Making an Original Newsreel: A Tech-Based Lesson Plan for Internship Placement

This semester in my EDTC 6431 Learning With Technology course I designed a lesson based off of a lesson about 1940s Wartime Newsreels that I had taught in my internship placement. My project expanded on ideas I had already explored with my class and sought ways to include technology in the already fun and effective lesson segment. 

My model lesson segment, which asked students to develop a 5-minute newsreel using the program Digital Storyteller http://www.digitalstoryteller.org/, was designed to get students to think about how the American people got their news during wartime, and to develop news segments on their very own. In the lesson segment I developed, each group was given a press release about a certain homefront subject and expected to piece together a short, 5-minute newsreel set on the U.S. Homefront during World War II, complete with a lead story, a secondary story, a human interest piece, and an advertisement.

In actuality, my students did this exact project but only had to act out their newsreels and bring in visuals to supplement them. Below is my project’s lesson segment, which borrows heavily from the lesson segment I did carry out with my students, but asks that students put together their very own newsreels using historical footage, images, and voiceovers on a digital film-making program (see above for link).

Take a look: 

WWII Homefront Newsreel Project Lesson Plans

Title

Lesson 1 (Monday): World War II Homefront and the Newsreel

Standard AP U.S. History College Board; Key Concept 7.2: Innovations in communications and technology contributed to the growth of mass culture, while significant changes occurred in internal and international migration patterns.

Key Concept 7.3: Participation in a series of global conflicts propelled the United States into a position of international power while renewing domestic debates over the nation’s proper role in the world.

II. World War II and its aftermath intensified ongoing debates about the nation’s role in the world and how best to achieve national security and pursue American interests.

Central Focus (CF) Students compile newsreels to learn about life on the World War II Homefront.
Learning Target

(LT)

Students can determine the key characteristics of a newsreel in order to help them brainstorm how to develop and make original newsreels of their own in small groups. Students write down LT.
Instruction

Inquiry

Preview

Review

Teacher opens class by reminding students that yesterday we spoke about Pearl Harbor and U.S. entry into WWII.

It’s 1942 now, and teacher asks how it is that U.S. citizens hear about the way. Teacher asks students to list the news sources available to people during wartime.

Teacher writes student ideas on the board.

Teacher is sure to address the possible misconception that people had TV’s in this time. It wasn’t until after the war that they came out. There were, however, movies and movie theaters.

Teacher circles the word “newsreel” on the board. Teacher explains that movie-goers would go to the movies for a nickel or a dime, and before a movie began they would see the news through a newsreel.

Teacher briefly explains the history of the newsreel.

Students call out different news sources.
Practice Activity or

Support

Teacher welcomes students to the “movies,” it’s 1942 and Hitler has just invaded the Soviet Union. Sit back, relax, and watch what our newsreel has to say about this.

Teacher asks that as students watch they take notes about what they notice about the newsreel. What are its characteristics? What stories does it tell? Its style? Tone?

Teacher plays 10-minute newsreel.

Students take notes on the film reel.
Informal Assessment     Teacher asks students to talk to their table partner about different things they noticed from the newsreel.

Teacher writes “Characteristics of a newsreel” on the board.

Teacher asks students to share what they noticed from the newsreel. Teacher writes down the characteristics students determine.

Teacher points out that there was clearly a “lead story” (Germany invading the Soviet Union), a “secondary story” (U.S. military industrial efforts to help Russia), a “human interest story” (at home, there is a nation-wide debutant contest underway), and an “advertisement” (for war bonds).

Teacher instructs that students write lead story, secondary story, human interest story, and advertisement in their notes.

Students talk to their table partner about characteristics of the newsreel.

Students share their ideas with the class.

Students write “lead story, secondary story, human interest story, and advertisement” in their notes.

Practice Activity or

Support

Teacher explains that students will have the opportunity to create their own newsreels using either raw images and footage and voice-overs with a digital program called Digital Storyteller from Primary Access.

Teacher assigns students into four-person groups and hands them one of seven press releases from the Teacher’s Curriculum Institute World War II material guides on one of the following seven topics: Women, Government, GIs, Children, Consumerism, African Americans, Mexican Americans.

Students sit with their assigned group members.
Informal Assessment Teacher tells students to read over the press release together and brainstorm to decide on the topics of their lead story, secondary story, human interest piece, and advertisement.

Teacher tells students to decide who will write each story (about 1-1.5 minutes a piece).

For homework, students will need to write these stories.

Students read over press release together and determine what will be their lead story, secondary story, human interest piece, and advertisement.

Students self-assign in groups which story they will write.

For groups with three or five members, students will be responsible for allocating four stories and five minutes amongst that amount of students.

Closure Assessment of Student Voice Students hand in an Exit Ticket detailing the contents of each story for their newsreel. Students hand in Exit Ticket as they leave the classroom.

