Teach Youth Radio

To mark the end of the school year, it seems like a good time to post thoughts from educators who have shared their ideas for how to use Youth Radio materials in their classrooms and community-based sites. It is so excellent when we hear that educators, organizers, clinicians, and other folks are out there spreading youth media stories to new audiences, and using young people’s words to inspire student thought, debate, critique–and hopefully their own productions.

Mindy Faber shared some great thoughts for using stories from Youth Radio’s Reflections on Return series to spark student engagement. In that series, our newsroom profiles young U.S. troops returning from the war in Iraq. Faber, a media artist and educator whose work with youth was recently recognized with a Peabody award, uses a pedagogical approach called “interpretive discussion.” She says this method focuses on a key question that meets two criteria:

“1) genuinely concerns the group and 2) centers on a point of ambiguity or doubt. It should be debatable and not lead necessarily to an answer that the discussion leader or teacher has in mind but one that the group comes to on their own. In other words the discussion may end up with a deeper and more genuine question than the one originally posed. So the responsibility for youth to construct and evaluate arguments means a different type of classroom discourse and engagement.”

Faber says facilitators using this approach keep drawing student attention back to the text itself, insisting on specific references. What’s cool about applying this approach to youth-made media is, for once, the text students need to consider deeply, interpret, and interrogate is actually crafted by someone their own age. The hope, then, is that students exploring these finished pieces will see a path to telling their own stories and/or chronicling lives around them.

Faber offered two examples of “Interpretive Discussion” questions linked to Youth Radio’s Reflections on Return series, and I’m quoting her here, but I added the links:

Basic Question: Did the experiences in Iraq help these soldiers gain more control over their lives or do they feel less capable of making choices upon return?

Sample Subquestion 1: What does Jesus mean when he says, “It’s like you’re watching a black and white TV; you’re just not there?”

Sample Subquestion 2: When Brandon Coles says “Once you’re a soldier you are always a soldier,” does that mean he is powerless to change or he has made a conscious choice to be that person?

Sample Subquestion 3: When Abby Pickett says “the greenness and kind of luster that surrounds my youth is diminished and gone,” is this a sign of maturity and growth or a signal of sadness and regret?

Basic Question: Do these soldiers wish they were still in Iraq because their deployment gives their lives a higher purpose or because they need to be with those who understand them?

Sample Subquestion 1: What does Jesus mean when he says he “wished he was still in the military because his unit was sort of a bubble”?

Sample Subquestion 2: Why do you think Daniel wants to spend his last nights in the states with his fellow soldiers rather than his girlfriend?

Sample subquestion 3: What does Richard mean when he says, “You know, if you’d give me the choice, I would rather be deployed than not be deployed. In Iraq, I knew where I was” ?

Thank you, Mindy, for sharing these thoughts. Please know that it means A LOT to the young reporters and commentators at Youth Radio for their work to be taken seriously and expanded by educators and other youth.

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3 Responses to Teach Youth Radio

  1. Mindy Faber says:

    Thanks Lissa for your post. Reflections on Return lends itself so well to rich discussion with youth. I would also like to mention how much I have learned about the power of Interpretive Discussion from Sophie Haroutunian-Gordon at Northwestern University School of Education and Social Policy. Sophie has a new book coming out called “Cultivating Questions” and a previous publication called “Turning the Soul: Teaching Through Conversation in the High School”. I recommend both of these to anyone interested in learning more about this powerful method for learning. – Happy Summer and tell folks to watch for Youthlab.net which debuts with daily youth bideo blog posts on July 24th! – mindy

  2. Thanks for this! Keep me posted on Youthlab, and I’d love to share news here as the project takes off.

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