After considering my curriculum for the past 2 years with my 9th grade language arts classes, a pattern began to emerge whenever I had students do project based learning. Students would write their formal paper, produce film about their writing, and then either write a secondary piece based on the experience or go back and revise the original writing piece.
As I looked back at the level of engagement and improvement evident in my class data from these project based learning experiences compared to the experiences where students wrote and revised their paper in a traditional drafting process, I started to wonder what exactly was sparking their improvement. This is when I noticed the connection to how they interacted with film. To be completely honest, I did not intentionally incorporate the filming process into their writing process in many of these units. I saw the film as a separate extension for them to engage in. What was really starting to happen was that students were able to use the filming process and their own produced film (whether it was performance based or reflective film of them talking through their projects/process) to think about their written work in a completely different way and notice elements they may have originally been unable to see and address in their formal draft.
As 9th graders (14-15 year olds), students really struggle to think about the writing process and edit their own content. It is comfortable for students to address grammatical and formatting issues that their teacher points out, but actually modifying the content and making sure that they are addressing the prompt to the best of their ability is a major struggle. So, I started looking at how I could highlight and engage them in this process of revision thinking. This led me to a lot of research on the revision process or what I found more often, the lack of revision writing that happens in a classroom. “Revision is essential in helping students learn to write independently because it pushes students to critically consider the effectiveness of their work, yet research indicates that revision is frequently overlooked by students and teachers” (MacArthur, 2013; Witte, 2013). As this statement suggests, I have noticed this in my own school setting, especially in a language arts department where each teacher has 140-150 students they are responsible for. The revision process takes time and that is something that is hard to work into a 43 minute classroom setting where every CCSS standard must be met and 15 days of class time are allotted for state PARCCs assessments.
The result of reflecting on my curriculum, researching revision practices, and the past 2 years of classroom experience with my kids was a desire to create a framework for the writing process that incorporates film and actively helps them engage in revision thinking. “Proficient writers revise throughout composing and use revision to think more critically about their topics as well as hone their work for the audience, making revision as much a process of discovery as it is creating a final product” (MacArthur, 2013; Sommers, 1982; Zito, Adkins, Gavins, Harris, & Graham, 2007). As stated above, revision is about the process more than the final product. The goal of this research to practice experience is to have my students work through this process in order to hone their critical thinking skills about the work they produce. This will be repeated, not only in the unit outlined below, but also in 4 other units throughout the year.
Many standards will be met throughout this unit, but the following are the focus standards that will be emphasized throughout the process and measured through formative/summative assessment.
CCSS Focus Standards:
- CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.9-10.3 Write narratives to develop real or imagined experiences or events using effective technique, well-chosen details, and well-structured event sequences.
- CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.9-10.5 Develop and strengthen writing as needed by planning, revising, editing, rewriting, or trying a new approach, focusing on addressing what is most significant for a specific purpose and audience. (Editing for conventions should demonstrate command of Language standards 1–3 up to and including grades 9–10 here.)
- CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.9-10.6 Use technology, including the Internet, to produce, publish, and update individual or shared writing products, taking advantage of technology’s capacity to link to other information and to display information flexibly and dynamically.
Content of the learning experience:
The first experience will be our Narrative Writing Unit. The timeframe for this unit has been approximately September 7th – October 15th. Adding in the additional steps that will be necessary to focus on using film to revise and the added lessons on the process and production of film with written strategies I am anticipating this unit taking until the end of October, even with the early start to the school year we will have this year.
Basic Framework: (Write-Feedback-Script-Film-Evaluate/Reflect -Revise)
- Students will write group narratives (3-4 students) They will be grouped according to the genre they choose to write in. The writing process will focus on narrative elements and framework we have been studying in class while they constructed their Personal Narrative Projects (first assignment of the year).
- Turn in Draft 1 in Google Classroom for feedback from Miss Wallace. This feedback will be in the form of comments on Google Docs. The comments will be accompanied by a Google Doc Rubric with highlighted sections noting where the students are in their progress with the draft.
- Revise and resubmit draft for “Green Light” on the scripting process. In order for students to get their scripts “green lit” they will be evaluated on their use of dialogue, pacing, narration (or lack of), as well as their creative decisions on what to leave in and what to take out from the original story in order for it to translate effectively to film. (evaluated with comments/simple rubric)
- Write Film Script from story -Dialogue Development
~What will transition from the story to the script well?
~What elements of your story can be cut or should be?