 

Title

Lesson 2 (Tuesday): Researching Stories and Visuals for Newsreels (in computer lab)

Standard AP U.S. History College Board; Key Concept 7.2: Innovations in communications and technology contributed to the growth of mass culture, while significant changes occurred in internal and international migration patterns.

Key Concept 7.3: Participation in a series of global conflicts propelled the United States into a position of international power while renewing domestic debates over the nation’s proper role in the world.

II. World War II and its aftermath intensified ongoing debates about the nation’s role in the world and how best to achieve national security and pursue American interests.

Central Focus (CF) Students compile newsreels to learn about life on the World War II Homefront.
Learning Target

(LT)

Students can use the program Digital Storyteller and research online databases for historical information and visual and video footage for their newsreels. Students write down LT.
Instruction

Inquiry

Preview

Review

Teacher tells students to find a computer next to their group members and share with their group members the stories they wrote for last night’s homework.

Teacher passes out newsreel project rubric, so students understand the expectations.

Students review their homework, and share with their partners the stories they wrote for the newsreel.

Students read the project rubric.

Practice Activity

Support

Teacher asks all students to visit Digital Storyteller online and scaffolds their online learning by walking them through the steps of the program.

Teacher introduces students to the websites main features, and shows example work from past students who used this program.

In order to use the visual and online features, students will now have the time to work together to research visual aids or do more research to create their own. Teacher warns that while students will have one more work-day in class, students should communicate and work together through Digital Storyteller at home and Google Docs.

Teacher posts a list of historical databases in which students should begin their research on the school’s educational interface: Schoology. Teacher instructs that students begin their research with these online databases, which we have worked with before together in class.  

Students follow teacher’s step-by-step introduction to the program.

Students consult with online databases on Schoology.  

Informal Assessment Teacher tells students to begin playing with the program and looking for visuals. In order to check in, teacher conferences with each group to give them additional direction. Students research and compile footage or conference with the teacher.
Closure Assessment of Student Voice Exit Ticket: Students must decide in moving forward who will be responsible for visuals (2 students), voice-over (1 student), and editing (1 student), and provide a schedule for project completion. They have three more days to finish their project. Digital Storyteller is accessible on any computer, so students can work at these from home or after school. Students hand in Exit Ticket as they leave the classroom.
Students who find one group member is not pulling their weight must speak directly with the teacher over the next few work days to work something out accordingly.Teacher may decide that students do not have to do an advertisement, for instance, or that their video can be up to thirty seconds shorter.  

 

Title

Lesson 3 (Friday): Newsreel Presentations!

Standard AP U.S. History College Board; Key Concept 7.2: Innovations in communications and technology contributed to the growth of mass culture, while significant changes occurred in internal and international migration patterns.

Key Concept 7.3: Participation in a series of global conflicts propelled the United States into a position of international power while renewing domestic debates over the nation’s proper role in the world.

II. World War II and its aftermath intensified ongoing debates about the nation’s role in the world and how best to achieve national security and pursue American interests.

Central Focus (CF) Students compile newsreels to learn about life on the World War II Homefront.
Learning Target

(LT)

Students present their newsreels and reflect on the significance of the topics of each newsreel’s impact on the war effort and life on the U.S. home front. Students write down LT.
Instruction

Inquiry

Preview

Review

Teacher invites students to the “movie theater,” as in the days in the 1930s and 40s when moviegoers went to see a film and viewed a series of newsreels before the feature film. Before our feature film, she reminds them, we have a lot to hear about the state of our country at war, and the happenings here and abroad!

Teacher explains that she will call each group individually to load their newsreel.

Teacher passes out a note-taking handout. Teacher explains that as the audience watches the newsreel, they must write down five important things they learn. After each 5-minute newsreel, teacher will give students 1-2 minutes to write a reflection on the significance of the topic of the newsreel and its impact on the war effort and life on the U.S. homefront on their handout.

Informal Assessment Teacher calls up a group to present their newsreel.
Teacher instructs that students take a moment to write a reflection on the significance of what they have just seen on their handouts.(Repeat 7 times)
Students present their digital newsreels.

Students in the audience take notes on five important things.

Students take 1-2 minutes to reflect on the significance of the topics of the newsreel and its impact on the U.S. home front.

Informal Assessment Teacher asks students to talk to their table partner about themes they thought about as they saw these newsreels; what types of stories did we hear? What do they tell us about the war effort and life at home?

Teacher asks students to share their ideas.

Teacher tells students that next week we will be getting into the Cold War.

Teacher asks students how does WWII transform the U.S. in their view? Where is the U.S. once the Cold War begins?

Students talk to table partner about what themes they noticed in the newsreels.

Students share their ideas with the class.

Students share their ideas with the class.

