Spot The Inference: Using Video and Multimedia Authoring In the Literacy Hour

I haven't embedded video to my Blog, before, so this is a bit of an adventure for me. I thought I'd give it a go with this particular entry to give a context to the sessions I have been developing, using digital writing frames with two different year groups in school this term. I also wanted to share how I have used the same digital text, to introduce and extend children's skills using mutimedia authoring tools, while supporting writing outcomes. The video I have been using, and which is embedded below, is the computer generated, animated short "Bert," created by Moonsung Lee. 

My Sequence For Reading This Video

As I have spoken about in previous posts, I have been using video data to inform my classroom research project, and this has in turn begun to inform the way I use Video snippets and short films with my students as literate objects. Video as a text presents meaning in several modes, and sessions involving video require us to engage with these as we do others. With written texts we engage with them on a word, sentence and text level, with a video I tend to view them on a visual, aural and whole text level. To begin the unit we spent time "watching" the film in different ways:

I minimised the movie, and we listened to the soundtrack. Bert is great as it has no dialogue, there are lots of sound effects to listen for, and a jaunty score which changes to reflect mood. Every now and again I would stop the film, and encourage the students to discuss firstly in pairs and then as a class what could be heard
and to infer what they thought was happening from the clues they could hear.

I muted the sound, and we watched the movie as a series of moving pictures, pausing the film at approximately the same points as before, cueing the children to recall the sounds they had heard in a particular section, and focussing on the actions, the facial and physical gestures of the characters. Using these to devleop inferences about feeling, and to predict actions that might happen next.

We watched the movie with sound and pictures together, and spent some time rehearsing and retelling the story orally before beginning our own versions of the story.
Preparing To Write.I have a copy of Bert in MPEG format, and have used this previously to support narrative writing and recount in the literacy hour. For previous table top units of work, I created and used Smart Notebooks with drag and drop storyboards, to support sequencing and oral storytelling.

To create the Notebooks Quick Time Pro was used, to capture significant scenes from the film and to save these as image files. These images were inserted within the Notebooks, to support sequencing and discussion of how the story unfolded. Images of characters, featuring facial expressions and gestures, were also used as prompts to support discussions about feelings or why characters might be behaving as they were. To some images I added thought bubbles and speech bubbles, and using "pair and share" or "talking twos" used small drywipe whiteboards to encourage discussion and suggestions about what the characters might be thinking or saying. Since the film is without dialogue use of images such as these out of sequence, also enables revisits to predictive tasks from previous sessions. What happened before this? What happened next? and facilitates the use of inferencial skills to consider why characters might be doing or saying what they are, drawing on the visual cues and the student's sense of events drawn from the aural and visual evidence within the film itself.

From this immersive work, I went on to develop student's own versions of the story through collaborative storyboarding and comic strip type activities. The Writing outcome initially being to orally retell, using images their versions of the story to the class. This immersive approach I found worked particularly well with struggling writers, who were able to use the visual narrative to support their independent work later.

The last time I used this movie was with a group of reluctant writers, and students who had significant literacy difficulties. Our unit's final outcome was based onscreen, and used images captured from the movie in MS PowerPoint, as writing prompts to support creation of a picture book for younger students. This term I have developed the unit to become two multimedia text units one at key stage 1 and the other in Key Stage 2.

Extending This To Develop Onscreen Multimedia Texts

This term I have drawn on the activities above to develop familiarity with the story, but have used the images captured previously to create digital writing frames.

In Year 2, I was asked to use a unit originally about graphics and text to support the student's understanding of features of recount writing. We have been using 2 simple's 2 create a story, and Bert as a context to support this. Before we began the onscreen writing task, the children helped me to choose 8 images from the movie and 2 create a writing frame, inserting the images before saving the file to the network. The children then worked in pairs, opening the shared frame and drafted their texts on screen, using the images as writing prompts. On completion of their writing the children were encouraged to think about what they had written and choose animation effects for their images that would help support the story they were trying to tell. Finally they were asked to add sound effects to the page that would add to the feelings of the characters and action within their story. I have published the first completed text to the school website.

In year 5 we are extending their experience of digital texts by writing a digital story book for younger children, using PowerPoint. The story is much longer, and as well as using images from the film, they are inserting action buttons to enable their readers to navigate the story on screen. We have turned off the onclick default setting for slide movement, which means that the strories they produce will function very much like a CD ROM story in slide show view. Some of the students have asked if they will be able to include sound effects, as the CD ROMS they have used often jingle when pages are turned, and also about the possibilities for having their story read to their audience, or hiding sounds or actions in the pictures. These types of questions I find particularly exciting as they reflect an awareness of the creative potentials of ICTs in the classroom, which we may overlook. They reflect student knowledge and experiences of digital technologies, experiences we tend not to utilise or draw on in our need to teach particular skills, or perhaps because they are beyond our personal experience. They also reflect a move I actively encourage, the "how do I get the computer to do this, rather than what can I do with the computer today" approach we often see in classrooms. We discussed how we might be able to achieve some of these, but time is an issue here, though I really would like them to have the opportunity to build on this interest and the excitement and sense of achievement I am sure it will generate. I had planned to insert page turn sound effects, and am considering how we might insert hyperlink effects through image hotspots. We also have the software environments available that would enable the students to create self made sound files to read the stories through action buttons (and on mouseover), in the form of Podium and Audacity, this however will mean the children needing to work in small groups to create these. Watch this space for further developments.

1 comment:

moonsung said...

my name is Moonsung Lee. an animator who created Bert. I happened to find your blog via googling. I was surprised that Bert's been used as a educational material, I am very pleased and honored. (have we exchanged emails before? sorry if i forgot)
just wondering if it's been helpful and what's the reception from your students like.
my email is
if you have a chance, please write me.