Tag Archives: Movie Making

Close Reading Stranger Things

What are the elements of gothic fiction and how can the Netflix series Stranger Things help to teach gothic fiction and close reading? This is the inquiry project my students are currently working on in our film elective.

Gothic Films contain the following elements:

● Dark & gloomy
● Supernatural beings, monsters and the paranormal
● Heroes, villains, damsels in distress and sometimes, romance
● Feelings of suspense, mystery and fear
● Settings of unease such as dark forests, storms and unnerving
places

I first polled my students to see who had access to Netflix.  As students are watching Season One of Stranger Things we have been focusing on why this film series is so popular and the elements of great storytelling and filming.

To help building background knowledge, students read an article about the Stranger Things creators, Matt and Ross Duffer in the New York Times. Students then completed a graphic organizer based on their reading and understanding.

Reading Response Graphic Organizer

As students watched Season One we focused on color, lighting, sound, and music to build suspense. Students learn film terminology to help better understand the ways filmmakers manipulate these elements for emotional responses from the audience. For example, Diegetic sound is a noise which has a source on-screen. They are noises which have not been edited in, like dialogue between characters or footsteps. Another term for diegetic sound is actual sound. Non-diegetic sound is a noise which does not have a source on-screen, they have been added in like the music interludes. I asked students what are some of the ways the film directors use non-diegetic sounds to build tension and suspense in the series.

Additionally, students have studied the character archetypes presented in the film series and mapped out the hero’s journey based on Joseph Campbell’s mono-myth.

I do not only want students to be consuming the show, but also use the show as a catalyst for their own creativity and movie-making. Students have had two film challenges, courtesy of The Jacob Burns Film Center.

Film Challenge No. 1 – Taking inspiration from Stranger Things and what you learned about match cuts. Create a short film about someone or something in your house that is not what they seem to be. Your film should use at least one graphic match, a way to connect two shots by having similar composition. Also consider sound, color, and lighting to help tell your story.

Check out this film posted on the JBFC website:

Film Challenge No. 2 – Think about Stranger Things and the moments when the characters were introduced to the Upside-Down (the Lab Scenes, When the wall in Joyce’s home reveals another world, when Nancy and Jonathan go into the Upside-Down.

Your second film challenge is to use some new camera moves and create a story about a mysterious room in your home.

IMAGE: Revealing a character’s reaction or a new piece of information at just the right moment can add the perfect amount of tension to your zombie love story or get a big laugh in your action-comedy.

A whip pan is a quick turn of the camera that can be a stylish way to make that big reveal. You must use a whip pan to reveal something to the audience. Check out the video about the Whip Pan Shot below for more information.

SOUND: What’s the sound of a sword made of light? What about a monster made of cosmic gas and time particles? Deep questions like these are the realm of the Sound Effect Designer and her team. They create all the sounds in a film from the common (footsteps), to the uncommon (Chewbacca). Create at least 3 sound effects for your film.

STORY: A new room has just appeared in your house! Nobody has ever seen it before. Was it there all along? How could you miss it?! Maybe it just appeared. However it happened, now it’s here and there’s a problem.
A few tips:

Every scene in your film should move the story forward in some way, big or small, and every scene should have conflict.

A character wants/needs something, and the story can’t move forward until they get it. Remember, the scene is only interesting if there is something in the way of your character and their goal.

Using frames from Stranger Things I created weekly check-ins with my students, like this  “Meme” Check-ins in a Google Forms and ask how students are doing under the current pandemic.

Stranger Things Meme Check In

Here were a few student responses:

I love creating films but I like watching and breaking down shows/movies better.

I enjoy when we watch little videos about something related to film making.

I like creating more than watching.

Class online school is has been good so far! The lessons and everything have been nice.

Class has been really good during this online school period. The amount of work is really good and the assignments can be fun.

