Woodstock Middle School Speak Chorus

Posted by Mary Rizos

In September, the Vermont Folklife Center worked with Woodstock Union Middle School teachers Matthew McCormick and Anne Lessard in preparing students to interview community members about Hurricane Irene. Together, we did a workshop for students on using an ethnographic approach to research, and on interviewing skills. Many thanks to Molly Thompson in Grade 10 and teacher Jeff Thomas for participating in model interviews with me and for taking students questions as the 7th graders observed, reflected on, and practiced the interview process. The 7th graders later did interviews with people in the community, and those interviews provided information that was used as part of an interdisciplinary project examining the effects of Hurricane Irene on the community and the landscape, five years later.

One outcome of the interviews was a “Speak Chorus,”  an original performance the students created by the selecting and re-combining quotes from the interviews they conducted. A student describes the process:

“The very first thing that we had to do, before we had to do anything else was learn about interviews. After that we had to do practice interviews to prepare for our real interviews. Then came the real interview, which we recorded on  an iPad so that we could listen to it later (we had to email the interviews to ourselves). After that we listened to the interview and put down promising quotes in our “interview quote catcher.” We then made the quotes into a script, practiced the script many times. And finally we performed our speak choruses.”

An example of the final product that came out of the students’ work (thanks to Woodstock Middle School for making the footage available to us!):

Woodstock Community Television has the entire student performance available at this link: http://wctv8.com/index.php/2016/11/memories-of-tropical-storm-irene-speak-chorus-performances-by-wuhs-7th-graders/

Here are some excerpts from one student’s reflection on the project:

“One thing in particular that I liked about this project was that we got to make our own scripts... I liked that we got to be creative and that everyone’s script was different from everyone else’s.”

“One thing that challenged me during that process was doing the real interview because I was super nervous and I didn’t want  to somehow mess up the interview.  One thing I learned from this challenge was that, sure you make mistakes sometimes, sometimes you mess up, but it’s okay to mess up, everyone does sometimes.”

“I thought this was a really fun challenge.  Can we do something like this again?”

Thanks to Matt McCormick, Anne Lessard, and the 7th graders at Woodstock Middle School for reaching out to us and for the opportunity to collaborate with them in this unique project. It was a great fit for our Discovering Community philosophy and model, and had so many important and interconnected elements - community connections, community relationships, connections to place and environment, communication skills, student ownership, choice, and creativity.