Teaching ideas incorporating film
Visual Literacy and the use of film in the classroom have been shown to raise standards in reading and writing. Children love film and working with it in class is engaging and motivating, allowing many opportunities for speaking and listening and cross-curricular links. Whilst film can improve the reading and enjoyment of all texts, reading film is a skill in itself. It helps children develop a deeper understanding of storytelling, whilst the vocabulary of filmmaking allows children to compare the composition and effect of film with writing. Here, Film Education’s Primary Education team offer some ideas as to how teachers can best use film in the classroom.
Please note: a wide range of free teaching and learning resources can be found at filmeducation.org
What are the children’s favourite films? Get your class to group them in terms of genre. How many of them are based on novels? Have the children read them? Explore how the way writers tell stories compares with film. Writers rely on descriptive and figurative language to create characters and settings, whilst filmmakers use camera angles, actors, set design and special effects etc. Mood and pace in film is created by the use of editing, light and colour, sound and music. A writer has to choose language carefully and vary sentence structure. The passing of time in a book is established by time connectives and paragraphs. A filmmaker uses editing and how they sequence shots and scenes.
Children enjoy reading comic books in class, especially boys! Which comic books and graphic novels have been made into films? Which are in production? Comic books tell stories in a similar way to film because characters and events are framed in the same way as they are by a camera. Storyboards are very similar to comic books. Filmmakers make storyboards and use them alongside the script when filming. Children can create their own comic books and storyboards, perhaps adapting a book they have enjoyed that isn’t a film already.
Filmmakers have to ‘pitch’ their ideas to producers, who decide if the film will be made. Presenting a film pitch can be a fun speaking and listening activity. A teacher or teaching assistant can play the role of a producer and the rest of the class can be studio executives. Children’s ideas can be an adaptation of a class novel (that hasn’t already been made into a film) or a book they are enjoying themselves. A pupil could even pitch a completely original story.
When presenting your pitch, start with genre. Will your film be a mystery, adventure or comedy? Will it be live action or animation? Explain who will enjoy your film and why. Which actors do you want to play the main characters? Summarise the plot in an exciting way, choosing language carefully. Will you need CGI and special effects? Explain the locations you want to film in to create the world in your story. Research your ideas fully as your audience may ask questions! Film pitches can inspire writing: a short story, a script, a poster or voiceover for a trailer etc.
Watch a range of trailers for family films from different genres - fantasy, comedy etc. Film trailers are persuasive texts designed to get an audience excited about seeing a film at the cinema. However, they also tell a narrative, establishing genre, setting, character and plot, without (hopefully) giving away the ending. Trailers are a great way to introduce children to film language. To read a film trailer children need to consider all aspects of film narrative and their effect; use of camera, editing, sound, music, light and colour. Then focus on the voiceover and text on screen.
Ask children to storyboard a film trailer for an adaptation of a book they are reading choosing key images from the story and write a voiceover text. They could even develop their own pitch for a story, then film a trailer and edit it with persuasive techniques. Alternatively, children could record their voiceover with music and sound for a podcast or radio trailer. Contact Film Education for a copy of their FREE resource Teaching Trailers Primary.
Read a variety of reviews of recent children’s films. Try to find some bad reviews as well as good ones! Discuss the key features of a film review. The basic plot (and key characters) should be briefly summarised without giving too much away. A reviewer should make arguments about a film’s weaknesses as well as strengths. They also need to consider different audiences: boys, girls, adults and fans of particular genres or actors. Ask your class to write a balanced review of a film you watch together or they have seen recently. You could get children to present their reviews to camera for a TV show or podcast them for a radio programme. Visit www.youngfilmcritic.org
A script (also known as a screenplay) is the blueprint for a film and written before everything else. Read the script for a popular children’s film, you can buy them from bookstores and online. You could choose a film that was based on a novel so you can compare all three text types. Choose a script extract and put children in groups to rehearse and perform the scene. Drama is a great way to investigate character. Children can then write their own original short script for a new scene using some of the same characters. Film your pupils performing their scripts, watch back together as a class and evaluate. Did they pay attention to the verbs and adverbs in the stage directions?
Taking pupils to the cinema
The collective experience of watching a film together as a class can have a positive impact on learning back in the classroom. Nothing beats the cinema experience for enjoying a whole text - and the immediate synthesis of film makes complex narratives accessible to all levels and ages. Contact your local cinema to see about reduced group rates at times that will suit you. Your cinema manager may well be amenable to showing groups of children around the cinema - leading to all kinds of Maths and Science learning experiences (concession stand money sums, ticket prices, timetabling, box office, screen size, number of seats in the auditorium, leg room, projection room colour and light science and so on).
Film Education organise a number of free school screening events throughout the school year. All screenings happen during the school day and they are supported by educational resources. Primary schools use the FREE cinema trips offered during National Schools Film Week (NSFW) to help them with a wide range of educational and developmental aims. The festival programme is designed by teachers for teachers and this enables primary schools to decide, well in advance of the festival itself, how they would use a trip to the cinema for each class in their school. To find out more visit nsfw.org
Visit www.filmeducation.org where you can find FREE online and downloadable resources that will help you introduce film into the classroom. Join the mailing list to find out about more resources, teacher training and screenings for schools.