Training Day – Teachers Run with Film in Literacy

Our latest training day was jam packed with ideas showing how to use film in Literacy. We had a superb presentation from Philip Webb showing Literacy encoding and decoding skills in action through the use of film. Philip shared the great Decide Now app which can be customised to address the 3 Cs and Ss.  After listening to the opening music from the film Hugo (see films for the classroom page) we tried the Sound On Vision Off approach to describe what we could hear. Lots of our schools use this as a stimulus for writing activities. We had to sequence a series of images taken from the book Hugo and explain why we put them in the order that we did. This reinforced our understanding of sequencing and camera shots. We had started to build a story in our minds and crucially we had started to develop connections between each of the images. Philip had the brilliant idea of using IKEA film strips to house each image in the sequence (see below).

We looked at the brilliant resource developed by Chris Whitney in Lincolnshire linking different sentence starters to different camera shots (see below). Once we had done this we could replace each screen shot in each frame with our own writing.

After that we used the Into Film activity called Shots in Sequence. This allowed us to compare two shots next to each other. We structured our explanations by using the versatile and ever popular Venn diagram. Lots of our teachers have used this for comparing characters in films or books, scenes or comparing a scene in a film to a paragraph in a book. This activity took us decoding to encoding the activity.

Both Philip and I feel as if the presentations from the teachers were the best we’ve ever seen. I’ve added some of them below. Rachel Clifton from Clayton Village Primary used the book and film of How to Train Your Dragon.   Her presentation, which gives details of the wide range of skills and writing genres, is below.

Rachael is not afraid to incorporate technology into her teaching. Below you can see pupils analysing the text on a page of How to Train Your Dragon using the Screenchomp app.

How to Train Your Dragon – Analyzing the text – Clayton Village Primary from Curriculum Innovation on Vimeo.

Linda La Touche from Clayton C.E has been using Media Literacy in her guided reading lessons. Her presentation is below.

Nick Carter from Fagley dived straight in and made a Beowulf film with his class. The children have done lots of work related to recognising different camera shots and most importantly why they were used. His children have watched lots of other films and he told us how less able children had been engaged and been able to working on inference and deduction skills using film.


Victoria Wood from Westbourne Primary School looked at how important different shots are in conveying meaning in film. Children analysed shots to extract as much information as they could relating to character, setting and time, this also made extensive use of the Pie Corbett Questionator technique and the activities on our own resources page as can be seen in the slides in her presentation below.


Cath Binns is a year six teacher at Bolton Brow Primary school in Sowerby Bridge. When I sat down to plan with her she showed me the amazing film Gareth’s Story(see below)  that was created by the Happy Days Charity for whom she volunteers. Cath told us how she started using the film In a Heartbeat to familiarise children with different film shots and how they are used before moving on the Gareth’s story. The children wrote in the roles of passers by who reacted differently to the homeless man. A highlight of this work was meeting people from the charity and interviewing them. One of the most powerful events will be when Gareth, the star of the film attends a lesson to be interviewed by the children. The image below will take you to the Bolton Brow blog where you can watch a video of children in role reacting to seeing a homeless person. it’s worth reading the many comment written by the children attesting as to the value of using Media Literacy in their work.

Gareth’s Story from David Fawcett on Vimeo.

The quality and variety of activities and how they are closely linked to both reading and writing skills bodes well for our children this year.


In the afternoon we had an excellent presentation from Rob Smith, who runs the Literacy Shed web site. We had asked Rob to focus on poetry, an area often overlooked in the field of Media Literacy. His presentation was packed with ideas to use in the classroom and presented with pace and humor. His first reaction upon being asked to present on poetry can be seen below….

Rob came up with the goods and shared superb filmed performances of poems with us. A highlight of this was Johnny Depp performing the Jabberwocky. We explored portmanteau words and watched the superb Simpson’s version of the Raven by Edgar Allen Poe. The films we used can be seen in the Poetry Shed and the Ghostly Shed on the Literacy Shed web site.

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Filming with the 5,4,3,2,1 approach

On Friday Philip Webb and myself (Tim Bleazard) attended two days of training with Into Film. We were taking part in training so that we can deliver Into Film’s superb, free CPD training for schools. As part of the training we used the 5,4,3,2,1 technique. This involves creating a short film with five different shots, four people, three props, a maximum length of two minutes and one area of focus. Justin, our inspirational trainer gave us the theme of light and promptly gave each group a torch. You can see my group’s wonderful effort below!

