Taking Action, Virally part 2

Today my class’s book drive is officially closed. After four weeks, a social media campaign and more community support than we could have dreamed of, we have raised 1621 books for children in detention centres.

It has been an amazing experience. It was created from the students’ drive to take action based on what they had learnt during their inquiry, and what they had read in the newspaper, and was completely based on their ideas. They wanted to use social media/announce it at assembly/tell the newspapers, and so we did. They sorted and counted the books and contacted family friends and businesses in their own time.

All the books from the local library in boxes!

All the books from the local library in boxes!

Yesterday, the students wrote a reflection on the experience. All of the students mentioned how enthusiastic they were about the book drive, and how much fun it was. This was despite the fact that it involved research, planning and writing, three tasks that are definitely on the ‘do not like’ list of most of my students. It just goes to show how listening to student voice and planning for engaging, authentic lessons really does work (not that I have ever believed otherwise!)

In my last post, you can see the HaikuDeck presentation that I created about the book drive. It shows how and why the drive grew to the amazing proportions that it did. To add to that, below is information on how you can create a successful action within your classroom.

1. Listen to your students

Our book drive was so successful because it was entirely based on the students’ ideas. They wanted to be a part of it because it was their idea. They wanted to write the letter/make the video/collect the books because they had complete ownership of the action.

2. Use social media

Through social media, my class also raised donations for Amnesty International. There were many teachers who supported our cause by donating through our MyCause page. We also received numerous book donations because my students who were over 13 used their Facebook and Twitter accounts to spread the word. We also used our class Youtube account to raise awareness of our campaign through the advertisement the students created.

3. Use old school media 

This was one of the most successful ideas. One of my students sent an email to three local newspapers about our book drive. Two answered, and both came and photographed them and wrote a story about it. Through the newspaper articles, we had several people come to the school, including a woman who worked at a school library and another who worked at the local library. We received over 400 books from the articles alone!

4. Trust them!

The book drive meant that the students were often out and about filming or visiting classes to collect books. While I was also in the school grounds, it was impossible to have them all within site at all times, like they would be within a classroom. Unlike in the classroom, though, all of them were on task and completed their jobs extremely efficiently. Because they were engaged, I could trust that they would do the right thing, even when out of the classroom.

5. The benefits of asking

At te beginning of the book drive we created a website and we had students announce it at assembly, but it wasn’t until we actually began asking that we received a huge number of books. Asking if the journalists would like to come in, asking if businesses could donate books, asking teachers personally if they had any spare books that may be good for the book drive was what made it successful. Just sitting and waiting was not enough – the students were proactive, all of the time.

Rebecca Davies

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