Although most collaborative projects this year connect my students with those in their age group, and another province, their latest Remembrance Day project meant connecting with primary grade 2/3 students from just down the hall.
The primary teacher, Pat Evers, and I started this tradition last year, after Pat shared the music of Joe Satriani’s, Ten Words. In an interview, Satriani, one of the world’s top guitarists, told his audience that he wrote this song on the evening of September 11, 2001.
After all students listened to the song, the grade 7/8 students were challenged to write a phrase framing PEACE…..in Ten Words. Grade 2/3 students wrote ten comments or words about Peace. Following the writing, the intermediate students worked with their primary partners to create Wordles. These projects were presented during the Remembrance Day assembly.
This year, our intermediate students and their primary partners, using VoiceThread, created a presentation about Canadian WW II veterans. To begin the project, students listened to many of the veteran’s podcasts posted in the “The Memory Project” and then chose one veteran to focus on. The Memory Project offers an unprecedented account of Canada’s participation in the Second World War through thousands of firsthand veteran testimonials. Each testimonial includes a podcast, narrated by the veteran, and a text account, making it a perfect site for students of all reading levels. The site allows students to search for veterans based on many criteria such as name, service, campaign and battle.
Pat and I noticed a transition that took place with the students as they worked through the project. Younger students, who often view war as “shooting” and “bad guys”, began to understand the sacrifice and sadness of war for the common people on both sides of the conflict . The older students became teachers, guiding their young partners through the process. They helped to coach meaningful quotes and connections from their little partners after listening to the veteran’s stories. Often it was everyday reflections that connect the younger students to the veterans’ experiences. These little details transformed the veterans from mere names to real people.
“Olive had two brothers. I have three brothers. I think she wouldn’t have missed them for a little while, but then she’d miss the things they did to bug her.” Makenzie, Gr. 2
“When Harvey Douglas Burns was part of the Navy, the boat he worked on had only two or three washrooms for sixty other crew members.” Breelle, Gr. 3.
Once their scripts were written, the intermediate students uploaded an image of the veteran into a collaborative VoiceThread, and helped their little buddies record their thoughts.
Some students, like Shelby and Josh, focused on a positive message, such as that of Burton Edwin Harper. “Burton dragged himself to a house after being wounded, and found a nurse to care for him. He and that nurse recently celebrated their 64th wedding anniversary.”
Garrett, in Gr. 3, was impacted by the words of Norman G. Dawber and shared his words. “Norman said he was surprised that the birds were still singing, even though gunfire and cannons were going off everywhere.”
Tanner, Gr. 7, shared the story of Mendel Thrasher, ending with Mendel’s words, “Terrible things take place through wars.”
Each intermediate and primary pair of students made this year’s Remembrance Day ceremony their own – something they will never forget. It’s one of the most poignant teaching experiences of the year for both Pat and I.
Thanks Pat, for sharing your students, ideas and enthusiasm for this project. H.D.
View the completed project: The Memory Project VoiceThread 2010