Movie Making in the Classroom
- Grades: 3–5, 6–8
- Creativity and Innovation- Students demonstrate creative thinking, construct knowledge, and develop innovative products and processes using technology.
- Critical Thinking, Problem Solving, and Decision Making- Students use critical thinking skills to plan and conduct research, manage projects, solve problems, and make informed decisions using appropriate digital tools and resources.
- Technology Operations and Concepts- Students demonstrate a sound understanding of technology concepts, systems, and operations.
- ULead Video Studio 11 or Pinnacle Studio (both have free trials online)
- CrazyTalk 5.1
- Video camera/Flip Video
- Optional Items: green screen, iTunes music, Microsoft Movie Maker or Microsoft Photostory for free movie making tools.
- Chart paper
Set Up and Prepare
- This lesson should occur near the end of a larger unit of study.
- Download materials needed online.
- Become familiar with digital media tools.
Why Digital Media Tools Matter
This lesson is based on two class projects involving teaching cell structure and functions through technology. This lesson layout can be applied to many other content skills and subject areas taught in the curriculum. It can also become a culminating unit of study project in your classroom. The premise is that learning can be extended and improved through multi-media tools.
Through recorded learning, we can now support ongoing review and longer retention through hands-on multi-media approaches.
After completing a general unit of study on cells, we were fortunate enough to have content singer, Mr. Duey, perform at our school. One of his songs, "Cells" reviewed the key concepts taught under our cell unit of study. I really believed combining these lyrics with visual photographs, audio, and video would increase student learning and retention exponentially. So, after sharing this idea with Mr. Duey, he agreed to let us create a music video for him as well as perform a concert at our school. He also agreed to talk to our class about making his first video "Fractions" and detail all the planning that went around making this video. With this in mind here are some of the steps we took, to create our very own cell music video:
- I taught cell structure and functions as I normally would in a longer cell unit. This included student models, drawings, web sites, and informational text on the subject.
- Using online resources, such as www.cellsalive.com, we looked at various sites for video ideas. Using Mr. Duey's song, we identified animal cell parts and functions, as well as tissue, organ, and systems overview. We decided a short second video would be created on plant cells, as the song did not identify the differences between animal and plant cells (plans follow).
- From here, we brainstormed how this learning might be documented using multi-media tools. We used a simple anchor chart to sequentially plan out what visuals would be presented throughout the song. Previous projects and drawings were taken into consideration. Ultimately, student drawings were selected over student projects.
- Because we decided to create a music video using Mr. Duey's cell song, this allowed our class to focus on the digital media tools themselves, rather than writing out a plot and dialogue. Our class utilized ULead Video Study 11, a scanner, and Microsoft Paint, and the bulk of teaching went to using these tools in class. Jobs were then delegated, including: scanning student work, labeling drawings in Microsoft Paint, importing files into ULead Video Study, and creating an editing crew to include transitions. To learn more about using this program, visit my posting on movie making tips.
- After a rough draft was completed, we saved the video online. We will continue to use it throughout the year to review our learning and support student retention.
An Interview with an Animal and Plant Cell Using CrazyTalk 5.1 Face Puppet Animation
Building on the cell music video, our class created a second, shorter video on plant and animal cells. Thinking big, we decided it would be great to work with animation and online puppetry using CrazyTalk 5.1. Utilizing this program allows you to turn any JPG photos or drawings into animated living beings with realistic facial movement and feel. Here is how we used that program to create a feature interview with animated cells:
- We discussed the features and tutorial videos on CrazyTalk 5.1. Scholastic contributor, Linda Foote, shared a video tutorial with me that first grade students made in Poway, San Diego. This really helped my students believe that it is possible to create highly sophisticated digital media on their own.
- We then used a similar format from our cell music video to discuss what would be included in our video interview with animated animal and plant cells. This round included dialogue and a need for research. Our big questions were, "What would you ask a cell, if it could talk?" and, "What are some cell facts we'd like to remember?" This was a great opportunity to model research and writing.
- Again, a storyboard was created as a rough draft for the movie. Students were randomly selected to either be behind the screens on the technical side or in front of the screen by interviewing the animated cells.
- Students then videotaped selected students asking the cell a question. Using a camera stand, we eliminated unnecessary movement on the screen. We completed all of the questions without responses first, knowing that we would merge our animated cells later into the program. Depending on your time and expertise, you can use a green screen to transport your students to unique interview locations.
- Using previously created cell projects and drawings, we used randomly selected students to complete the voice-over for the plant and animal cells. Using CrazyTalk 5.1 a student simply needs to plug in a microphone and hit the record button. From here, CrazyTalk 5.1 automatically creates face, eye, and mouth movement based on the audio. Editing tools allow you to customize moods and movements more preciously as desired.
- The editing crew then got to work making revisions and edits to the storyboard timeline. This included animating the cells with greater detail and importing and merging the student interviews with the cell responses in proper order.
- With the finished product saved, we now have a quality piece of work that allows us to review animal and plant cells throughout the school year and beyond.
Dynamic Learning throughout the School Year: Fitting It In and Finding the Value
You might ask how an educator can fit video making into their curriculum. My method was to use the short Thanksgiving week and the last week of school before the Winter break, as both of these weeks are filled with miscellaneous projects. I have also used parents as helpers, by taking filming into a quiet hall. This allows me to move on with what I had planned for the day, without worrying about students being distracted by filming on the side (although that has been done as well). Students can also make better use of their technology class once a week by working on these content driven projects during time in the lab.
Overall, the process is well worth it. I believe we are training our students for jobs that haven't been created yet. These skills can not be underestimated - even on the basic premise of helping students learn. For example, when our class learned about simple machines last year, we created a video. This year, I simply played the video created the year before. The students had an immediate advantage over last year's group, as they benefited from the hard work of my previous students. Taking the time to create and document learning through multi-media tools is a powerful method for expanding and applying what has been learned in class. It is my hope that you consider incorporating some of these tips across the curriculum and throughout the school year.
Supporting All Learners
Because multi-media projects involve reading, writing, visual animation, music, and dialogue, recorded learning can be used as a re-teaching method to reach students struggling with the concepts taught.
- Use green screen capabilities under ULead or Pinnacle to make videos multi-dimensional. This could include transforming students to inside of a cell.
- Initiate a video conference with an expert in the field. Allowing students to ask in-depth questions that span outside of the teacher's expertise can turn an average topic into a dynamic discussion.
Post your multi-media resources on your web site for parents and students to view. You can also save and copy this work on a CD to document what is being learned in class.
Students can help create a rubric on their specific duties. This could include public speaking skills, technical design, and filming tips. This helps keep everyone accountable and on time.
Ask students to write what skill concepts have been taught through the class created videos. This can assist you in determining areas of confusion or needs for re-teaching.
- You can assess students throughout your unit of study, leaving this lesson extension as a resource to support retention of what has been taught without formal assessment.
- You can also use your multi-media tools to assess retention of subjects taught. Are students able to explain and discuss the skills addressed through the activity?