“The purpose of a storyteller is not to tell you how to think, but to give you questions to think upon.”
— Brandon Sanderson, fantasy and science fiction writer
Questions, questions, and more questions. One of the best ways to help students more deeply understand the power of story is through the art of questioning. Even more so, teaching them to craft their own questions to extract information is a lifelong skill. Add an iPad or camera and you have the art of on-camera interviewing. The following is a lesson for students to craft open-ended questions and conduct on-camera interviews. This particular lesson focuses on students interviewing students about what they think about a book they have just read. However, it is readily adaptable to any content or subject. This lesson requires a camera and editing software.
1 Exemplars: Show learners examples of on-camera interviews (both good and bad), explaining that they will have the opportunity to be both an interviewer and an interviewee. They will be interviewing each other on books they have just read. Analyze the interviews, prompting students to consider the following:
- What types of questions did the interviewer ask?
- What did we see on camera?
- How did the interviewee answer?
As a class, collect characteristics of a good interview. Note: The interviews could be flipped, having students watching them before coming together to analyze.
2. Crafting Questions: A good interviewer uses two different kinds of questions: open and closed. Closed-ended questions typically elicit a yes or no answer or a fact. Open-ended questions invite the interviewee to share their thinking.
Examples of closed-ended questions:
- “Did you like the book?”
- “What was the name of the main character?”
Examples of open-ended questions:
- “What was your favorite part of the story?”
- “Who was your favorite character and why?”
- “If you could change one thing about the book, what would it be and why?”
Closed-ended questions are useful for gathering facts or clarifying information. Closed-ended questions can also help get the interview going and help put the interviewee at ease. It may help to start with a few questions like, “What is your name? What book did you read?” Open-ended questions, on the other hand, allow the interviewees to share opinions and ideas. Students should draft at least three questions using paper/pencil. Garner feedback to improve questions.
3. Interviewing: Model how to conduce an interview. Show the students how to set up the camera and frame the interview. Demonstrate how to ask questions and how to listen to responses. Include these points:
- Give your subject time to think about how they want to answer. Don’t be afraid of uncomfortable silences and pauses.
- Conduct the interview as a conversation. Look into your subjects’ eyes when asking questions. Listen carefully as your subjectanswers the questions. Sometimes answers could lead to more questions.
When students are ready (questions checked and they have practice conducting an interview), have them find a quiet spot and conduct their interview. Have them use their cameras. Make sure to build in time for students to reflect. Have them show each other the interviews and note open/closed questions, response time, and interesting responses. Reflect together on the process – How could we use this in other subjects? What are ways to improve the process?