My best lesson - Animate learning with a film about flying books

10th October 2014 at 01:00

It is really important for students to consider what sort of reader they are and think about what reading means to them, so that we, as teachers, can ensure they have a positive attitude towards it.

I recently taught a lesson that helped some 12- to 14-year-olds to do just that by encouraging them to explore their personal responses to a visual source, just as they would when reading a text.

The source was an Oscar-winning short animation entitled The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr Morris Lessmore. This 15-minute film is a humorous tale about the curative power of stories. The central character, Morris, is writing his memoir when a storm destroys the city he lives in and scatters his collection of books far and wide. He eventually finds himself in a library where the books have gathered. They come to life and bring colour (both figuratively and literally) to the city's residents and to Morris himself.

I played the film in two parts, stopping just before Morris enters the library. At this point, I got the students to recap the plot and discuss some of the more symbolic elements. Then they worked in pairs to decide what would happen next.

I encouraged them to put themselves in Morris' position - just as they might when reading about a character in a book - and to reflect on what had happened. The students really took to the task and let their imaginations run wild.

By now, the second half of the film was hotly anticipated. After we watched it, the students discussed the ending in pairs, working together to generate their own one-line morals for Morris' story.

I was delighted that most students understood the film's meaning and couldn't help but internally cheer when one suggested we spend the last part of the lesson in the library.

Niki Davison teaches English and drama at Parmiter's School in Watford, Hertfordshire

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