Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Get the words, yo

The storyboard clip made me wonder if I'd tackled a small film unit. If I had, I didn't tag correctly, because I couldn't find it, other than my reference to John Golden's book in my lesson on irony.

This is a fun unit, and I've had students come up to me afterward and say, "Mrs. P, I went to see New Moon this weekend, and I just kept thinking about angles!" At this point, I cackle and rub my hands in glee, proclaiming that My evil plan worked!

But srsly.

This is great for connecting reading and visuals, which can be difficult for kiddos. Reading isn't always real to them. "Reading cinema" gets them thinking about the movies they watch, seeing the WHY behind a technique; if you can sell that movies use intentional techniques (which is pretty easy--they seem to accept that directors use lighting,angles, movement, sound, etc. for purposes more readily than they do in a novel), you can sell them that novels are the same way. Authors don't just keep mentioning that cat for no reason. The cat MEANS something, contributes something to the theme, purpose, or character (yes, I'm looking at you, Ethan Frome).

I've waxed poetic enough. On with the lesson.

First, ya gotta know the terms. Golden offers several pages of them (defining, explaining, and exampling), but I narrowed them down to a manageable size for my kiddos. I offer up the terms via my Reading Movies powerpoint. I warn you: the powerpoint contains (primarily) definitions-only. As they copy, I also talk through the intended effects of presented terms (getting them to actually take notes on what I'm SAYING and not just what is in front of them is actually a skill I try to prep them for. Not sure that it's terribly successful, but I try). Slide 5 provides an example Golden uses from North by Northwest. We talk about the effect of each shot and why the director chose the original.

After kids have the terms down, have them demonstrate understanding with a few still-motion pictures. Golden offers many in his book. (Brain Storm! Try using Harry Burdick here! I TOLD you that stuff was genius). Model a practice round as a class, and then perhaps do small break-outs, giving groups or pairs a picture they can "read" and then briefly describe to the class.

Once students exhibit adeptness at applying the terms and identifying their effects, practice a bit more with whole film scenes. You can probably guess my suggestion for this here: Golden's book. Lots of great examples, already broken down into appropriate scenes, and the movies are classroom-ready. You'll need to play the scene twice. I recommend whatever scene you show, encourage them to just watch and absorb, jotting down the terms they identify in the scene. The second time around, think about what effect those aspects have. My kids were ready to talk through the clip the 2nd time, so I would pause as we talked about the effects.

You've got the terms and uses down, so next is putting those terms and effects to your own use! Stay tuned.

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