If you would like to find out more about Into Film’s free CPD provision for schools please contact me.

Into Film’s 5,4,3,2,1 technique from Curriculum Innovation on Vimeo.

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Presentation from Cape UK Conference


The project continues to go from strength to strength and in the last year we have presented at Manchester, Calderale and Cardiff. On the 20th November Sarah Burton from Wibsey Primary, Paul Scott and Tim Bleazard  from Bradford Council Curriculum Innovation and presented at Cape UK’s conference on Developing New Ways of Using Film in the Primary Classroom in Leeds. Paul’s session in the morning gave a short overview of the project. This was then followed in the afternoon by two one hour presentations by Sarah and Tim showing practical ways to use film in the classroom.

Tim started off with a simple recall activity, we watched a trailer of a film and answered questions based on recall. In a previous training session in Calderdale a teacher had commented “When I watch film I just let it wash over me, I never notice the details!” I think we’ve all been there. We watch films to relax and so quite often we are not aware of the details. This activity simply accessed recall. The viewers had to answer simple questions about what they saw and heard.  As we so often do we then used the Cs and Ss. To deepen our understanding we watched another film clip. This time we analysed the camera, character, colour, setting, story and sound. We used Home and Expert groups to share our views  focussing on one aspect before going back to our home groups to share what we found. This format is always popular as it allows all pupils to get a say without anyone dominating the discussion. It also puts the onus on those quieter children to feed back their findings. We looked at the main resources on this blog

Sarah Burton from Wibsey Primary is one of our leading teachers who is in her third year of teaching using Media Literacy. Sarah has helped to organise the roll out of Media Literacy across her school from year one to year six. She started teaching Media Literacy in year five and then moved to year two. A number of delegates were from key stage one. Sarah was able to demonstrate how she has adapted resources for effective use in key stage one. The Sarah’s mainpoints can be seen in her presentation below.

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Year Two A Success, Year Three About to Start

Many thanks to all the teachers who took part in the second year of the Media Literacy Project and helped to make it a success. The project targets four average points progress for reading and writing for six target children from each class taking part. This year our target children made 3.98 average points for writing and 4.15 for reading. You can see much more details about the levels achieved by whole classes and details about how the use of film in the classroom impacted upon attitudes, engagement and teaching by reading the new case studies for year two which we will publish shortly.

Schools who have signed up to take part in year three can access the dates on our calendar page.

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The Big Screening 2014


Over four hundred pupils from nineteen schools visited the National Media Museum this week to see their films on the huge, silver screen at the Pictureville Cinema. Each school watched two of their own films and a selection from the total of thirty seven submitted from other schools. Some children got the chance to take to the stage and explain how they created their films and pass on advice to their peers. It was a hugely enjoyable event and children were clearly inspired to go on making more films. A big thank you to all the pupils teachers who worked so hard to create their films. You will be able to see more photos and films once the permissions have been sent in from schools. A few of the films will be added to the Our Films page.

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Writing Ladders

I’m currently working on the Writing Ladders with a group of schools in Bradford. The idea is to take the three strands of writing – text structure and organisation, sentence structure and punctuation (SSP) and composition and effect and break them down into sub levels. These are being assembled as a PowerPoint presentation. Each page of the presentation shows the breakdown for the strand from one sub level to the next – for example SSP – 3C to 3B. The challenge for teachers involved our media literacy project- which they rose to admirably – was to fill in the gap between the subs levels with ideas for how film could be used to support the move from one sub level to another. The picture below shows one example from the SSP strand.

The full version of the PowerPoint, from level 3C to level 4A  can be found under the resources tab above.

Philip Webb

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Another packed training day.


On April the 4th we ran our third training day for this year’s Media Literacy Project. One of the highlights was the presentations given by three of our Media Literacy Leading teachers who are in their second year of work on the project. The first presentation of the day was given by Claire from Greengates Primary School. Claire has embedded the use of film deeply into her teaching, she showed us how this has impacted upon pupils’ writing. Her pupils had struggled to put character viewpoints into writing. She showed the film The Black Hole and took us through how the children had used this in class. The pupils used this for writing diary entries  in the first person and had been able to really access the characters’ feelings and motives due to the accessibility of the film. This film was also used to write a narrative in the third person. The children then filmed their own version of the story. In their own filming groups the pupils went on a location hunt before storyboarding  and eventually filming. A finished example can be seen on the Our Films page.

