Saturday, January 16, 2010

Mini Video Documentaries and Music Videos to Inspire Student Research

Motivating 9th Grade students of the millennial generation to read nonfiction to research Shakespeare takes more than a trip to the library. A year ago I developed a 9th grade project on Shakespeare that combines a traditional research paper assignment on a with PhotoStory video groups, thus classic meets 21st century.

The assignment:
  1. students read texts and research on individual topics related to Shakespeare’s life, times, and work in service to
  2. subsequent small group work to produce mini-video documentaries that are in turn
  3. posted to the Internet
Introducing the research unit and positioning the mini-video documentary as the end-game, excites students about gathering source information and insists on their being sticklers about getting it right and documented correctly. They ask questions to check their own understanding of their reading. Students immerse themselves in source documents via “the mantle of expert” strategy (Heathcote qtd. in Wagner, 1999), and thus, approach the task with interest, ownership, and attention to detail.

Students read between the lines to find key information to include in their paper and video. Efferent reading as a way of knowing (Rosenblatt, 1978) becomes critical as students previously unfamiliar with Shakespearean topics learn of his plays, poems, songs, and aspects of his biography (e.g. students initially can’t tell that “Antony and Cleopatra” is a play whereas “Venus and Adonis” is a narrative poem, and “Stratford-upon-Avon” is a place). Lessons in critical reading, research technique, media literacy, visual representation, and audio speaking skills come to the fore of this multimodal project.

Products include a mix of old and new: individual evidence of reading and research (note-taking) and writing of a documented source research paper, and collaborative media work of storyboard, script, PhotoStory video. A closing activity consists of a class screening of all of the videos, in which students take notes on key points, and use a rubric to vote for the best “Willy”-winning mini-documentary.

For 12th Grade, I've used Animoto for music videos, each based on a soliloquy of Macbeth.

The assignment:
  1. cull key lines from the soliloquy at hand
  2. consider theme and imagery
  3. collect copyright friendly images
  4. upload images and text  to Animoto, select music and mix
In addition you can see the12th Grade's music videos for Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales pilgrims.
It's all part of link  (below) to my presentation at NCTE's 2009 Annual Convention in Philadelphia. It featured ways and materials teachers can inspire research and analysis of Shakespeare's life and works through digital media, particularly PhotoStory and Animoto.

Some updates since the presentation are worth mentioning. Windows PhotoStory, that I used, is not to be had on newer computer operating systems, as its feature have been worked into Windows Movie Maker. This is a bit of shame because PhotoStory was so intuitive and idiot-proofed.  At any rate, depending on your school's computer operating system, I'd suggest using PhotoStory (XP), Movie Maker (Vista, Windows 7), or iMovie (Apple Mac OS X).  Regarding Animoto, it now not only takes still images, but short clips of recorded video.

You are welcome to revisit this session as it is slidecast with video clips and 40 pages of PDF files. Click Here .  If you try these ideas, I've love to hear about how it works for you.

References:  Wagner, Betty Jane. Dorothy Heathcote: Drama as a Learning Medium. 1999. Rosenblatt, Louise M. The Reader, the Text, the Poem. 1978.


Happy Trails said...

Do you have a suggestion what to try as I can only view but not hear student videos. I hear and view yours just fine.
How would you help students to have more energy and animation in their voices as they narrate their videos?
You have given students a memorable experience in learning with Shakespeare.

ceyo said...

Not knowing your equipment and platform. The best advice I can give is to test your microphone through your computer's device manager (found in the control panel) to be sure that it's working, i.e. sending a signal to your computer.

I've used Logitech's mics with USB connections to a PC. They have mostly been plug and play. But now that I think of it, I recall having to ignore (or do the opposite of instructions from) error/idiot messages that pop up in PhotoStory, in order to find success.

Generally, guiding students to listen for "how it sounds" is a great start. Sometimes I'd point out how words might sound like other words without articulation. And we discovered how many spaces there are between words when we are speaking for meaning. We also focused on hitting important ideas with volume and feeling--frequently the nouns and verbs, but as you know, adjectives and adverbs become important words to emphasize to make expression clear.

It was not unusual to have to do many retakes (3-5 times) on the first few slides. Then my students got the knack.

Fortunately, in our media rich world, students have heard many quality anouncers--even if their grammar is not what we'd want.

Glad your are expanding your students' reading, writing, speaking, listening, and representing skills. Good luck with the audio.