Performance Task Assessment

Mov(i)ers & Shakers: iMovie Trailers as a Performance Task Assessment

An evident truth: kids just get technology. It’s kind of the same way that I just get communicating with cats, but much more useful. Actually, as I began typing the title for this post, Milo nipped me because I stopped petting him. So maybe I don’t get communicating with cats…ANYWAYS…

“OK, woman-girl, you don’t have free choice. I decide what you do.” -Milo

I am always looking for ways to assess students without placing a written test in front of them. Some kids really get content, but they have difficulty expressing that knowledge through written means. Some kids get anxiety when facing a traditional test because of the weight put on them, which is why I never tell the kids they’re taking a “test.” I tell them they’re going to have a chance to “show what they know.” They dig that, I think.

As a paraprofessional, I worked with some really wonderful teachers. One in particular, this AMAZING teacher at a small school on the New Hampshire seacoast, used iMovie in her classroom to have students make movie trailers for picture books they read with a partner. This was an awesome end-of-the-school-year activity that they students immensely enjoyed. At this moment in time, I made a mental note. “MENTAL NOTE: DO THIS WHEN YOU ARE IN OWN CLASSROOM. *SAVE FILE*”

Well, here I am, in my own classroom and about a month ago I was trying to figure out how I would assess student knowledge on our landform unit. I go back to my educational career: landform dictionary…great formative activity but not a summative. I go back to some ideas I saw on Pinterest: look fun but naaaahhht sitting right with me. I go through my mental catalog (Sidenote: I picture the inside of my brain looking like a LOT of filing cabinets full of my life’s experiences, schema, and knowledge. There is a little Isabelle in there, just happily filing away, drinking an iced mocha with no whipped cream. In this instance, she pauses…runs to the right filing cabinet, and VOILÁ! (she’s French, this tiny Isabelle) pulls out this great idea!) and decide that students will work in small groups to make iMovie trailers about a landform of their choice. We all know how important student choice is, gotta weave that in.

I begin by drafting a really simple graphic organizer. I know I want students to collectively decide on a landform to research. Then, I want them to find four interesting facts about that landform and sew them into a movie trailer. My students can use the iPads to research basic facts about their choice landform, we’ve done simple research like this in the past. The document below is what I end up with:


PDF of the outline above: Landform iMovie Outline

Whenever my kids do research through Google, I ask them to include the keywords “for kids” at the end of what they’re searching. Peace of mind and appropriate reading levels (usually). For this project they typed the following keywords: (Landform) facts for kids (i.e. volcano facts for kids).

As always, it’s super important to show the classroom an example of what you’re looking for. I created the following iMovie trailer to show students BEFORE they began their research. They were super engaged after seeing this and they were chomping at the bit to get started!

After showing students this video, they needed a quick overview of iMovie. I purchased iMovie for $4.99 from the App store and was able to put it on my five classroom iPads. I reviewed the following tools and features within the app with the students:

  • Choosing a theme for the trailer
  • Creating the “Outline” for the trailer
  • Saving images from Google
  • Inserting saved images into the trailer
  • Changing the text in the trailer through the “Storyboard”
  • QUICK REVIEW OF INTERNET SAFETY AND NOT PUTTING OWN NAMES ON WORK THAT WOULD BE UPLOADED TO THE INTERNET (I put these videos on Youtube for easy viewing in our classroom and sharing with parents)

So, I set them free to work! I picked popsicle sticks to make groups and I gave the kids the reigns.



What I was expecting from my students, many of whom do not have consistent access to technology outside of the classroom, was FAR exceeded. Like I said, kids just get technology. I was honestly blown away when I saw these landform trailers made by 8 and newly 9 year-olds. These kids are amazing! I set my expectations for them high, but I was expecting some sort of learning curve. “HAVE THEY USED THIS BEFORE?” I thought. They hadn’t. They’re remarkable.

Students were given three days of time to work on this project, which combined to about 90 minutes total. TOTALLY WORTH IT. Now that they know how to use this technology, we’ll be doing this at least a few more times this year.

Students finished these projects the day before holiday break. We took about 10 minutes on our last day of school before vacation to sit audience style in front of the SMARTBoard and watch the kids’ creations. They were laughing, smiling, and highly-engaged the ENTIRE time. They wanted to watch all the videos twice, but we had other fun things to get to!

Here are the videos for your viewing pleasure! 

“Fantastic Volcanoes”

“The Great Glacier” 

I wanted to make sure you all saw these credits from “The Great Glacier”:

Screen Shot 2016-12-23 at 12.18.19 PM.png
“The Great Glacier” credits…on POINT.

“Volcano Friends Lava”

“Little Monsters: Islands”

“100 Year Old Islands Undercover”

What do you think?

Are there other ways to use iMovie in the classroom?

Will you try this out? 

SHARE your thinking in the comments! We work better when we work TOGETHER!

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