in video broadcasts of their own making.

Learning to be comfortable both in front of and behind the camera can be especially valuable in a society in which video technology is ubiquitous. Students don't need to be pushed to ham it up for the camera, especially when it affords them an opportunity to show off what they've learned.

LESSON DESCRIPTION: Many students know that Barack Obama is the current president of the United States. They may even know a few biographical details about him. But often their awareness of the nation's 43 preceding presidents is limited or nonexistent.

For this lesson, students work in pairs to create a comprehensive "Hall of Presidents." The project includes a digital component in which students operate Flip Video camcorders to film and edit footage of each other summarizing their research findings, and an artistic component in which they create life-size posters highlighting their chosen presidents.

Each duo selects a president to research using teacher-vetted websites. They must answer these questions: What is your president's full name, date of birth and date of death? Against which candidates did he run? Who was his vice president? How long did he serve as president? To which political party did he belong? For what is he remembered? What did he look like?

Next, students create posters illustrating their presidents and paraphrasing their research findings. Completed posters are displayed as they would be in a portrait gallery, in the hallway outside the classroom. The project culminates with student-produced short videos in which they serve as experts on the subject of their respective presidents. The videos are shared with schoolmates, other classes, parents and – via the web – the world.

SUBJECT AREA: This activity focuses on fifth-grade history subject matter, but it can be adapted to any research topic for students in grades three through 12.

CURRICULUM STANDARDS: This lesson meets several curricular standards for History and Government, Economics and Geography set forth by the Kansas State Department of Education for fifth-grade students:

  • Benchmark 3: Students use a working knowledge and understanding of the American Revolution and the United States becoming a nation. Indicator 7 requires students to recognize the importance of the presidency as defined by George Washington.
  • Benchmark 4: Students engage in historical thinking skills. Indicator 6 requires students to use research skills to interpret a historical person or event and note the source(s) of information.


GRADING RUBRIC: Students are graded on their ability to:

  • work collaboratively with a partner to complete the project;
  • research their president using the questions provided and paraphrase their findings;
  • create a poster that summarizes their research in an engaging way; and
  • produce a video, filmed in front of their posters, in which they answer the research questions.

Teaching Tips

✔ Create a class blog to introduce the lesson and track progress (see mrsmeloni.blogspot.com, for example).

✔ Add links to vetted research sites to the blog.

✔ Post students' videos to the blog so that others can view them. Be sure to obtain written permission from the students and their parents to publish photographs, videos and other student-generated work.

✔ Customize blog settings so visitor comments route to your e-mail address for moderating before they go online.

<p>Photo credit: Martin Child/Getty Images</p>