Drawing from the Well

Chapter One - Digging the Well
Lesson 5 - Technology Exercises

Setting the Stage:

All of the writing exercises in the Drawing from the Well curriculum can extend into technology exercises. It is important to keep in mind that technology is a tool and not just a means to an end. In other words, encourage students to use technology to further their content and artistic processes, rather than get caught up in the mere functions of the medium. Video, audio and website projects are often glitzy, yet lacking content. Technology allows for mass communication and is a powerful, motivating tool. Students love using it. In using technology students can develop greater comprehension, better questions and deeper understanding about the world in which we live.

Depending upon the class's final project and school equipment availability, students may choose to work with video and/or audio recording equipment. Drawing from the Well historically has utilized a radio documentary format. However, this curriculum can easily be adapted to align with video production, print publication, website design, photographic exhibitions and theatrical performances.

Teaching students to use technology is a great impetus for learning and improving academic, teamwork and communication skills. Hands-on activities encourage crossdisciplinary learning. In these exercises students will combine their writing work, listening and speaking skills and interviewing techniques. The following exercises can stand alone or be coupled with any of the writing exercises offered in Chapter One - "Digging the Well." Freely adapt these exercises to fit your needs.


  • The students will contribute positively toward group goals.
  • The students will meet individual roles and responsibilities within a group.
  • The students will use technology to communicate.

NM State Standards: Language Arts I-A (7-2) II-A (7-4) II-B (7-10) III-A

Materials and Resources Needed:
Audio tape recorders and/or video cameras with tripods (recommended, but optional) microphones, headsets, notebooks, video and/or audio tape stock, plus all appropriate adaptors, batteries and cables (See Appendix/Resources)
Teamwork Rubric (See Appendix/Methods of Evaluation)

Duration: a class period for each exercise.


  1. Before students get their hands on the equipment you will want to go over the guidelines, roles and responsibilities when working within a group:

    1. Share the responsibilities. When working in teams of two or more, the goal is to have each member of a team have the opportunity to do all aspects of a given exercise or set of exercises. Often in teamwork, one or another student rises to be the leader and others follow. In Drawing from the Well we would like to encourage everyone to try both what feels natural, as well as what may be a challenge.

    2. Working in collaboration. Although individuals can be a "one-man-band", the ideal arrangement is for teams to delineate roles and achieve tasks. Below is a set of questions for groups to consider as they work together:

      • Who is in charge and what does that mean?
      • Who is the scribe or recorder and what is the task?
      • Who is the subject or the focus of the investigation?
      • Who is responsible for content and follow-up inquiry?
      • Who is responsible for the operation of the equipment?
      • How will the group work culminate, both in small steps and building toward the final project?
      • How will the group know whether it has accomplished the given task successfully?
    3. Group responsibilities. Whether students are designing a radio show, a video project, a website, a student exhibition, a workshop or an oral presentation, the following positive dynamics are crucial for achieving effective group practices:

      • Contributing - all students come to the group with their own ideas, research, and synthesis
      • Listening - each student respects the ideas and contributions of all members
      • Reflecting - playback, response and discussion
      • Asking questions - follow-up with questions which help flesh out ideas and issues
      • Utilizing resources - access primary and secondary sources according to the topic (See Appendix/Resources)
      • Organizing - keep records, outlines, schedules, documentation of the work
      • Analyzing - apply critical thinking and inquiry to all material
      • Evaluating - assess new understandings and the value of the work
    4. Job assignments. For the purpose of simplicity, we will refer to both video and audio recording equipment as "recorders." In general, the entire crew is to be attentive and responsive during a recording session. Each student has a specific job, however a general "set awareness" is required of everyone. This means that all members are looking and thinking about what needs to be done to make the recording the best it can be.

      It is best to rotate the job assignments so all students can become proficient at the jobs. Some students prefer to be "behind the scenes" and others like to "take center stage," yet we encourage the rotation of roles during the exercises.

