What's your claim to fame?

Last Monday, my high school students couldn’t stop talking about the most recent Indiana Jones movie they had watched over the weekend. Normally, it would be one of those topics that I would have steer my students away from as we began our lesson, but this week I engaged it head on and integrated their opinions into my lesson. We discussed the shot styles and storyline of the film and a few students picked up ideas for their current assignment. What was I teaching, you ask? The Screen Education process from AFI, of course.

When I went through the AFI (American Film Institute) Screen Education course last year with several Star Discovery teachers, I knew it was something really cool, something I could use in a variety of ways and get kids excited about coming to school. This resource draws on the vast amounts of television and film that our students consume and allows teachers to apply knowledge drawn from media to core standard content. Over the last couple years, I’ve enjoyed using the AFI curriculum with my science students, who can’t seem to get enough of this stuff. They enjoy creating videos, even . . . (clear throat) educational ones. Currently, my classes are eagerly storyboarding a movie they’ll shoot next week – their own original episode of “Body Story” (a popular science series from BBC). Anyone else out there using Screen Ed to fight the end-of-the-year boredom?

screen nation logo

This year, AFI added another component to the program; Screen Nation – where students and teachers can share their creations. Screen Nation is “a place where teen filmmakers can share their work, receive recognition and compete for prizes in ongoing challenges.” The Learn section features humorous tutorials from, Xander and Calvin, two young filmmakers who teach students the ins & outs of good filmmaking. Hopefully the recent episode I showed to my students on transitions will cut down the number of annoying zoom-outs and wipes in their current movie project.

Right now AFI has offered the first of many challenges. “Claim to Fame” gives students the opportunity to explore their hometown and see what makes it great. The challenge is to make a 5min. documentary video that includes interviews with at least 3 people. When you’re done, you upload it to ScreenNation. Deadline is June 30. Check out the pdf screen nation challenge1 as well as the video. What a great end-of-year project (not to mention principals love when students connection to community). And the winner will receive a Sony Handycam and tripod. Odds of winning right now are good – so what are you waiting for? What’s your town’s Claim to Fame?

Comments

  1. Kathie Sedwick

    Thank you for calling attention to the AFI website. I have been using AFI and other film sites for several years, especially for incorporating Film as Literature into Language Arts classes. I have found that I can teach all the elements of literature found in written works through in depth film study and my students find it more engaging. I have my student evaluate lessons and units we’ve done and I always get back comments on how students now watch films differently, discuss them more with friends and family (they like to show off a little, I think, with their new, deeper insights into film), and that they enjoy seeing films they otherwise may never have watched on their own. It’s always amusing how, at first, I hear groans if a movie is in black and white and later read their comments on the film as being “really interesting even though it wasn’t in color.” This year when we were studying plot structure and were looking at examples of the different types of conflicts, I used the film “Touching the Void” as an example of “Man vs. Nature” along with the moral dilemmas brought up in the film. The students were so captivated by the film, they watched it in total silence and awe, then wrote some of the best commentaries and analysis I’d read all year. Except for a moment of graphic language (in a situation I think anyone would have let loose with some swearing from pain and frustration), I would highly recommend this film for a number of topics. It also has an interesting structure in which the actual climbers (this is a true story) narrate the re-enactment
    of the actual events by younger actors playing them, with both voice overs and cuts to the actual climbers in person telling the story. When studying genres, I showed “Night of the Hunter”, with Robert Mitchum as an example of film noire and the students love the eerie, surreal style. By the end of the year, we begin to have some real cinephiles in class. Michael Vetrie has created some good material for studying film as literature (http://michaelvetrie.com/), and this site has a huge number of links related to using film as part of the curriculum http://www.frankwbaker.com/film_links.htm). some of the links are broken, but there’s still a wealth of lesson material there. Also check out Film education (http://www.filmeducation.org/), and “Tech with Movies” (http://www.teachwithmovies.org/). There’s a lot more out there, but these could keep you busy for the year.

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