Do it yourself

22nd November 2002 at 00:00
Vivi Lachs, creative director of Highwire City Learning Centre in Hackney, London, presents a 10-point guide to rewarding curriculum work 1 Planning Decide what subject matter you are going to use. Class groups may look at different ways of performing a scene in a set play, create a visual report of a science experiment, or design an advertisement for a geographical location. They could write an online newspaper with video instead of an image, reconstruct a historical event or write a collaborative video poem.

You may want to take a less motivating part of the curriculum and give it a spark. But ensure you use video in a way that will enhance and develop the curriculum work you already do. Video will create motivation, but it also will ensure students consider the topic carefully and think about how they ask questions. Set targets by which to evaluate the project and decide how long it will take. If work has gone well on preliminary storyboards and filming, one minute of film will take four or five hours. Each group should work together at one computer, so if only one machine is available, the time will need to be divided. Some students can film while others edit. (You can also try to get a day or two off-timetable when you can use your computer suite or your local City Learning Centre.) 2 Ideas and research Early brainstorming should lead to discussions and research to ensure the information is clear and familiar. Poems may need to be written, websites and books consulted. Consider who is the target audience and think of ways to keep them watching.

3 Film, filming and the web Consider the genre and style you'll be using for the video, such as documentary, advertisement or drama. If the video is to go on to a web page, identify background images and additional textual information. Consider background sound and music. We are all familiar with television, so why not prepare some questions for students to check out by watching the TV for homework and look at some of the more relevant clips together in class.

Give them a sense of how long two minutes is by watching clips and counting how many times the camera angle or location changes and listening to voice-overs and background music.

4 Storyboard Although students often struggle to make a detailed storyboard, it is useful for them to write an order of events. You could ask them to storyboard a short television advert before trying their own. Their storyboards should include footage to film, soundtrack to record, and any items such as props, costumes and CDs that need to be acquired. Remember copyright laws.

5 Rehearse Remind students to focus on the content and the audience, information and entertainment. Rehearsal is vital so that they don't end up with an hour of footage to cut to one or two minutes. Give them a top limit of 15 minutes of footage to film. If they are doing role-plays, try them out. If they are planning interviews, think about how to ask questions, how to approach people and how to ask follow-up questions.

6 Rehearse filming Let students have time to play with the camera and have a go and get the giggles out of the way early. If possible, use a tripod to avoid camera shake. Encourage students to be sparing with the zoom. If they take a scene twice, do it from different angles. They do not need to film each scene in order although it might be easier to find the footage later. You will often find they change their storyboard as they film and you need to allow for this.

6b Re-shoots Film for real, but encourage students to repeat each take as few times as possible, and keep in mind that the content is more important than camera perfection.

7 Edit This is possibly the most time-consuming part. It is the process and the product that are of educational benefit. If this is your first project, notice what happens. Ensure that the decisions students are learning and making about editing depend on communicating the content to an audience. Listen to their conversations while editing. If they are engaging with special effects to the detriment of the content, intervene.

8 Trial and re-edit It is useful to show the video to a member of the target audience to get some feedback. Be sensitive as to how you set up this session, as having spent a good deal of time creating the video, you don't want your students to hear negative criticism that is not practical. They do not need to take notice of all criticism, but if they deem it appropriate you should encourage them to amend the piece accordingly.

9 Put on the web If the video is to go on the web, the page will need to include other information which has to be designed and written.

10 Evaluate the project Evaluate the project against your initial criteria. Ensure you assess it in a number of ways. You can assess individual students by observation and class discussion. But evaluate the product as a group.

Vivi Lachs is the author of Making Multimedia in the Classroom: A Teachers Guide (RoutledgeFalmer pound;19.99)

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