China and CCS Videos Part 1: Setting the Stage

Go to part 2: Research and Data Collection

My students have been responsible for a ton of writing this year. We have focused on annotation style note-taking for day to day assignments, and all assessments have been open-ended writing. That’s great, but exhausting. The students needs a change. I need a change. The back end of the year for us is actually well suited for project-based assignments because we are looking at broad topics such as “China”, “India” and “Africa”.

However, it took a few days for me to figure out an angle. I have been so focused on writing-intensive strategies for the past couple of years that I was stumped at first…I couldn’t see past my go-to instructional and assessment strategy. Luckily, I remembered an inspiring blog post I read last year.

Making Common Craft Style Videos by Paul Bogush

(Note: Mr. Bogush has an amazing blog – You should read it.)

This is a Common Craft style video made by Mr. Bogush’s students.


This is a behind-the-scenes look at the same project.


The first step was to give students a context for modern day issues and relationships about China. I prepared two documents: a survey of Chinese culture and a modern era timeline.

I have found that timelines are great, but students needs a little more structure to pull them apart and see different relationships, so I also assigned this graphic organizer to go along with the timeline.

All told, we spent about three days of class time on this part. As our discussion progressed, it was evident that the students were starting to gravitate toward certain topics or issues.

On our last day of introductory discussion, I introduced the project guidelines (I used the two videos above to model the final product for them) and gave them an opportunity to pick topics they would like to explore. Based on their topic selections, I divided the students into three or four person groups. (Note: It would be very hard to create the video with less than three students. I was originally going to create groups of 5-6, but on second thought that seemed too unwieldy.)


Key criteria:

  • Students are individually responsible for a research component related to their group’s research question. The quality of their research is the biggest variable impact on their final grade.
  • Students are collaboratively responsible for creating a Common Craft Style video to answer their group’s research question. Since this is the first time around for everyone, myself included, I will not evaluate the videos for a grade. They get completion credit for getting it done.
  • After creating the video, students will complete an individual project reflection and a peer evaluation of the other members of their group. The reflection will be graded for completion. The peer evaluation will count toward an individual participation grade.


These are the various research groups across all of my classes:

  • What are key features of Chinese culture? (3 groups)
  • What are key environmental concerns caused by Chinese industrial growth? (2 groups)
  • What are key human rights concerns caused by Chinese industrial growth? (3 groups)
  • What are key issues in U.S. – China relations? (2 groups)
  • What was Tiananmen Square Massacre? (4 groups)
  • What is the relationship between China and Hong Kong? (1 group)
  • What are China’s key scientific and technological achievements in the modern era? (3 groups)



I think everyone is excited to get going on this one. I feel like I did a good job of baiting the hook to get them interested in learning more. There is a diverse range of topics across the groups, and in general I think the group composition will work out OK. There are only two groups overall that I predict will need a little extra attention.


Go to part 2: Research and Data Collection


Have you done a project like this before? Tell me about it in a comment!


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