Closure Assessment of Student Voice Teacher tells students to turn in their notes and reflections before they leave class. Students turn in their presentation note handouts for feedback.
Formal

Assessment or Postassessment

(Sequence end)

Students will be graded according to the following rubric:

-Newsreel includes a lead story, a secondary story, a human interest piece, and an advertisement (10 points)

-Stories are historically accurate (10 points)

-Visuals are historically relevant, interesting, and engaging (10 points)

-Voice-over sounds well-rehearsed and uses an appropriate tone (10 points)

-Editing is well-done (few awkward pauses, jumps, or blank screens) (10 points)

-Newsreel is entertaining, engaging, and fun (10 points)

-Newsreel is about 5-minutes long (10 points)

Total: 70 points.

Students will submit their newsreels to Lehigh’s Reel American History Project.

Artifacts from the actual lesson: 

Example Press Release (on Government):

IMAG1421_1IMAG1422_1

Example Student Group Script (with lead story, secondary story, human interest piece, and advertisement):

IMAG1425_1IMAG1426_1

Example Note-Taking Handout frontside (for day of presentations):

IMAG1427_1

Example Rubric:

IMAG1423_1

Lesson Segment Reflection: 

As said, while I did not have the opportunity to teach this exact tech-based lesson segment, I was able to teach it without the Digital Storytelling program, having the students act out their newsreels for the rest of the class. Instead of creating their own short films, students wrote scripts and provided their own visuals (projecting them as a backdrop) and read out their newsreel stories in a performance presentation for their peers.

My mentor teacher and I did use the same preparation resources I described in this lesson segment, however, like the model press releases (see above for the press release on Government). We also showed students example newsreels and as a class named the characteristics of an effective newsreel. We pointed out to students that each newsreel had a lead story, a secondary story, a human interest piece, and an advertisement — writing each of these on the board and describing their characteristics.

I gave students a half workday in class to read their press releases together and come up with and assign their stories. They also collaborated about visuals, and even music, in class. At home, they all either wrote their own part of the script or added to a group Google Document and turned in their entire script at the end of their presentation (see above for the model script). As students performed their newsreels, I took notes on each of their stories and any particularly interesting things that they did with their performance on the rubric in front of me. I waited until I read their scripts to grade how historically accurate they were (see above for example rubric).

The students had a really great time with this project. Some got very into the voiceovers, copying the intonation of a newsreel commentator closely. Some even dressed up! For one of the newsreels that focused on stories about GIs (based off of the GI press release), one student came dressed in uniform, helmet and all! This same group surprised us when as they advertised the reliable Zippo, they pulled it out for us! The group who presented their newsreel on stories about the Government (script above) accompanied their presentation not only with several visuals but with soft WWII-era music playing in the background as they spoke. It really was a lot of fun!

I knew that the students really learned a lot from conducting and watching those presentations because when I gave the students three questions for a quiz review — with one asking about life on the homefront during WWII — the students insisted we skip that one so we could focus more on the happenings of the war abroad. When I asked if they really felt that comfortable with the material, they all insisted the newsreels were a great help! Overall, they did quite well with all the questions on the quiz about the WWII homefront, which suggests they were playing very close attention during the presentations (thanks, in part, to their Newsreel Notes Handout, see above).

Lesson Segment Revision: 

Overall, students performed very strongly on this presentation. The majority of the groups received an 18 or 19 out of 20 points on their in-person newsreel presentations. While the presentations were a lot of fun, I think the lesson could have only been supplemented and augmented by the use of technology to tell their stories. In the lesson I have designed for this EDTC 6431 Individual Project, students would still have the opportunity to “perform” their stories for their classmates, but would do so through a different medium, film, using the Digital Storyteller program. Using this program would give students the opportunity to learn about film-making — compiling, editing, special features, etc… — in the process.

Importantly, adding the more intentional use of technology in this project would serve to address ISTE 1 Standard, which requires that students demonstrate creative thinking, construct knowledge, and develop innovative products and processes using technology. As the lesson stands now, it addresses the Key Concepts 7.2 and 7.3 of the AP College Board curriculum, but using technology in this lesson — and comparing an understanding about innovations in communication and technology in our past and present — would undoubtedly serve to make these lessons more valuable, and its fruits long-lasting. Undoubtedly, however, to use the technology well, the students would need at least a week to work on their projects, which would make the project much bigger (a 70-point project rather than the 20-point project it is now).

Students could even revisit these projects or submit them to Lehigh’s Reel American History Project, which seeks to collect and show student work nationwide: http://digital.lib.lehigh.edu/trial/reels/about/. Partaking in a collaborative project like this would have also been memorable for the students — and a bit of a motivator to make their newsreels, and make them well!

Good teachers know teaching and lesson development is an iterative process. While the lesson works well as it stands now, it only stands to be improved by the incorporation of technology, allowing students to not only act out newsreels but really create newsreels of their own. I’ll definitely work more with this idea in the coming year!

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