Thursday, June 27, 2019

4th Grade Ignite Talks

In 2018 we tried the Ignite Talks format with a single 4th grade class. This year we did it with the entire grade.

Before we dive into the awesomeness that is the 4th grade Ignites allow me to define Ignite Talks and how we use them…

Ignite Talks originated in Seattle as a new style of presenting. The format is: “5 minutes, 20 slides, auto-advancing every 15 seconds… enlighten us but make it quick.” 

We have modified that format for 4th grades;

“7 slides, 15 seconds per slide, 1:45 to tell us your story.” For the 4th grade we took the social studies unit The American Revolution and centered the Ignite Talks around that idea and area of study.

Last year the Ignites were a reflective presentation on their Colonial America unit of study. This year their Ignites are all about their study of the American Revolution. Their unit of study around the American Revolution was a 6+ weeks history experience. They researched, read novels, created period-inspired political cartoons and diary entries, and looked at the major factors, from both sides, of the start of the American Revolutionary Way. Their Ignite Talks are a summary of their experience. We gave them 7 slides and 1:45 to tell about their learning experience, in their own words. It is the ultimate reflective assignment, they had to look back at the full experience and think about the different assignments and projects and how they connected, or didn’t, with each. These Ignites are their literal final project for this unit, summing up everything they did, learned, experienced, and how they felt about it all. All in one minute and 45 seconds…

It was a very difficult assignment, difficult on purpose. The Ignite Talk is very involved; from research to narrative writing, turning the narrative writing into a script, making sure the script sounds natural and in the proper voice and tense, memorizing the script and editing for time, creating simple and clean slide with period appropriate images, and finally rehearsing with the final scrip and slides using Google Slides auto-advance feature.

The students were amazing. It was a challenge, a very difficult task. The various steps, the precise timing, and specter of standing in front of an audience to give the talk… but it was that process that makes their final talks so impressive. The angst and anxiety moved toward confidence, the butterflies led to bravery, we were never ready until we had no choice but to be ready. And they rocked it. To see their videos, the smiles on their faces, the inflection in their voices, their enthusiasm. They knocked it out of the park. We recorded the talks in the lab in front of a standing-room only crowd of parents. So while the video and audio quality might not be the sharpest, just watching these 4th grades stand there and tell their stories with confidence is worth every step of the process.

It wasn’t easy, and it wasn’t supposed to be. These 4th graders conquered the crazy assignment put in front of them. And the looks on their faces, to see them realize they could do it, they could conquer what scared them and they could rise to the challenge, is priceless. This project is less about the content and the format and more about the process and the confidence, the fact that they realize they can do anything, even the things that scare them the most.

All of the students gave their Ignite Talks in front of their peers and a room full of parents. Their work can be seen on YouTube using the links below

4G Ignites - causes of the American Revolution told in the voice of a colonist

4V Ignites - a reflection on the entire unit of study about the American Revolution

Every year the 4th graders impress me more and more, and this year was no different!

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