Tag Archives: Media Savvy Kids

The Hero’s Journey: A Study in Film

Years ago I attended the National Gallery for Art‘s Summer Workshop focusing on Mythology. I spent a week in Washington, DC with fifty other educators learning from academics, teachers, and visiting every museum in the District. One evening we attended the National Air and Space Museum to see an exhibit highlighting the Joseph Cambell’s The Hero Journey through the lens of George Lucas’ Star Wars. The exhibit paralleled two stories, making visible a plot structure and trope that plays out continuously in film and story canon.

Joseph Campbell, an American mythological researcher, wrote a famous book entitled The Hero with a Thousand Faces.  As MythologyTeacher.com points out, “in his lifelong research Campbell discovered many common patterns running through hero myths and stories from around the world.  Years of research lead Campbell to discover several basic stages that almost every hero-quest goes through (no matter what culture the myth is a part of).  He calls this common structure “the monomyth.” It is commonly referred to as “The Hero’s Journey.'”

monomyth

When George Lucas was writing his drafts of the early Star Wars movies he had read Joseph Campbell’s work and there is a clear structure of the Hero’s Journey in Lucas’ films.

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Star Wars is not the only films that follows the Hero’s Journey. Many of Disney’s Films also use this plot structure in their animated feature films: Finding Nemo, Mulan, The Lion King, The Incredibles, and Moana. Additional movies include Shrek, and Kung Fu Panda. Major feature films like Harry Potter, The Hunger Games, Spiderman, Matrix, and The Hobbit also follow this trope.

I am using The Hero’s Journey with in my Media Literacy class to teach about plot structure, character motivation, and theme in the stories they write and films they create. I started by asking students to think about what qualities they associate with heroes. Are heroes born or are they made? Are there heroes in real-life or must they be larger-than-life? Who are the heroes in our society.

Students viewed short films about the Hero’s Journey to understand the monomyth. Then we brainstormed possible movies, books, and stories that would fit within this structure. Students were given a graphic organizer of the The Hero’s Journey to map out a text on their own. The graphic organizer on MythologyTeacher.com was clear and specific to help students articulate their understanding. I found out among my students that not many have seen animated Disney Films, The Hunger Games, or the new Spiderman Homecoming movie. With this in mind, I will be showing the class the movie  Spirited Away by MIYAZAKI (2001), one of my favorite filmmakers.

Many of Miyazaki’s films follow the Hero’s Journey and are great to use with students. Once we view a film in it’s entirety together, we will discuss and plot out the Hero’s Journey in the film. Students will use this foundation for writing their own Hero’s Journey story that they will make into a movie. Additionally, students will apply the foundations of film knowledge (Types of Shots, Color, Sound, and Style) to effectively tell their Hero’s Journey story.

 

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Where film and writing merge: Match on Action

This weekend I attended ACME: Action Coalition for Media Education 5th Annual summit hosted by Sacred Heart University’s Media Literacy & Digital Culture graduate program and co sponsored with Project Censored. ACME identifies itself as “an emerging SmartMedia Education Network, a global coalition run by and for media educators.” ACME’s mission is threefold:

  1. Teaching media education knowledge and skills – through keynotes, trainings, and conferences – in classrooms and communities to foster more critical media consumption and more active participation in our democracy.
  2. Supporting media reform — few multinational corporations (Big Media) own much of the media that shapes our 21st century culture.– Media reform is crucial since only those who are media educated support media reform, media education must be a top priority for all citizens and activists.
  3. Democratizing our media system through education and activism.

Topics throughout the day addressed pedagogy, citizenship, digital production, journalism, and representations of race, class, and gender.  I was invited to present with colleagues from Jacob Burns Film Center on their curriculum Image, Sound, and Story. Currently, in its third year of fruition, Image Sound and Story is a “series of ten hands-on lessons/projects that emphasize process, challenge-based learning, collaboration, and reflection to build students’ visual and aural communication skills.”

Our presentation was hands on and allowed participants to experience a piece of JBFC curriculum. We focused on structure and I shared how I use Image, Sound, and Story in my media literacy elective, Media Savvy Kids, and how it also influences my English classroom.

The unit on Structure (Moment to Moment) focuses on how to connect ideas through editing and match cuts when creating a film. When teaching writing, writer’s need to offer a road map for their readers in order to understand the sequence of ideas. Writers use specific transitions to guide and emphasize their intentions. These transitions are similar to the types of cuts film directors and editors have to think about to create a coherent film. Below are the slides from the presentation and at the end I include samples of student work to highlight the intentions of my student writers.