Lastly, students are comparing what is real and what is fiction in the show. Students researched more about What Was Going on in the Hawkins Laboratory in Stranger Things? From the 1950s to 1970sProject MKUltra, also called the CIA mind control program, is the code name given to a program of experiments on human subjects that were designed and undertaken by the United States Central Intelligence Agency—and which were, at times, illegal. Experiments on humans were intended to identify and develop drugs and procedures to be used in interrogations in order to weaken the individual and force confessions through mind control. The project was organized through the Office of Scientific Intelligence of the CIA and coordinated with the U.S. Army Biological Warfare Laboratories.

For a creative writing activity, student wrote out the dialogue for the scene between Dr. Brenner and Hopper in Episode 7 at the Lab. What did they say to each other that allowed Hopper to go into the Upside Down with Joyce. Having students write out edited scenes sheds light on inferential knowledge and understanding.

Television shows and movies are great visual texts to help students practice close reading skills and showcase their understanding in creative ways like movie making projects.

 

 

Tagged , , , , ,

The Power of Storyboards

Story is everywhere, it’s all around us.

I recently participated in an ISTE Digital Storytelling Webinar focusing on The Power Behind Story & Storyboard to Inspire Imagery and Creativity. Presenter and educator, Julie Jaeger states, “storytelling is meaning making, not just media making. Storytelling is a process, deliberate, intentional and purposeful.” When creating digital stories, both words and media reveal the story through details rather than being directly stated. Craftsmanship is key.

The storyboard itself is a powerful tool in the classroom for meaning making. A storyboard is a road map and guiding influence for story making. I use storyboarding for comprehension and creativity in my 8th grade English class. Whether it is a storyboard used for a 5 Frame Story, which I describe in Personalized Reading (ISTE, 2018), or sketching and stretching the setting in a creative writing piece, storyboarding requires planning, evaluation, analysis and creative thinking.

Professional storyboards a useful models and mentors for students to see how film creators utilize storyboarding for brainstorming and outlining story ideas. Julie Jaeger describes how she has students write down the feelings the frame should evoke in the viewer. Depending on the purpose of the storyboard, the details under each frame can be descriptions of types of shots, actions, and sound. The objective is to create a final product with purpose and intention for the audience.

Whereas I have students retell a short story, chapter, or sonnet in only five frames, here is a two frame storyboard activity from The Jacob Burns Film Center:

You are going to tell a visual story using two photographs.

Discuss each scene and what kind of shots you would choose to show it.

  • Two best friends telling each other a secret.
  • Looking for my favorite book in the classroom bookshelf.
  • Two kids reaching for the same favorite marker color.
  • My pencil tip breaking.

Now it is your turn to create two shots of your own to tell the story! 

  1. Choose one story prompt you would like to illustrate.
  2. Think about what shot type you would like to use to introduce the idea.
  3. Draw that shot type in the first frame.
  4. Think about what shot type you would like to use to give your audience more information about the idea.
  5. Draw that shot type in the second frame.

Once you’ve completed your Two Frame Storyboard, it’s time to turn it into photographs. In small groups, position your actors to match your storyboard. The cameraperson can move closer or further away to try to match the shot type chosen in the storyboard.

Setting Storyboard

Setting Storyboard to help students sketch and stretch creative writing.

Storyboard That is a digital platform with free storyboard templates and online storyboard creator. For a fee, teachers can create classroom accounts and sync lessons and projects with Google Classroom. As the website states:

Storyboard That’s award-winning, browser based Storyboard Creator is the perfect tool to create storyboards, graphic organizers, comics, and powerful visual assets for use in an education, business, or personal setting. The application includes many layouts, and hundreds of characters, scenes, and search items. Once a storyboard is created, the user can present via PowerPoint, Google Slides, or Apple Keynote, or they can email the storyboard, post to social media, or embed on a blog. Storyboards are stored in the users’ account for access anywhere, from any device, no download needed. Storyboard That helps anyone be creative and add a visual component to any and every idea.

Other online storyboard platforms include Boords and Canva.

From book trailers to creative story telling and movie making, storyboards help students understand story concepts and frameworks. The objective is for students gain a critical perspective in looking at images and develop an awareness of craft and structure.

