Communication Skills

Amplifying Student Voices With Authentic Media-Making Tasks

Teachers can try these project ideas to have students produce media, which helps boost engagement and learning.

January 9, 2024
Gregg Vignal / Alamy

As constant consumers of media, K–12 students not only need explicit instruction in how to read all types of media in order to understand and analyze it, but also need opportunities to create and craft media. By using quick formative and sustained summative assessments, you can support students in a deep exploration of any content as they create media of their own.   

Let’s start with a few reasons why teachers may want students to create various kinds of media.

It’s flexible. Making media can involve quick, formative assessments that provide opportunities to sample student learning or sustained summative assessments. You can use old-school tech (think paper, markers, Play-Doh, and craft supplies) as well as video, audio, and graphic design tools. It’s a great opportunity for students to use tools they love and to showcase skills we might not otherwise know about.  

It’s student-centered. Whether given as required or optional tasks (as part of choice boards or learning menus), creating media provides great ways to amplify student voices, producing authentic content that ensures you hear from all students. 

It’s authentic. Media is meant to be shared, to be seen or heard by others. By tapping into existing platforms to share student work (school websites, school social media accounts, newsletters, community businesses, student newspapers and news shows), you can build connections to the community while providing authentic audiences for student work. Knowing that the school community or even the whole town might see their work raises the stakes, thereby raising the importance of drafting, peer-reviewing, and editing. 

Media-making tools 

Media-creation tools abound, and new tools pop up constantly. Flip, Canva, and some versions of Adobe Express are free, flexible, easy-to-use tools that empower students to create almost any type of media. Flip is perfect for quick video responses, creative tasks, and efficient entry or exit tickets. Canva and Adobe Express both provide one-stop media-creation shops that allow students to quickly build and create anything from websites to videos to infographics. Combine the ease of recording with Flip (or any other screen recording tool) with Canva or Adobe Express and just watch the creative sparks fly. 

That said, while these are amazing, well-integrated tools, teachers can allow students to use any tool—from markers to iMovie—that will accomplish the task. As long as they can demonstrate the skills and/or incorporate the content indicated on the rubric, let them pick how they complete the task(s). Providing choice will help ensure student success.

Media Tasks

Given the wide range of media-making tools and endless possibilities for media tasks, take time to reflect on what you want to accomplish with students. Before you dive into creation, here are some things to consider: 

  • What skills do you want students to demonstrate? 
  •  What content do you want them to include? 
  • What format makes the most sense for the given skills and content? 
  • How will you share the media with an authentic audience—where, when, and with whom will you share what students produce? Many of the tasks below foster community collaboration and help demonstrate the amazing things that happen in our schools. Use what students create to help tell the positive story of your school, students, staff, and greater community.

Here are some of my favorite media-making tasks. They’re great because students can do them as posters, podcasts, or videos—and they can be for informal formative assessments to check for understanding or for meaningful summative assessments. Plus, they’re flexible and dynamic for any grade, content, or skill level. 

Interviews. Two atoms talk to each other and explain how they met and created a compound; two-plus literary characters or historical figures interview each other and explain their perspectives. 

Interview a math or music symbol to unpack what it means or does; have students conduct interviews with each other to talk about their learning. Interview local businesses or tell the story of local legends and heroes.  

“Movie” trailers and posters. Create trailers or posters for any course content to advertise, promote, or explain a book, characters, theme, concept, theory, experiment, historical event, or person. Focus on the topic, its impact, how it builds, and any other details you desire. 

Create trailers or posters for upcoming school events. Partner with clubs and groups in the school to create their media. Focus on the who, what, when, where, why. Create trailers or posters for upcoming community events. Partner with business, nonprofits, and community groups.  

Tours. Show others around: a book, moment in history, concept, event, or experiment. Create travel brochures, podcasts, or commercials to “sell” tours of systems of the body, a math formula, ecosystems. Create welcome guides for newcomers to the building or community.  

Advice “column.” Advice to students in the lower grades, refugees, immigrants, or visitors; historical figures sharing sage advice from the past to help us thrive in the present. Advice on homework, how to survive school; what are you reading and why? 

Newscasts. Dig deeper into any topic, factual or fictional, with news reports. Students report on a science concept, historical time period or figure, book or character, or math problem. Send students out into the “field” to interview key players in important events. Tasks can utilize different journalistic styles, allowing one team of students to examine a concept, chapter, character, or historical figure in a variety of ways. Here are some examples:

  • News: Updates on events. Think who, what, when, where, why.
  • Weather: Literal and metaphorical (Her dark and brooding thoughts are clouding skies across the region tonight, creating the conditions for an all-out storm.)
  • Sports: Describe the action: Who’s “running”; what “epic moves” have characters/figures completed; who has “scored” in big, life-changing ways? 
  • Personal interviews: Think eyewitness accounts and personal confessions.
  • Hard-hitting exposé: “Gotcha” interviews with revelatory “new” information.

Moodscapes. Capture the feeling, tone, or mood of a person, place, period, or book. Pull key quotes, definitions, or summaries and incorporate those facts into the feeling of the idea. Layer images or sounds, and play with pacing, volume, size, and all the tricks of media to enhance the mood. 

Media mash-up. Create soundtracks for any book, character, process, time period, or historical figure. Younger students can record sound effects and pick music to accompany picture books or stories they write; upper grades can capture the tone of a book or the essence of a character. 

Partner with another class, and have students design posters or soundtracks for another student’s book. A music teacher even had students compose and record simple soundtracks to picture books from different cultures they were studying. 

Keep Growing Your Media Literacy Skills

Many public media stations, including KQED and Prairie Public Broadcasting, offer free continuing education courses designed to support the integration and creation of media resources in K–12 classrooms. Explore NPR’s Student Podcast Challenge for ideas, resources, and more how-tos, and help students produce podcasts instead of research papers to amplify their ideas and voices.  

No matter where you begin, or how little or how much technology you include, helping students play with and create media will infuse focused, meaningful fun into the classroom. Hear more from your learners while growing authentic real-world problem-solving and producing skills.

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