 

To learn more about Media Literacy professional development opportunities click on the links below:

Jacob Burns Film Center summer professional development for teachers 

Media Literacy Education for a Digital Generator Summer Institute for Educators at Champlain College in Burlington, Vermont

Summer Media Institute at Wedlock College in Boston, Massachusetts

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Animation as a Catalyst for Making Global Connections

Global collaboration is an innovative teaching tool that helps prepare students to become active participants in our global community. Global collaborative projects tap into many of the existing and emerging skills and literacies required of teachers and students: listening, reading, writing, speaking, problem solving, creating, and using technology to practice digital citizenship (NETS).   In fact, collaboration is included throughout the Common Core Learning Standards. It states in both the K-5 and 6-12 standards for speaking and listening, “Prepare for and participate effectively in a range of conversations and collaborations with diverse partners, building on others’ ideas and expressing their own clearly and persuasively.” (CCLS, 2010)  Global collaborative projects help to meet these standards.

Many global collaborative projects currently exist that teachers can apply and participate in such as  Flat Classroom Project, iEarn, and Classroom2.0.  Teachers can also create their own global collaboration projects.  Global partnerships are about making connections with other teachers and schools to benefit all students’ learning.  These partnerships can be made through Twitter, blogs, conferences, and or even with teachers around your school district.

At this fall’s Edscape Conference (http://edscapeconference.com), I connected with the educational coordinator from the Japan Society in New York City to establish a partnership between students at a school in Japan and my middle school students in Rye, New York.  The global collaborative project benefits my seventh and eighth grade media literacy elective. During the semester course, I use Disney animated films to teach critical theories of gender, race, class, and age.  To broaden the unit, I add Japanese anime so students can understand how anime can be a window into other cultures around the world.  Japanese anime becomes an exciting catalyst to spark conversation and global awareness among my students in New York and the students in Japan.  The goal of this project is to expand my students’ world views of different cultures through media literacy and more specifically, anime.

Communicating. Prior to participating in the  global project with the students from Japan, I spend a week setting up the project with my students. I teach netiquette and responsible digital citizenship.  Teachers cannot assume that students know how to work together collaboratively in the classroom, let alone online.  When working with students around the world, one must take into consideration language barriers and cultural differences as well.  Teachers need to support students throughout a global project to help to facilitate successful collaboration and communication.

To help initiate a discussion about working with others, I give my students different scenarios with “sticky” small group situations, and I ask them to brainstorm positive responses.  For example,  one scenario includes a small group with one student who acts as a dictator and completes all the work while other group members take a backseat to the project. Another scenario is about miscommunication among group members.  In the third scenario one group member’s contributions are inaccurate, but the other group members do not want to hurt the student’s feelings and the work is wrong.  My own students resolve these small group situations and create positive alternatives.

Students know that when working with others, they need to be considerate of others, but they don’t know what respectful and cooperative work looks like or sounds like.  It is necessary to model for students positive communication for successful collaboration, offer guidelines, and even provide specific communication starters for students.  In Stephanie Harvey and Harvey Daniels’ Comprehension and Collaboration (Heinemann, 2009), there is a thorough list of communication starters to help students articulate respect and tolerance including, “I am glad that you brought that up. I would have never thought of that” and “I agree with what you are saying.”

Collaborating. There are three elements to the media literacy global collaborative project.  First, students participate in an introductory assignment where, individually or with a partner, they create a written blog post or digital video about themselves and the community where they live.  Students share these videos and blog posts online using the Japan Society’s  secure social networking site, “Going Global.”  This introductory “handshake” allows students to introduce themselves to the global participants and share information about their own cultural interests.  Students have the option of taking pictures of their community to include in their post to provide a visual perspective on the community where they live.  This assignment not only helps students to see the commonalities and differences among all the participants, but it also initiates inquiry and interest among students.

After the initial handshake, students view two Disney animated films and two Japanese animes.  This year students view the recent Disney princess film; Tangled (2010) and Brave (2012).  Then students view My Neighbor Totoro (1988) and Spirited Away (2001), both by Hayao Miyazaki, who has been called the Walt Disney of Japanese anime. Each student is assigned a critical theory to research and write a collaborative report on a Wiki.  Students then apply the critical theory to the films and include the analysis on the Wiki page.  As an example, students collaboratively critique how gender is represented in both the Disney films and Japanese anime.

In addition to the collaborative piece with the students in Japan, I have my students collaborate with another member of our class and create a video segment discussing their critical theory applied to the Disney princess films.  We link all the videos together to create a “Choose Your Own Adventure” video montage on YouTube.  YouTube has an feature that allows teachers to insert a hyperlink into the video uploaded using the spotlight annotation tool.  Students write their own scripts based on their research and analysis, and then we spend four class periods recording the videos.  As a final step,  I upload the videos to YouTube and link the videos together.

The project has multiple layers.  Each component of the project is scaffolded for the diverse range of student abilities.  With each element of the project, I present my students with models, checklists,  and assessment rubrics so they know the project’s expectations.

Culminating. Creating a successful global collaborative project requires much planning. Clear goals and outcomes with all participants must be communicated.  A successful project is interactive, engaging, and revolves around real questions and problems.  Whether participating in an already existing global project or creating your own, global projects allow students to utilize multiple skills relevant to succeeding inside and outside of the classroom.