Claire used the Three Little Pigs film from the Literacy Shed to create arguments. She used freeze frame and analysed how the choice of language can affect the viewer/reader. This was followed up by writing bias newspaper reports.

Pupils were able to answer higher order thinking questions to improve reading test results through the use of this film, especially combined with the reading fans which Philip Webb had spoke about in earlier training. Claire also showed how she had used resources from our site such as the Venn diagram to compare adverts to traditional stories.

Her pupils are equally enthused and her pupil Media Literacy leaders have run staff training sessions at which they have trained teachers in the creation of short films to use in class. The children have also gone into lessons in other year groups and assisted children in their use of film creation. This page below shows the feedback given by teachers after they have been trained by pupils.

The school now even has it’s own Oscars ceremony where pupil films are celebrated before an audience.

Sarah from Wibsey was a year five teacher in her first year on the project. She is now a year two teacher and gave us a valuable insight in how she’s been able to apply the use of film to Literacy teaching in key stage one. She used a film called Bubbles which can be found here on the Literacy Shed and explained how she had successfully used it with her children to create descriptive writing and to link paragraphs in writing. Sarah went on to tell us how she used Fantastic Mr Fox to target AF 4,5 and 6 in reading as well as teach synonyms, teach news reports and as a hook for teaching SPaG. We also enjoyed a film of a news report the children had made. Her class are currently creating play scripts based around the film Dangle.

Lynn from Long Lee played us the Pandora documentary from You Tube which had been shared with us by Rob Smith from the Literacy Shed in his December visit. Her class designed their own creatures which specifically targeted higher level descriptive phrases. They compared their animals and writing style to that used by Ricky Gervais in his Flanimals book We were reminded of the SATs writing task a few years back called ‘How to look after a Miptor’ and that this was an exciting way to approach writing an imaginary creature, especially when the context of an environment is provided. Lynn used film to teach SPag in a more interesting way, she tied in the use of Philip Webb’s Runaround idea within the context of a the film. Pandora was also used as the focus for non chronological as well as journalistic writing. The most moving part of Lynn’s presentation was when she recited a poem that was written by a ‘lower ability’ child after she was given the film as a stimulus.
You can see Lynn’s presentation here:

These three amazing professionals gave everyone dozens of practical examples to takeaway and include in their own practice. I’m incredibly grateful to them for sharing their time and extensive expertise with us.

I had to follow this with my sentence level filming idea. I’ve spoken about this before so I’ll just share the films the teachers made.

Last year I created a Spelling Punctuation and Grammar Test (see our Resources page) based around the film the Girl and the Fox . I wanted to give attendees the chance to work collaboratively on Google docs to build resources based around three films. I’ll add these to the site when I’ve finished processing the questions.

In the afternoon Philip Webb used The book and film version of The Invention of Hugo Cabret to show how writing can be a stimulus for creating film and vice versa. We used a storyboard of the opening of the book to answer reading AF questions before using a similar storyboard based upon camera shots from the film to write sentence openers for each shot.

He showed us the Pixar Film Knick knack and used it to show how story writers can use the advice in Pixars twenty two rules of storytelling.

The Knick Knack film is a good one to use for story structure as it has a simple narrative with no sub-plots and it is easy for children to apply the structure in their own stories.

Finally, course members worked on a media literacy ‘special edition’ of Philip’s Writing Ladders which plot the next steps for children on a sub level basis using the strands of sentence structure and punctuation, text structure and organisation and composition and effect. More about this in due course.

The next time we meet will be at the Pictureville Cinema in the National Media Museum to screen the films the children have made.

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Over a Hundred Pupil Media Literacy Leaders Trained



In the last two weeks in January we embarked on our Pupil Media Literacy Leaders training. The idea of this is to train pupils to take an active role training fellow pupils and adults in making film in the classroom.  Last year we trained pupils from eight different schools, this year we trained pupils from twenty five schools. The training was very sucessful last year as it helped teachers to create films in their classes with the newly qualified pupils taking the pressure off the teacher in terms of technical know how. The  pupils supported their peers in their class whenever the were film making. In some schools they also went into other classes to share their skills. In one school the children trained teachers by taking over a session in a staff meeting.