~What story elements must be kept for coherency and completeness?
- Submit Script Draft (While teacher looks over/offers feedback students are moving into the blocking process). If scripts are formatted correctly and students have a firm grip on dialogue development and pacing then their film will be “green lit” and they will proceed to blocking.
- Film Blocking done in Graphic Novel style panels with a written strategy that will be submitted for feedback. (Strategy with guiding questions provided)
~Where will it be filmed? Why?
~What props/sound effects, etc. are necessary? Why?
~What camera angles/lighting will you use? Why?
~How do your decisions help set the tone in your scene?
~How will the actors’ body language convey the mood or theme being portrayed in each scene?
~Lines – are there any? Why or why not?
~How are you conveying your message to your audience without outright telling them your message?
- Filming – students will film their scripted and blocked stories in the span of a week + 2 weekends: Students will be assigned or choose roles such as director, lighting, stage direction, continuity manager, props, makeup/costuming
- Showing/Viewing films – Film Review Strategy
~Evaluative/Reflective individual piece on student’s own process and end product – w/input from class feedback (share out format on class feedback)
~Group Analysis Strategy where groups look at their role in the filming process, their expectations, reflection on changes they would make if possible, and how they feel the audience reacted to their end product.
- Selection of top film from the class to be viewed at the Freshmen Film Festival (6 total 15-20min films, Community invited, short Q&A after)
- Prep for festival (this would be an extension piece to the assignment)
- This experience will then be used as a model to work with Text-Film-Text in other units besides narrative.
Pedagogical methods that were considered during this design experience:
- The standard, 5 step writing process – focusing on analysis, evaluation, and revision
- Film design and using film design to showcase author/director choices
- This writing-filming-writing experience results in a Film Festival, which would be a project based learning framework but we are sort of building the pieces outside of that framework and then working into it. (If that makes sense at all) *Capstone assignment maybe?
Technology that will be used throughout this process:
I am considering laptops, smartphones/cameras/other filming devices, editing programs and apps, youtube for informational supplementals about the filming process and checking out how scriptwriters / directors work through their process.
Feedback from Research to Practice Session
This unit plan designed through researching and reflection was presented at the GREAT15 conference at NUI Galway.
Online survey results:
- Was the information in this research to practice session clear and applicable?
Three participants answered this question on a scale from 1-5, 5 being that the session was clear and applicable. The results showed that 2 participants rated the session a 4 and one participant rated it a 5.
- What are some ways you could see film leading to revision thinking in your own classroom?
Participant A: Film is an opportunity in some projects I already do, so maybe it needs to be more purposefully taught. I always run out of time, though.
Participant B: I know that teachers often shy away from having students create movies because of the time it takes. However, I think that see this spin on using film to enhance the revision process is incredibly valuable. I hope to get a couple of teachers to try it this year.
Participant C: I found the idea of using images to inform the revision process inspiring. It is always a challenge to engage students in detailed, descriptive and image-enhanced writing. The contrasting images of a similar scene (There and back again) is a brilliant way for students to describe nuances in a particular scene they are writing about. I will apply this example in my own classroom. Also, storyboarding seems like a powerful way to enable students to look at different aspects – props, facial expression, body language etc in a scene and then add them to a descriptive or narrative piece of writing.
I had the opportunity to film the final ten minutes of my Research to Practice Session, where participants were working on story boarding and then revising that story board with the addition of film elements, such as camera angles, lighting, and what props would be necessary in the scene. There were participants in the session that shared their thoughts on the idea of focusing on using film for the revision process. Reflectively, I noticed that even though I thought that I allowed for more discussion at the time of the session, really we only had time for a few short remarks. This is definitely a point of revision for my own practice as a speaker and classroom teacher. If I had more time I definitely would have allowed the discussion to flow much longer and see what other ideas or concerns participants could come up with for the use of film in the classroom.
Throughout the process of building this Research to Practice unit and session there was a lot of reflection and revision involved. From the very beginning, the initial reflection process was very informative. Provided the opportunity to look back at my classroom practices and curriculum over the past two years, it was great to be able to really dig deep into how I have been running the writing process in my classroom and how I can work towards improving it. This observation and the following two weeks of research and feedback from peers, professors, and conference participants have led to a clear understanding and goal for my curriculum over the next year. It was so refreshing to get valuable feedback from other educators who were involved in the same mindset and using the same frameworks. What has emerged from this process is a usable, researched plan of implementation that I can use in my classroom this year.
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