It’s a bit odd living in an era you know will someday be written about in history books. I find myself wondering what details my grandchildren will read about during their pandemic units. What will make the cut?
This strange fact of living at a historic moment provides a compelling framework for a creative ELA assignment. There are a lot of ways kids could document this moment in time, depending on what you’d like them to work on.
Want them to develop their research and interview skills? Maybe they could interview people living in other cities (cousins, friends from camp, kids in a partner classroom) about what it’s like there right now.
Want them to develop their personal narrative writing? Maybe they could write write a pandemic journal.
Want them to work on mixing media and writing to reach people more effectively? In that case, a blog or a well-captioned Instagram account about what they’re noticing might work well.
In this post, I’m going to share ideas for how you might structure these types of assignments.
A pandemic interview project could take many forms. It could be as simple as assigning a conversation in which each student develops ten questions, asks them, and jots down answers to summarize back to the class on a Google slide.
It could be thematically based, with you suggesting an angle for the interviews, like talking to people about how their community members are supporting each other, or how they feel politics is shaping the outcome of the pandemic, or how they feel about the distance learning systems being developed or the small business support program. In this case, it would be nice to ask a few questions to a range of people, so kids could get different perspectives.
If you want to make this a really major project, each member of the class could record an interview, mix in music or an intro/outro if you want, and contribute it to a class podcast on the free platform anchor.fm.
A pandemic journal project gives students a chance to reflect personally throughout the crisis. Even The New York Times thinks it’s a good idea! In introducing a project like this, you might share the way that journals have allowed people to process, reflect and grow for generations. You could share excerpts of historical journals that have survived and become famous. You could even introduce them to the bullet journal craze (look here or here) and see what they think. A unit on creative and meaningful journaling could be so much fun to design.
A journal project could be as simple as having students write a paragraph each day detailing some highs and lows. Or you could suggest certain options for what to put inside, like headlines of the day, quotes that have inspired them, what they’re reading and watching, memories, kind actions they see around them, a timeline of their day, etc.
Since I always love a good one-pager (you know me), I developed a pandemic journal one-pager template with instructions last week that you can check out here on TPT.
Another way to document that allows you a ton of freedom with types of skills and assignments to weave in is a student blog. This way students could do a different type of post about current events each week, whether that’s a video, a photo essay with captions, a personal narrative, an interview, an illustrated essay, a profile of a community activist, etc.
I find blogging to be an accessible real-world ELA application for students. Many companies, nonprofits, artists, chefs, readers, philosophers and more now have blogs that allow them to meaningfully connect to people. This type of project immediately gives students access to a real audience in the world, though I do suggest you be careful that they not post personal information or images of themselves.
You can read more about how I’ve structured student blogging in this post to help you launch this project if you’re interested.
Pandemic Instagram Accounts
The nice thing about Instagram is that you can keep an account private, giving students an easy safety net. But it’s a social medium that’s powerful in the world right now, and they know it. Students can practice taking effective photos or building compelling graphics to complement their storytelling as they create a pandemic documentary feed, and these skills may well serve them later in their work. You can either ask them to post a photo a day with a meaningful paragraph about it, or offer a list of possible prompts to inspire several posts a week.
As an extension of this assignment, you might consider asking students to reach out to local businesses or nonprofits to offer to help them with their social media. Maybe a local business wants to offer a giant takeout-a-palooza one night but can’t figure out how to create Instagram stories to advertise it – your students could help. Maybe a local food bank needs people to deliver, but their Instagram account just isn’t growing past 25 followers so they can’t reach anyone with their request – your students could help.
Pandemic Time Capsule
There’s something appealing about the time capsule concept. Your student can imagine opening up their time capsules someday and explaining these strange days to the children of the future. Send them a list of possible components and let them choose.
These might include:
- Objects connected to the crisis or their life during the crisis
- Photos they’ve taken during this period
- Newspaper or magazine articles from recent publications
- Their original drawings or cartoons
- Recipes they’ve made
- Food or candy labels that would remind them of this time
- Related pieces of mail or postcards
Post-Pandemic Vision Boards
It can be helpful, while reflecting on the current state of things and all that is happening, to also think about what’s waiting on the other side.
A post-pandemic vision board gives students a chance to think about what they’ll take from this strange time and move forward with.
Have they discovered skills they didn’t know they had? Strengthened relationships? Realized they want to develop some new part of themselves or learn more about something they didn’t really care about before?
Maybe they’ve had realizations about world politics, the environment, the media, their education, the power of screens, etc. during this time. A post-pandemic vision board is a space for them to think about how they want their life to be when things go back to normal, and what they want to bring to it. Create a simple list of prompts for your students to consider as they create, or find mine on TPT here.
I hope you find an idea amongst all these that you’re excited to run with! Have you come up with another creative documentation assignment? Please share in the comments below!