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The Literacy–Movie-Making Connection

By Chase Young
 | Mar 30, 2017

2017_03_30-DL-300wI spent most of my preteen years writing, directing, producing, and starring in my own poorly produced horror movies. Working in the movie business was my dream. However, rather than growing up to be a director, I became a teacher—slightly less pay but far more rewarding for me.

I loved making movies as a child, so I figured my second graders might like it, too. Rather than creating movies from scratch, I thought it would be fun for my students to transform their favorite texts into motion pictures. As I began to plan the project, I had to consider implementation and how my students would benefit academically. Deciding how to proceed in a manner that would ensure the success of my students was difficult. I looked toward the actual Hollywood-style move-making process as a model and restructured it for second graders. I separated the process into eight phases that students would complete to produce their own movies: grouping, developing ideas, generating script treatments, storyboarding, scripting, holding specific preproduction conferences with the teacher, filming, and post production. 

I also considered how the project would fit into the literacy curriculum; after all, as teachers, we know that time is precious and our instruction needs to be research based, effective, and efficient. Engaging in such a complex, technology-based project would deepen students’ understanding of text and incorporate several literacy skills. I figured that during the project students would consider their own reading preferences, write summaries, visually represent sequences of texts, transform existing texts into scripts that were ideal for movie production, and ultimately edit and produce their own movies.

Fortunately, I was right: Not only did the kids love making their movies, but also the project provided a creative context for students to use their literacy skills for an authentic purpose. They collaborated, took risks, and creatively constructed their masterpieces. I hope the experience augmented their elementary careers and perhaps motivated some to move to Hollywood and make millions. Of course, I hope they remember me fondly as they decide what to do with their first paycheck.

ChaseYoung_w80Chase Young is an associate professor at Sam Houston State University and a former elementary school teacher. He is the coauthor with Timothy Rasinski of Tiered Fluency Instruction: Supporting Diverse Learners in Grades 2–5 (Capstone).

Chase Young will present a session titled “Engaging Students With Student-Produced Movies” at the ILA 2017 Conference & Exhibits, held in Orlando, FL, July 15–17.

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