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Professional Learning Community at Russell Byers Charter School



We are excited to share the final projects by ten Russell Byers Charter School teachers who joined us for the Powerful Voices for Kids Professional Learning Community. The PVK PLC is a six-month professional development program consisting of formal media literacy learning through discussions of readings, media production projects, and conversations about issues in media literacy pedagogy. Then teachers created their own lesson plans with support from Media Education Lab media literacy facilitators Emily Bailin, John Landis, and David Cooper Moore.  


Topics in our formal sessions included an introduction to media literacy theory, visual literacy in comics and photographs, online research in K-6, use of popular culture and mass media in the classroom, digital film and web production, and developing media literacy lesson plans through online collaboration tools.


Teachers shared several media literacy practices across their lesson plans, including analyzing visual and digital media, accessing information online, using popular culture and mass media as texts in the classroom, and understanding core concepts of authorship, target audience, and point of view. Many teachers used video documentation both as both an assessment tool and to enroll students as “class videographers.”


All teachers participated in online collaboration by sharing their lesson plans, revisions, and personal reflections on a public wiki site. You can see their lesson plans, resources, classroom products, and reflections at our group website:


Powerful Voices for Kids Professional Learning Community


Here are descriptions of the amazing lessons that our participants planned, revised, and executed over the course of the professional learning community.






Ty Ivery and Aisha Al-Muid collaborated on a lesson in storytelling that exercised their students’ creativity and cognitive flexibility. Students read classic children’s picture books in pairs and thought about how the images told a story. Then students shared their own versions of the story with one another, adapting them according to setting, characters, and inferences they made about the plot.


Second Grade


Jasmina Dominguez developed a lesson plan around her second-grade students’ knowledge of Facebook and online safety. In one lesson, students shared their own experiences with the social networking site—often based on knowledge or access to family Facebook pages—and then discussed strategies for communicating safely online. Students collaborated to identify different safe communication habits, such as not using certain personal information, feeling comfortable talking to an adult about online communication, and being wary of usernames they do not recognize. Then they created one-page public service announcements for other kids to share what they had learned.


Third Grade


April Tomarelli integrated digital photographs, slideshow presentations, and student voiceovers into a component of her history curriculum. In “Causes of the Revolutionary War,” students selected appropriate images and photographs to illustrate research they did on the Revolutionary War. Then they uploaded the images to a slideshow program and created voiceovers to piece together their understanding of different aspects of the war in a single screencast.




Fifth Grade


Teaching Fellow Taylor Capaldo showed an early interest in tackling nutrition and food marketing with her fifth grade students. In the course of several lessons, students analyzed different fast food company websites for information and framing for particular audiences. They then participated in a long-term project through which they would plan a family meal based on their deep understanding of both nutritional information and their knowledge of how particular foods are packaged, marketed, and sold to audiences.


Nora Hildenbrand used the professional learning community experience as an opportunity to enrich her recurring fifth grade expedition topic, the Civil Rights Movement of the 1950s and 60s. Working with a variety of media texts in print, music, and video, students recreated perspectives of Civil Rights activists in the Freedom Riders and Westboro Seven through historical media. Students reflected on how exploring the media of the period helped them understand the social and political issues of the Civil Rights era.


Art teacher Amy Jared worked with fifth grade students to learn about the Surrealist movement of the early 20th century and create their own collaborate Exquisite Corpse pieces—an early form of remix in the art world! Students thought about how seemingly disparate visual components can combine together to create new meanings. Ms. Jared led discussions with her students to reflect on their work, and then had them complete partner interviews using the FlipCam to structure the reflection process.


Sixth Grade


Reading specialist Casey Sacchetti and sixth grade teacher John-Carlos Marino collaborated on a lesson in understanding target audiences. Students analyzed visual, print, and message characteristics of persuasive media, including advertising and public service announcements. Then they used concepts that emerged in their analysis to create their own persuasive brochures about Type 2 diabetes as a component of their science and health expedition.


Bill Fitzgerald worked with his students to research, analyze, and debate issues related to childhood obesity as a component of their expedition on Type 2 diabetes and its increasing prevalence in young people. Mr. Fitzgerald’s students used screencasting—a screen capture of video from a computer screen with a simultaneous voiceover—to explore different points of view in contemporary debates that were prominent in local news, including the debate over using child-friendly mascots to sell fast food and the Philadelphia soda tax controversy. Students made connections between the formal learning they did with Mr. Fitzgerald and the ongoing public debates about the issues they were studying in mass media outlets.


Congratulations to all of our Professional Learning Community participants for their hard work! It was an honor to observe and support first-rate elementary educators as they continue to develop their teaching practice with digital and media literacy.