Tagged , , , ,

3 Creative Ways to Ditch that Essay

* The following was written as a guest blog post for Ditch that Textbook published on 9/3/2019. To read the post on the website click here

ditch-that-essay-1-1

Why should essay writing be the majority of student writing in school? There are lots of other options. Here are three good alternatives to consider.

What are your most memorable experiences throughout your middle school and high school career?

I know, you are thinking about all the exciting and engaging essays you wrote. That five-paragraph essay where you explained the theme of a text. Each paragraph was informative and persuasive, providing robust evidence and analysis to support your claim.

Probably not.

And what about in your classroom today, how often are students writing essays similar to your youth?

Words do not exist only on a page in a two-dimensional space any longer. Today, words are multisensory experiences that are seen, heard, and experienced through podcasting, filmmaking, storytelling, gaming, and virtual reality. Writing has evolved in genre, medium, and dimensions.

Teachers have been called upon to empower learners and to bring creativity into educational spaces to promote critical thinking, problem-solving, and design thinking while at the same time bolster communication skills. Writing is a key communication skill necessary in school and out to articulate thinking and clarify ideas. In the classroom, students write to learn and also write to showcase their learning.

Why relegate essay writing as the majority of student writing in school? We can give lots of other options.

Here are three alternatives to traditional essays

Podcasting

Podcasts are an effective medium to share knowledge and experiences, and students can easily create their own. Podcasting with students improves literacy skills and creates an authentic audience for writing. When podcasting, students are not just reading aloud their writing but purposefully and carefully choosing their words, narration, and dialogue to communicate their ideas.img_0819

After listening to Sean Carroll’s podcast “What Would Stephen Hawking Do” on Story Collider, I thought why not switch the theme to “What Would Our Founding Fathers Do?” regarding current political issues of contention. For example, a group of students research, write and podcast what Abraham Lincoln would do about gun laws, while another group addresses how Alexander Hamilton would handle the illegal immigration debate.

There are many different styles of podcasts. How you want students to present their podcasts is a decision that you and your students have to make. By offering students choices there will be a diversity of products, students will have agency, and their voices will be at the forefront of their finished products.

More resources:

Script Writing and Movie Making

img_5525Writing a script for a film has its own specific format and requirements. Like writing any good story, when creating a movie, students need a beginning, middle, and end. Most importantly the story needs conflict to drive it. Students have to create authentic characters that viewers will empathize with.

Have students write their own fictional stories then storyboard their ideas to convey the plot, conflict, and characterization before going into movie-making mode. When students are creating films, writing their own scripts, and making choices about lighting, sound, and editing, they are demonstrating critical analysis, creative collaboration, and multimedia communication skills.

Documentary films are another format. Check out the Op-Docs series on The New York Times. This series highlights short documentary films about aspects of life that are often hidden or unspoken like incarceration, living with a disability, and facing obstacles. These documentaries highlight real people and true events. Creating documentaries allows students to research and investigate topics relevant to their own lives, make insightful arguments, and illuminate different perspectives.

More resources:

Multigenre Writing

Why just box students into writing one genre per unit? If teachers allow students to show their understanding and knowledge of a topic with a variety of types of writing, there is an opportunity for choice and creativity. This goes beyond just allowing students to choose one genre or format. What if students could blend genres across one writing assignment to produce a multigenre piece that includes poetry, narrative, images, and songs to reveal information about their topic? In a multigenre project, each piece might work independently to make a point, but together they create a symphony of perspectives and depth on a subject. Check out this student example!

The writing your students create for their multigenre project can be powerful and inspiring. With the help of digital tools like Adobe Spark or Book Creator students can amplify their projects for digital storytelling.

More resources:

Writing is a vehicle for communication. Today our students are bloggers, filmmakers, gamers, authors, innovators, and influencers. How amazing would it be to sharpen their strengths and abilities in our classrooms to create something that surpasses the traditional school essay?

 

Tagged , , , , , ,