- Research the history of film and film technology
- Collaborate to create a time line
- Wonderstruck by Brian Selznick
- Print resources for research
- Computers with web access
- Notepaper and pencils
- Long roll of plain butcher paper
- Pens, markers, or colored pencils
- Optional: Glue or glue sticks
- Optional: Printer access
- Outline a time line on the butcher paper. The dates should start with the invention of silent film and end with the present day.
- Break students into small groups and assign each group a decade of film and television to research. Depending on the number of students in your class, you may want to pick and choose decades based on interest/significant events.
- Optional: Load examples of silent film to play for the class.
Step 1: Begin by sharing pages 100–125 of Wonderstruck. Ask students if they know what kind of film Rose is watching. Most will be unfamiliar with silent film and its conventions.
Optional: You may want to share examples of silent film. You can find clips at the Charlie Chaplin website and on YouTube. You may also want to read Brian Selznick's The Invention of Hugo Cabret, which explores the history of film.
Step 2: Explain to students that together you are going to create a timeline of film and television from the beginning of silent film to the present. Encourage students to generate questions to be answered and record them on your interactive whiteboard or a sheet of chart paper. Example questions:
- When did silent films end?
- When were movies first made in color?
- When could you first watch a film at home? On a computer? On a mobile phone?
Step 3: Divide students into small groups. Have each group focus on researching movies and TV in a single decade.
Step 4: While students are completing their research, hang the time line on the wall or whiteboard.
Step 5: Invite the groups to record their discoveries on the time line.
Optional: Have students glue pictures or draw illustrations near the time line entries to make the display more visually compelling.
Step 6: Hang the time line in the hallway where everyone can learn from it.
With a simple digital camera or smart phone, students can make their own silent movies. Ask students to think about how to tell a story with no sound and almost no dialogue. Alternatively, students could write a short silent play of a minute or two in which all necessary words are written on the blackboard or projected onto an interactive whiteboard. Clips from silent movies by Charlie Chaplin and Buster Keaton are sure to inspire students to create their own comedies.