Colonial America... In Plain English!

Inspired by both Greg Kulowiec's presentation at the MassCUE Conference in October, 2010, and Common Craft, I assigned a low-tech/high-tech project to my honors freshmen students as they learned about everyday life in the American colonies prior to the Revolutionary War.

The essence of Common Craft videos on YouTube is to "help educators and influencers introduce complex subjects."  Lee Lefever and the people at Common Craft are geniuses in the art of simplification in their "In Plain English" videos.  They take processes and concepts, like the electoral college, that seem complicated at first and break them down so almost anyone could understand them within short 3 minute episodes.  They use simple paper drawings and cut outs and move them around with their fingers on screen while narrating and explaining what the audience is seeing.  So, I asked my students to do the same thing to explain the everyday lives of people living in colonial America in the 17th and 18th Centuries.

Here are a couple of great examples of my students final videos.

If you would like to see more about farmers and fishermen, women, and printers in the American colonies, check out my Kerry Hawk02 YouTube Channel.

What I Loved About This Project:
  • Student Work Ethic - Students had only three days to read information from their textbook and various scholarly articles, synthesize it into a script, storyboard the video, create the drawings, rehearse, and film the final cut.  The quick turnaround encourages them to work efficiently together and even assign each other homework over the intervening evenings.  Their work ethic was great!
  • Checking for Understanding - By simply watching them go through to process and then watching the final 2-3 minute videos I can tell that they understood all of the information they were assigned and were able to put that understanding into their own words in a simple but creative way.  Plus, the kids had fun.
  • Low Tech Process and a High-Tech Product - While the final product is work that is published to the world online, the preparation did not require a computer lab, which can be tough real estate to acquire in any school building.  All I needed to do was sign out a FLIP camera from my school library for two class periods and upload the videos to my free YouTube Channel.  Easy!
  • Approved For All Audiences - The product of the project is easy to understand, so students can share it with all members of their families.  But also, I think a version of this project could be implemented in any classroom, elementary through high school.  A student who worked on the project has a mother who teaches at the elementary level.  She said her mom loved the idea and is going to do the project with her younger students too!
I hope you enjoyed watching and reading.  We certainly enjoyed making these videos for you!


  1. KG,

    Great to see your students using the Common Craft style in their presentations. This certainly bodes well for the up and coming freshmen class. Steve Olivo has been having his students generate Common Craft vocabulary videos too. See for yourself!


Post a Comment

Popular posts from this blog

Three Social Media Starter Tips

Teaching 19th Century Ideologies with 21st Century Technologies

Guest Post: A Guide to Using Instagram in the Classroom