Monday, October 18, 2010

Islam Unit X Common Craft

In an ongoing attempt to avoid standardized tests, and have students create something at the end of each unit as a demonstration of their understanding, one of my 9th grade World Studies classes recently created "Common Craft" style videos based on our study of Islam.

The process was quite simple:
- Two days were devoted to planning, creating storyboards, scripts and drawings.
- One day devoted to filming.  I took my class to the cafeteria so I would be able to help every group and they could have their own space to work and record their projects.

Once the projects were recorded (using flip video cameras), I did the editing in imovie.  I would have loved to have each group edit their own work, but I wanted these posted quickly.  I am pleased with the results and from the amount of work the students put into the planning, I'm definitely going to do it again.

The only problem I ran into while editing is that a few of the Flip cameras imported as avi files, the rest as mp4 files.  Imovie will import mp4, but not avi...a free download (Handbrake) saved the day and allowed an easy conversion from avi to mp4.

Here are the results:


  1. These Common Craft videos are great! How do you prep them for this project? Do you have examples that you show them?

    I'm quite interested in doing something like this for social studies in 5th grade.

  2. Mr. A,

    Send me a message through twitter, @gregkulowiec and I can send you my assignment sheet for the project. I prepped the first group by showing them actual Common Craft videos. Now I show previous student work. They usually take 2-3 days of class prep and one day to film. I bring each class to the cafe so they can spread out and all groups can film in one class period.


  3. As a fellow social studies teacher, I love this assignment. What a great way for the students to synthesize the material. Your kids did a very nice job. Thanks for sharing!

  4. Hello Greg,

    I was going through some of your previous posts and I found this one, which I thought that I needed to share some of my experience with you.

    I am all about Common Craft Videos in the Classroom! IN FACT, I wrote a couple of blog posts on the subject, the most recent:

    I had developed with the help of my MS Science colleagues, a Cross-disciplinary unit with MS Design Tech and Science. Including an Extended Expectation with my 8th grade tech students, where they had to produce a documentary video on their particular science class Common Craft efforts.

    Here's the Performance task we created:

    "Common, a leader in online explanatory film shorts, has contracted your science class to create a series of In Plain English style videos on electricity and magnetism.

    In groups of two, you are to research a topic in electricity and magnetism and then reduce your understanding of this topic to the most important and instructive points."

    The idea behind this Unit was for students to demonstrate their learning through a use of technology in an authentic manner. In much the same way major companies hire Common Craft to produce unique informative videos, in this scenario, Common Craft has "hired" our students.

    I was inspired by this Common Craft video by Donna Ellery @ Discovery College, Hong Kong (

    And from this idea, we have really produced something worthwhile for both students and teachers. I even produced one called "How to Make IN Plain English Videos, in plain English":

    The most difficult part of this, however, was on developing a criterion-based rubric on which to assess the student products. If you're interested, please take a look at what we created (I would appreciate any comments you may have on it!):

    We worked hard on developing good descriptors that try to really capture the spirit and professional nature of the "Common Craft" style.

    Have a look at some of the student creations:

    Feel free to use and modify any of this information if you consider applying this to your classes. We sure had a lot of fun! Here's the Main Project Page: