Want to write well? Go to the pictures

JENNIFER Aniston, star of the popular television series Friends, and jazz singer Harry Connick Jnr could help primary children sharpen up their writing skills.

Teachers, film experts and academics are being brought together for a project to introduce film and television into literacy lessons for children as young as five.

The 1999 cartoon The Iron Giant, in which Aniston is the voice of mother Annie Hughes and Connick that of scrapyard artist Dean, is already recommended for primary children by the British Film Institute.

Now the institute is branching out from feature films, to show teachers how programmes ranging from cartoons to news bulletins can be used to help children understand sentences and paragraphs.

"A teacher could look at how a film is paced," said Wendy Earle, resources editor at the BFI Education. "A fast-moving film has rapid changes. By asking children how they would apply that to writing, they could try shorter sentences.

"We do not want teachers to simply plonk on a video. We want them to realise how sophisticated children's thinking can be. Films generate a lot of talk in the classroom, they give children the confidence to talk about things like characters and plot. Teachers can then help children understand these concepts that are slightly abstract."

Literacy consultant Sue Palmer said: "Children are so visually literate that we are fools if we do not exploit that. The concepts underlying what we do are the same whether it is in print or on screen."

A primary teachers' guide, which is due to be published next autumn, is expected to cover fiction and non-fiction for children aged five to 11.

It follows the BFI education resources pack, Story Shorts, which included five short films. The Story Shorts teachers' guide demonstrated how teachers could use the films in literacy lessons and included a learning objective grid complete with word, sentence and text-level work for each film.

Ms Earle said: "The guide will show teachers how to tie in films and television to the curriculum."

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