Posted by: shineonali | October 9, 2010

We Are All Cinematographers

One of the ideas that we’ve been toying with is having our Grade 5 students make videos of their Grade 1 buddies presenting their “how-to” books.  They won’t be doing how-to books for a while, but we thought it would be a good idea to let the students play around experiment with the cameras well in advance.

I casually handed Flip cameras to a few students, asking, “have you used one of these before?”  If they said no, I took three seconds to tell them, “this red button starts recording…and stops it.”  I told them that we’re thinking about having the Grade 5’s make movies of their buddies reading a book in a little while, and we need to make some test videos to see what works well and what doesn’t.   Then, we just watched what happened.

  • Grade 1 students seem super willing to be on camera.  Even beginning English learners were eager to have a turn.  Grade 5 students, in my experience, tend to be a little shyer.  Even though this was just for practice, that camera still represented an audience.  I think this is good to keep in mind when considering motivation (pressure?) to do something well.
  • The technology, as expected, was SUPER easy.  Occasionally a student would ask how to do something, but they’d practically figured it out by the time they asked the question!
  • Some students stood way back to film, getting the whole picture–the whole person, the book, the environment.  Others filmed only the pages that the child read, or only the child’s face as he was reading.  This could lead to a discussion of the choices you make as you record video.
  • A few students were “natural” directors, moving their buddies or themselves in order to set up the shot.  Others did several “takes”–replaying the first clip, evaluating it, and then trying again–usually closer so the buddy could be heard.  However, there were also students who didn’t do this–so they would need me–or their peers–to teach them that there are strategies you can use to make a better movie.

All of these observations make it even more evident that we’re teaching a genre here, and many of the strategies we use to teach a genre in writing workshop can be used to teach making a movie.

Our next step will be to upload these video clips to a laptop, and reflect–was there too much background noise in the classroom?  What happened if you didn’t get really close to the reader?  How important is it to keep a steady camera hand?  Even if the clips aren’t great, we can take some of the better ones and edit them in iMovie. (Would love to use the Flip software, but I’m not sure if we’ll have it installed in time.) Hopefully by then the students will have a stronger sense of how to capture great video, and an awareness of what can be done in the editing stage on the laptop.

I know this is just a side project–it’s not really part of our yearly plan or anything–but I think it will be a valuable learning experience for all of the students.  Grade 1 students will have a way to share their how-to books, and if we have them demonstrating the procedures as they read, it might even lead to strong revisions.  In the end, they will not only publish a piece of writing, they will participate in an ever-expanding genre of how-to videos.  The Grade 5 students will develop visual literacy as creators of content, and they’ll hone their skills with the technological tools we use.  Not to mention that the whole point of buddies from the Grade 5 perspective is to cultivate citizenship–to allow them the opportunity to be mentors, helpers, role models to younger students.

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