Thursday, February 1, 2007

Movies as writing tools

I just finished one of those successful teaching days! I worked with my 9th grade English class on enhancing description. After some discussion on tools that movies use to "describe" (or show) their setting, we watched a few scenes from A River Runs Through It and Big Fish. We had great conversations on what the mood of the setting was and how the movie brought out that mood. We discussed issues as lighting, camera angle, sound, repeated images, and time spent on images. Then, using Barry Lane's magic camera technique, we discussed what important images were zoomed in on and why. After showing four scenes, students worked in small groups to determine which details should be enhanced in their own descriptive writing. Some conversations included the addition of light (or lack there of), others offered suggestions about what images could be repeated. I enjoyed walking around and hearing "This is important, zoom in on this." I think their intimidation level was reduced after the discussion. They will be turning in their second draft of their place description on Tuesday. Their task is to think like the movie makers and make revisions. I'm excited to see what improvements are made.

4 comments:

DianeWagener said...

What a great lesson! I work at the Jr. High level and our language arts department is considering working with a curriculum program called "SpringBoard." One of the coolest parts about it is its incorporation of all kinds of mediums (lots of film) into the language arts program. Your lesson would fit into the "system" well! - Diane

evn said...

congrats. that sounds like a super-strong activity. i particularly like how the lesson steps smartly from observation to analysis to perspective shift to synthesis, mirroring the most natural learning processes. are there any plans to stretch the activity all the way around the circle by taking students' ideas back to film?

A.M. Strzyz said...

I am considering following up this assignment as we head into our Romeo and Juliet unit. I'm thinking about having student use the knowledge they will gain about the play and the knowledge they have about how movies show setting together. Here's my idea...I would love input...
Students will be in different groups, each group responsible for a scene in an act. They will think about what the lighting, sounds, repeated images, and time spent on images would be in a film version. Each group could present these, and we would then watch the act on film. I'm thinking two different versions (Franco Zeffirelli and Baz Luhrmann). Students can them analyze their thoughts and the director's thoughts. They can ask what was effective or not as effective as what they planned.

Louann said...

The teaching idea is great, Anna Marie. I am sure it will be educational and interesting to the students. One of the reasons I'm sure is that there's a similar approach in the Pacesetter curriculum (which was replaced by SpringBoard, keeping many of the finest parts). Diane, is there a Director's Notebook assessment in SpringBoard? If there is, Anna Marie, you might want to see how that works to add to or organize your group activity.