This year we used a film as a stimulus. We watched the Icelandic short film In a Heartbeat (available to view in our Films for the Classroom page). We then identified some shot types from stills of the film and why they were used (the Smartboard file for this is available on our resources page). We repeated a successful technique we devised last year, this was to ask everyone to write down three words that sum up the main themes of the film, we then turned them into the word clouds shown above.

After this we got the children to storyboard a two shot film after writing a sentence with two ideas and an adverbial opener (see the sheet on the resources page). You can see an example here….


Photo 22-01-2014 13 56 38

Elevator green gates from Curriculum Innovation on Vimeo.

The children filmed these using iPads or Flipcams or Android tablets. It’s vital they use the same technology they have at their school so they can replicate this process in their own classrooms.

In the afternoon the children had to plan, storyboard, film, edit and process their film before transferring it to a shared network location. They had to do this independently and all groups managed to do this on each of the six days. I’ll post some images of pupils working and their finished one minute videos when the relevent permissions have been given… watch this space.



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The Snowman, the Shed and the sharing.

Photo 06-12-2013 14 45 36On the 6th of December we had our latest training session for this year’s Media Literacy project. Our emphasis was very much on material teachers could take away and swiftly transfer to classroom practice. The project had been running since September and we were keen to hear about what worked in classrooms across the twenty eight schools engaged in the project far and wide across the Bradford authority.

We started off listening to the work done by our Media Literacy Leading teachers. These were the teachers who were involved in the first year of the project and are now grouped with the teachers who have joined this year. The teachers followed this by sharing what they had been doing in their classes since the last meeting. I’ve included password protected videos of their work at the foot of this post. If you don’t have the password and would like to view the videos please email me.  Needless to say there was a wealth of ideas shared between all the teachers. The resources page of this blog was widely used to find films and to download resources to facilitate discussion and deeper understanding of film and narrative in general. It’s important to recognise the breadth of genres covered in the writing rather than just narrative.

In the afternoon we had a fantastic session delivered by Rob Smith ( @redgierob on Twitter). Rob  is a teacher from Manchester but is most famous for creating and curating the amazing Literacy Shed web site. Rob shared with us the ways he uses films in his own classroom to engage learners and inspire them to produce powerful writing. As most of the work we do is centred around narrative, Rob challenged us to use film with non fiction genres. We analysed films focussing on persuasion, biography and  non chronological genres. With each film we watched Rob shared a wealth of engaging activities to make writing engaging and purposeful. The teachers I spoke to found this an invaluable exercise packed with ideas to transfer to their own use of film in their classrooms almost straight away.

Our  brilliant consultant Philip Webb got us in the Christmas spirit with Raymond Brigg’s The Snowman. We were using Tell Me grids to work in home and expert groups to discuss the animation. This approach really helps participants to focus discussion on aspects of the film and by giving them a clear role in the ensuing discussion.

Photo 06-12-2013 14 50 10He showed us the links between shot types and writing different kinds of sentences. He shared a wealth of resources which can be accessed via our Edmodo group. The leading teachers were tasked with creating questions based on the clip  linked to the different assessment foci. Philip also gave us a brief preview of the resources based around Hugo he has produced for the next training session.

This session allowed us all to share ideas and discuss what works in the classroom and will help pupils to deepen their understanding of film impact upon their writing. Quote of the day came from a pupil at Hollingwood courtesy of their teacher Vicky. The pupil asked Vicky when they were going to start doing any Literacy. The writing they were doing based on film was seen as exciting and different. A ringing endorsement if there ever was one.

Media Literacy 6th December Group 1 from Curriculum Innovation on Vimeo.

Media Literacy Teacher Input December 2013 Group 2 from Curriculum Innovation on Vimeo.

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Victorian Shot Selection at Miriam Lord

The teachers and pupils at Miriam Lord Primary have really got their teeth into the Media Literacy project this year. They have been learning about different shots in films and how the camera angle can make characters appear weaker or stronger.

Click here to look at their first blog post and watch their videos from Mr Hayslop’s class.

Click here for the second blog post from Mrs Conway’s class.

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