In many of the schools I have worked in ask a child to read a book and they see it as a chore. Ask them to watch a film and they think it is a treat.
Sadly, rarely do the children come into school discussing the brilliant book they have read the night before. Classroom talk revolves around what they have watched on the TV the night before or that morning. I decided that rather than ignoring this enthusiasm for moving images I should tap into it.
The first animation I ever used with a class was ‘The Piano’ by Aidan Gibbons. A man sits alone at his piano playing a beautiful, yet haunting melody whilst he remembers events from his life. This film resonates with the children because of its simplicity. The boys like the war memories and the girls like the love story between the man and his wife. The children were so engaged they were able to talk and write in character. They were able to hypothesise about the events and how the character felt about each one. Day 2 of the film unit and a boy who normally did anything to get out of literacy work asked, ‘Is this really literacy though, Sir? It isn’t boring!’ The children were hooked and so was I! I was going to use films as often as was appropriate in my Literacy teaching.
The simple line ‘Get your reading books out.’ can switch many children off. Particularly those who have found reading boring in the past. You don’t need to teach reading explicitly all of the time. I like to use films and animation to insert some ‘Stealth Reading,’ I use films such as ‘Replay,’ a foreign language film (french in this case) with English subtitles. The dramatic post-apocalyptic opening scene hooks the boys in. If they want to be involved they have to read the subtitles. I pause the film for poor readers to catch up and discuss the events as they happen. You can introduce AF3 questions easily. What do you think will happen next? How do we know the character feels this? The children use text responses in their answer. ‘A tear rolled down her face, Sir – so I know she is sad!’ When the children begin to write refer them to this experience. In the film did anyone say the girl was sad? No – then how could we describe it in our writing?
The film replay is touching and the children become emotionally involved with the characters, enabling them to write in the first person about events that they have never experienced.
When teaching children we often ask them to write about things that they have never experienced. Even simple activities like ‘describe a beach’ or ‘write a story set on a farm’ can be alien to children who live in an inner city environment and we can sometimes blow their mind by asking them to write about their experiences in space or at war. We need to feed them with images and film in order for them to understand what things they might see, hear or feel.
So why The Literacy Shed? As a teacher anything that makes my life easier is a godsend. I have spent a long time trawling Youtube and Vimeo to source film and images suitable for children. There are no pop up adverts from inappropriate sources, to embarrass you in front of the head teacher or school inspectors. There are teaching tips and ideas about how to use the animations and a resource shed with planning and paper based resources to support the teaching of the media. ‘The Piano’ and ‘Replay’ can be found in the Inspiration shed, http://www.literacyshed.com/the-inspiration-shed.html