Yet again I was enthralled by the work going on in the primary school classrooms as part of the Bradford UNESCO City of Film Film Literacy project. Teachers’ presentations and feedback left me in no doubt that working with short films within the literacy context – both understanding, talking and writing about how films make meaning and making their own short films – is something children find engaging and compelling. We heard about children making adverts tied in with persuasive writing, film scripting and making based on myths and legends (complete with arguments about shot types needed and evaluative blogs written afterwards!), as well as adverts made for stretchy spoons and cat’s slippers (!) which produced some excellent written work and led the teacher to comment that ‘It keeps them on task and they love it!’. In Wibsey Primary the work the children have done with their class teacher has led to a staff session on the subject which is beginning to have an effect throughout the school. One head teacher couldn’t believe how far one particular EAL pupil had come as result of a storyboard and film he had written and then made. Another teacher has incorporated the film work as the final stage in a Talk for Writing project using The Corpse Bride poem and animation and said ‘One girl who is typically at level 1b – low ability – was interviewed and the language she used was lovely. She had the story secure in her head to they could work on her use of language.’
Snack time is utilised in Greengates Primary school for showing films from The Literacy Shed. Pupils have been discussing story, characters and settings and the teacher is convinced that reading levels are on the increase as a result. This approach has been so successful the whole school are now watching and discussing short films in snack time. In the same school children have used the film ‘Up’ to focus on writing about feelings. In addition they have read and then written their own Not Now Bernard versions using ‘higher level words’ and filmed them and then shown them to the younger children in school. They then watched the very popular short film ‘Black Hole’ and then storyboarded and made their own versions which were incredible to watch! Parents have been very positive about the effect on their children following an IT evening for parents at which this approach was described. The teacher commented ‘Boys who give up when it comes to literacy have made really good progress!’.
The second part of the day was led by Philip Webb who offered a plethora of additional ideas and strategies for teachers to employ based on visual literacy and film related literacy work before they moved on to practical filmmaking activities in the afternoon.
The next phase of the project sees pupils being brought in to the Innovation Centre to be trained up as media literacy leaders in schools – to help those teachers who are less confident with the technology aspects of film-making.
Bradford is trailblazing with this approach and feedback from teachers re pupils’ attainment levels is very positive.
Written by Sarah Mumford Development Director West and North Yorkshire, Cape UK.