Gorringe Park Primary in Mitcham, Surrey, is now in its second year of participating in an ambitious web-linked drama scheme that provides the impetus for pupils to write, direct and star in their own videos.
Called WebPlay, the project links schoolchildren in London and Los Angeles through Oracle Corporation's education portal, Think.com, and encourages them to learn about their cities, their theatre and each other.
Children initially become "virtual assistant directors" via the Polka Theatre production Star Gazer. Through interaction with the Wimbledon-based theatre children go behind the scenes and have the opportunity to talk to the writers, designers and actors. This virtual interaction culminates in attending a performance and participating in a day-long drama workshop. Pupils then video their own plays and post them on Think.com for viewing and comment.
Gorringe Park headteacher Alan Coode says the video his Year 4 pupils produced this year was filmed and edited in just one day. Entitled Lucky Tickets, it presents the children's ideas of what life is like in LA, and is very revealing about their own culture and aspirations. "Around the age of eight and nine, children try to appear much more grown-up than they really are but when they act they cannot maintain that veneer," he says. "An exercise like this helps teachers get to know their pupils muchbetter."
Gorringe Park has a computer suite of 19 AppleMacs and as part of the project the whole class can be online at any one time, either surfing the net or talking to counterparts in the US. So far the project has been extremely popular with pupils of all abilities and Alan feels that involving everyone in making the videos has been vital for building confidence and self-esteem. "It has been a great morale booster and when children are confident they are more receptive to learning," he says. "As part of the exercise they have had to develop their speech skills and listen carefully to others and this had a positive knock-on effect right across the curriculum."
He says WebPlay has also been very useful for helping children organise their thinking and polish their writing. "Writing the scripts involves being accurate with grammar and spelling and requires a certain amount of self-discipline. The beauty of it is that the children have a very good sense of their internet audience and this makes it much more exciting than just writing in an exercise book."
For the future the school is planning to launch its own station, Gorringe Park TV, broadcast on to the internet via local broadband television. "here is the potential to have our own logo, a live presenter and transmit video clips," says Alan. "Everyone is very excited about the prospect, including myself."