This article was written for and appeared first in the inaugural Literacy Special Interest Journal for ISTE.  Be sure to check out all of the intriguing literacy projects described in the journal’s first edition.  
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Choose Your Own Adventure Video Project: Deconstructing Disney Princess Films

Do you remember the choose your own adventure books when you were back in elementary school? The reader gets to choose what will happen next.  The CYOA video project is the same idea, the viewer gets to choose what he or she would like to view next by clicking on a link embedded on the video.

In my media literacy elective, Media Savvy Kids, I have my students watch Disney animated films to learn and understand critical theories of gender, race, class, and age.  As a culminating project I decided to have my students create a Choose Your Own Adventure video project to highlight their understanding of critical theory by applying one of the critical theories to Disney’s princess films.  The idea of a Choose Your Own Adventure Project was inspired by  Greg Kulowiec’s high school social studies CYOA video project  that was shared with me at a recent ed tech conference.

First, we watched Tangled in class. Afterwards, I presented my reading of the movie introducing and applying each critical theory to the film.  I defined the critical theories for my students and showed examples how the critical theories can be applied to the movie.  The following week, we watched Brave together in class.  The idea behind these two movies was that they are the most recent Disney princess films and are suppose to present a more updated and feminist princess.  But is she really?  That was one of the guiding questions for this unit of study.  Students had to apply the critical theories and pull put specific examples in the movie Brave.  For the assessment project I selected the student partnerships and each group chose the critical theory they would present in the video.  Students were required to offer three to four specific examples from the movie to support their claim and critical reading of the movies.  Students were also allowed to bring in additional examples from other Disney princess films.  Students collaborated writing their scripts and then we went into production filming the videos.

Here is what the project looked like on paper in the planning stage:

 

Here is the rubric I created for the project:

Here is the final project:

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Reflections of a Flatclassroom Global Collaborative Project

This spring I had the opportunity to participate in one of the Flat Classroom global projects designed and facilitated by Flat Classroom co-founders, Julie Lindsay and Vicki Davis.  The project that my students and I participated in was the NetGenEd Project.  The idea behind the project was for students to work collaboratively researching and contributing to the NetGenEd Wiki  about one of the 2013 Horizon Report Tech Trends through the critical perspective of Don Tapscott’s Net Generation Norms.  In addition, students created a video about the tech trend they researched to be judged by a set of external judges.  The project encompassed about ten weeks from February up until the end of April.  My students worked on the project everyday in class researching, adding information to the Wiki and Ning, communicating with their global partners from other schools, and creating their videos.  This being the first year that my students and I participated in the project, I asked my students to reflect on their learning and participation in this project.

My students gave me some insight in how I might do the project differently if I were to participate in this project again and confirmed for me some of my own thoughts post-project.

As a new teacher to this project there were meetings online every week or two to help set up the project but as one of the organizers said, “it is sink or swim.” I kept abreast of everything but a mentor assigned to work with me would have been beneficial.  I read Flattening Classrooms, Engaging Minds: Move to Global Collaboration One Step at a Time (2012) by Julie Lindsay and Vicki Davis beforehand.  I read Grown Up Digital (2009) by Don Tapscott after being informed I was invited to participate in the project.  I read as much as I could so that I could manage the project effectively and successfully.

One thing I would recommend changing is streamline the websites.  It was overwhelming and confusing between the Ning and the Wiki.  As a Wiki user and advocate, I was comfortable and confident collaborating on a Wiki.  The Ning — think of a social networking sight like Facebook specifically for the project participants — I felt, was not necessary; and many of my students confirmed the same in their reflection.   Asking students to contribute to a Wiki and contribute to the Ning was tedious and confusing.  There was a handshake on the Ning, but project reports on the Wiki, discussions on the Wiki and on the Ning.  Why not have a page on the wiki to share handshake blog posts and keep everything on one website.

Returning teachers shared their project checklists online and this was tremendously helpful.  I used these as models to create daily checklists to help my students move through each element of the project requirements.  I wish I had gotten this information right at the beginning of the project.  In addition, I felt I needed to evaluate my students at every checklist to make sure that each piece of the desired outcomes was met.  I created my own rubrics, and would have loved other teacher participants to share their own.

I realize now, after reading student reflections, I need to better articulate the guidelines and desired outcomes for my students.  I thought that I was clear but found many of my students confused.  I need to create templates to support student research and offer models of solid final products to help my students understand the project requirements.

Here are some highlights of what my students said in their reflections:

“I found it interesting to work with students in other countries and see their point of view.”

“I learned that the future of technology has so much to offer.”

“If you were to do the project again, there should be less work.  It was too much and were graded too harshly seeing as we were learning as we were completing the project requirements.”

“I learned how to collaborate with other people through technology.”

“I think you don’t need to do the Wiki, students should just make a movie and the other people collaborating were useless.”

Now, you might be wondering, would I do another global collaborative project?

Absolutely, in fact I am working on another one right now connecting my students with students at a school in Japan.

To see my students’ Flat Classroom research, Wiki reports,  and videos CLICK HERE.

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