Monday, January 26, 2009

Interview Project

One of my recent projects involved my fourth grade students. As learning to write is difficult for these students, I try to make the writing as purposeful as possible. One of the skills my students needed to learn was how to write clear questions. I tried to think of a real-world application of writing questions. I decided that one purpose for writing questions was to conduct an interview.

As a small group, we brainstormed who they would be interested in interviewing. Of course, they were interested in interviewing the President of the United States and a few others that I thought would be difficultto arrange. They also came to the same conclusion. They did, however, come up with ideas that were feasible as well. One student decided to interview the principal as she is new to the school this year. Another decided to interview the special education paraprofessional that works in our program. A third student really wanted to interview our high school football coach.

These students then wrote their questions with a great focus on open-ended questions. We talked about the type of questions they would ask that would keep the "conversation" of the interview going. We talked about "thick" and "thin" questions. While they were learning to write quality "thick" questions, they were having a great time! The students then typed the questions into Excel so that they could easily print queue cards for the interview process.

We have been working on reading fluency as well as writing. They practiced reading their questions with fluency which gave a real purpose to the task. Once they had practiced reading the questions with fluency, then we did mock interviews. Someone else role-played the person they were going to interview. While we did this, we video-taped the mock interview. The student then watched the mock interview. I asked them to tell me what they thought they did well and what they needed to improve. The video was very clear for them in determining what they needed to improve.

Next, we conducted the real interviews. From watching the videos, it was easy to see the impact the open-ended questions had on the interview "conversation". In the future, I plan to show these videos with my next group of students before they write their questions. I think it will help them understand better why we need open-ended questions.

This project was very engaging for the students. It provided a real purpose to writing "thick" questions. Because of the real purpose, the students understood that we needed quality questions. I will definitely use this project again with students who need to work on writing quesitons and reading fluency. Along the way, the students also learned some great life skills such as writing a thank you note to the person they interviewed. They were very proud of their work. If you would like to see their videos, you can check out these two videos that students gave me permission to post on my classroom website. Please leave us feedback as we like to hear what others think of our projects!