James Highton thinks a multimedia writing project changed his eating habits. His class at Walmsley Church of England primary school, near Bolton, was using Newsgroup, which is part of an ICT resource called Young Writers' Workshop. It is a collection of video clips for which children can write newsreel-type commentaries.
Newsgroup gives a new and relevant angle on the Year 6 literacy requirement to "write in a journalistic style". While most of today's Year 6s seldom read a newspaper, all are familiar with the language of the TV news reporter.
The children watched the demonstration video clip about the rainforest, for which a written commentary was provided. After one of the class had donned headphones and a microphone to tape the commentary, they analysed how it had been composed to work alongside the images. Newsgroup then provided a range of silent footage for which they had to create a similar commentary. Two pupils chose a sequence of film about moon landings and became bogged down in research: "It took a long time to find the stuff we needed. We had to go and look in books." The rest, including James, worked on a sequence called "Couch Potatoes", which illustrated the effects of the TV culture on the nation's health and fitness. This proved a more popular choice, since previous work in health education meant children already had relevant background information to form their commentaries, and were able to focus on matching words to pictures: "That was the best bit," said James' friend, Robert. "It shows what it's like to be a reporter - writing it down and reading it out to make it fit."
They timed the video (abou a minute long), then pairs of children drafted commentaries on paper. One child then recorded the words as the other played the video clip. Making a commentary work alongside a moving image proved a diverting discipline, providing a new dimension for editing skills. "You had to change it a lot and swap things round," said one girl, "and that's easier to do on the computer than handwriting it." Most pairs needed three or four attempts, and by the time he'd finished polishing his Couch Potato message, James had made a firm resolution to cut down on fatty snacks during evening viewing. The children's teacher, Margaret Mullen, was impressed with the resource. "It was certainly motivating," she said. "They loved the thought that they were writing a television report, and the Couch Potato footage was very relevant to them."
You can read Margaret's lesson plan and hear children talk about their work on The Learning Module, part of the Capita training programme for teachers, produced by Bolton ICT Centre. "We chose a video-based literacy resource to illustrate ICT training because it's different and motivating," said Colin MacFarlane, who edited Capita's programme. "It's clearly linked to issues in today's curriculum, but it also takes us into the future. That's something only ICT can do." SP Sue Palmer is an author and in-service training provider Young Writers' Workshop and Primary Writer CD-ROMs for primary children, both from Granada Learning (Tel: 0161 827 2887). Capita - Learning Network ICT training for teachers (Tel: 0845 6010510) BBC Online non-fiction writingmaterials: www.bbc.co.ukeducationschoolsprimary.shtml