      • The Director is the person who oversees the recording session, brings order to the process and determines when the engineer is to "roll tape" and "cut".
      • The Engineer is the person operating the recorder.
      • The Scribe is the one who writes questions and notes as the recording occurs. Scribes may note the counter readings from the tape recorder for easy access later.
      • The Interviewer has the responsibility to deliver the questions, as well as listen deeply to the response in order to generate follow-up questions. As questions are developed, it is important to create open-ended questions to encourage the interviewee to respond in depth to the question.
      • The Interviewee is responsible for information and elucidating points. Interviews are most successful when the question and answer dynamic flows like a conversation. The interviewee can help the interviewer by volunteering information and giving back more than is asked.
      • The entire crew is responsible for staying aware and responding to what happens in a recording session. If there are more than four in a group, give the additional people the job of Observer. Use the Teamwork Rubric for the observer(s) to assess the productivity and effectiveness of the group.

      Prior to beginning the group technology exercises have students make agreements among themselves as to who will be responsible for which aspect of the work. At the end of the exercise, allow time for students to reflect on their ability to do successful group work by using the Teamwork Rubric.

    5. Recording protocol. It is helpful to establish a beginning system for all recording sessions. You may come up with your own system, but the main goal is to have everyone "on the same page" and to be sure the equipment is functioning properly. The following are conventional signals in a recording session:

      1. Director (to all present): "Quiet on the set."
      2. Director to the engineer: "Roll tape."
      3. Engineer (looking and confirming the tape is moving through the equipment): "Rolling."
      4. Director (to the microphone) states the day's date, the location of the interview and all in attendance, along with their given job assignments.
      5. Director: "Action" or "Begin the interview."
  2. Listening Exercise #1 - Basic Interview Practice
    Part I: Have students partner up or form small groups. Have students rotate jobs and take turns asking questions, listening to answers and practicing follow-up questions. You may have students develop their own questions or pull from the following:

    • What is your name?
    • Where were you born?
    • Who is your mother and father and where are they from?
    • Do you have siblings - name(s) and ages?
    • What do you like to do most?
    • What do you enjoy the least?
    • What would you like to change?

    As the questions are answered have the interviewer follow up with questions from the responses.

    Example: If the interviewee says, "I was born in San Francisco", a logical follow-up question might be, "Why did you move here?" or "How long did you live there and what do you remember about San Francisco?" The more open-ended the question, the more room the respondent has to give information.

    Part II: As a way to practice listening skills, have one of the listeners, or the interviewer retell, in story form, the information that came out of the interview. To make the exercise more fun, have the "re-teller" improvise information to give it more specifics.

    Example: I met Maureen Lovato on a bus ride to Las Vegas. I learned she had an older brother she fished with in the summer when they'd catch brown trout. Maureen loves fresh fish, but she hasn't always lived by a mountain stream. Maureen lived for her first two years in White Plains, New York. Her father was transferred to a post in Albuquerque, when she was nine and then she came to live with her mother and grandparents in PeƱasco when her parents separated.

    There are a few things that happen when the story takes this new form.

    • Students have to process the information and find out or develop more details to make a story interesting.
    • The person whose life becomes the content for the story gets to see his/her own life through a new lens, a new context.
    • Students have the opportunity to be creative with information, to sort what is important and to convey it in an oral form.

    Listening Exercise #2 - Stream of consciousness
    Similar to the Free Write exercise, set a time of two or three minutes for a student to talk in a stream of consciousness. The listener, who will re-tell this story, may want to take notes while the teller speaks. Again, the job of the listener is to receive the information and make new sense out of the data. When the story is re-told, the new teller can choose whether to tell it first or third person.

    Listening Exercise #3 - Story Pass (Group Story)
    Drawing from the students' writings in their portfolios concerning the essential question, the upcoming Old Photo, the Object or the "I Am From" exercises, have students record and build a group story that 1) introduces main characters, a setting and descriptions, 2) presents a problem, issue, conflict within the context of the characters and place, 3) takes on the challenge to solve the problem, issue, conflict and 4) resolves the story.

    Student and Teacher Assessment:
    Analyze the tape as a group. Discuss how it could be improved. Submit an improvement plan to the teacher. In addition, the group could evaluate the teamwork using the Teamwork Rubric. (See Appendix/Methods of Evaluation)