Middle Ages Film Festival

Some weeks ago, our students completed a two-week long project on the Middle Ages, wherein they were given a variety of topics to choose from including, the Black Plague, feudalism, the Byzantine Empire and the Crusades.  In groups of 3, the students approached the task by conducting background research on their selected topics, using advanced search strategies for their images.  Collaboratively, they crafted and revised their shared storyboard, finally filming trailers using some green screen effects and iMovie.

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The project cycle involved the teacher and I sitting down to discuss the learning goals for the unit, as well as what she was hoping to accomplish through the activity.  Next, we planned a project timeline, which included a few deliverables along the way.  I used Tony Vincent’s iMovie Trailer Planners to help the students plan and organize their stories. (Consider following Tony on social media)  Scaffolding the project in this way not only ensured the students understood the project, but also helped with time management.
Before students set about to complete their story boards, I spent time discussing the importance of attribution and photography etiquette.  I did this, as it is routine and tempting for students (and adults) to quickly google an image, copy and paste it, without citing where the image was taken from or knowing whether the image could be remixed or used in other ways.  Since we were on the subject of images and photography, I also felt it was important to talk with the students about etiquette.  Jenni Swanson Voorhees, my tech bud and former colleague at Sidwell Friends School, shared with me a lesson she and her students had completed centered around the theme of “Creating a Culture of Consent“, wherein students crafted a community agreement, laying out their rules for taking photos in the class.  The agreement is simple but fosters the consideration and respect we want our students to display.  I shared with the boys the importance of asking a person’s permission before taking a photo and sharing with them how that image will be used.  In addition to asking permission, it is also important students share those images with the subject, and allow them to view the final product, as well as have knowledge about how that image/media will be shared.  As the students were all working in groups, they were able to easily shared those images with their group members, in addition to viewing and editing the final products.
After our chat, students independently brainstormed their story ideas, followed by a collaborative planning session, where they merged their various visions into a singular story.  After the storyboard was completed, the classroom teacher gave the students time to explore the various trailers to gain a sense of the tone and theme they were hoping to achieve.  Finally, it was time to shoot.
The next 2 days or involved filming and editing, where students used the picturesque grounds of the National Cathedral in Washington DC, in addition to some green screen techniques to finalize their movie.  I used Impact’s green screen and the DoInk iOS app ($2.99) to complete the project.  Their vision and hard work culminated in a Film Festival, where students voted for their favorite trailer…
For me, one of the most important pieces of a project is that of reflection.  Upon completion of the project and film viewing, both students and teacher were asked to reflect on the process and the product.  The responses included those that were technical in nature, to simply having more class time to film and edit.  From a technical perspective, a few students mentioned their desire to use tripods and professional lighting during their filming, in addition to having access to a wider green screen.  While others expressed a desire to explore a different trailer/movie making app as well as more sophisticated editing software (Adobe Premiere) for enhanced quality (by the way, even I don’t yet know how to use Adobe Premiere) ha!

Another essential piece in refining a class project is that of teacher reflection and feedback.  The classroom teacher thought this project gave her students an opportunity to explore their creative talents but also felt the trailer was a little light on content.  If we were to do it again, we would explore a different video making format, so as to allow the students more flexibility to include their own voice.  The teacher also felt it would have been helpful if students were able to record their own audible storyline in the trailer.  For next time, the idea of a short movie might be a viable alternative.  Having the boys use iMovie trailers for the first project was a scaffolded way of introducing them to the ideas of storyboarding, capturing images and editing.  While she would like to do the project again, she and I both agree on coming up with ways to encourage the students to include more content.

Rest assured, this isn’t the end… We’ll be back!

Here is the write up, along with the trailers, located on the school website.
Til next time,
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