Making Movies Happen
After my first year at Williamston High School, I was labeled as one of the writing teachers within the English department. I was given some degree of freedom with how I wanted to explore and develop new ways of teaching writing. There were two significant struggles I constantly faced with what seemed to be little reward: motivation and voice. All too often, my students shot strange looks my way as I grew increasingly excited about assignments and they grew more and more disengaged with what was going on in class.
I had made use of technology with my students before, mostly in the form of blogging, which I had hoped would help to address the lack of motivation I was seeing. My students enjoyed the concept of working in digital space, because it gave them freedom to work from anywhere if they chose to, but aside from that, it seemed to be just another assignment to them. Then, in the spirit of trying new things, I had my students create digital videos exploring an issue in the news. The students took to this assignment like none other. The students worked hard and were incredibly creative with the videos they made. I wanted to find a way to better tap into this energy.
I began looking into the possibility of teaching a class that would focus on video creation. Though they create a different final product, the steps of video creation follow the steps of the writing process. Instead of having written text, there is a video text. In creating this video text, which involves both visual and audible components, students engage in both old and new literacies (Sylvester & Greenidge, 2009). Students involved in this class would take part in a type of project-based learning. Project-based learning is known for promoting student responsibility and accountability as well as promoting social interaction (Bell, 2010).
Instead of creating videos that would only be viewed by our class, I looked for an outlet that would offer a wider audience. Williamston High School had been doing video announcements for as long as I had been teaching there, a program run by the Student Government Association (SGA). After speaking with the SGA advisor, I was given the green light to put together a pitch for our administration that would take the daily announcements and turn them into a class.
Bell, S. 2010. Project-Based Learning for the 21st Century: Skills for the Future. Clearing House, 83(2), 39-43.
Sylvester, R., & Greenidge, W. 2009. Digital Storytelling: Extending the Potential for Struggling Writers. Reading Teacher, 63(4), 384-395. Retrieved from Academic Search Premier database.