The Diary of a Technology Supporter

Technology being used in an elementary school

Teaching Movies May 29, 2009

Filed under: Uncategorized — msmithpds @ 5:16 pm

I have just been told that I will be teaching a 9 week movie making course that meets for 35 minutes, every six days, to 6th graders. They all will have take home MacBooks with built-in iSight cameras, iTunes, Internet access, Photobooth, Notebook recorder (for the ability to record their desktops), and iMovie 09. And I can not tie this class in with a particular subject because core teachers have to have the same lesson plans and activities for each group of students. I will be seeing no more than 20 boys at a time and am not sure if I will end up seeing the whole 6th grade class during the year.

So what type of movie should we make? I want it to be fun, a movie that they will enjoy creating, but creating it with a purpose. Of course I could do the “All About Me” movie, or one about their family. I can’t base it on a book, because I don’t know one that they all know, though they could make a movie out of a 1st grader book – or something along those lines. I can’t make the take home work to intense because I don’t think they’ll be getting a “real” grade on this course. The boys have too much on their plate with homework and sports anyway.

Do I focus it on scripting out the movie too? In 9 weeks – 45 days, possibly 7 meetings what could I get done? Gosh, I wish I could work with a core teacher on the purpose of the class. I hate wasting people’s time. I guess this is to be a “fun” techie class. Please help me brainstorm.


5 Responses to “Teaching Movies”

  1. Steve Says:


    You could always do the movie on Climate Change, a good current topic being covered in education. They should already have some knowledge and will be able to find tons of information and inspiration for their movie. They could then make a documentary on how they are helping, interview people. They could make a stop frame animation using iSight – using household objects or plasticine. If it is an all boys group you could ask them to pick a sport to make their movie about. I would teach them basic storyboarding and basic scripting but ensure they know these things are just plans and can be changed but will help them produce a more effective movie. Hope this helps. Tweet me if you want to discuss further.



  2. Nicole Green Says:

    Using a 1st Grade book is what I did with my first graders last year. Do you plan to make a movie of digital stills or just video? I would highly recommend the storyboarding process. You can read about & see our movie here. Best wishes!

  3. Tom K Says:

    A personal story/bio is always a good place to start. Let them do “A Day in My Life” with pictures and voice over.
    I just finished reading Kent Manning’s blog post ( when I came across your Tweet. There are a couple of examples here.
    I will be teaching a digital storytelling camp this summer for the first time so I am very interested in sharing ideas! Good luck!

  4. Sheri Says:

    Visual literacy is so important these days, and how exciting it is you get to teach it. If kids put together a video based on audience/purpose, they are more likely to understand the video media directed toward themselves.

    I think brainstorming ideas for audience/purpose is important. Then plan the shots that emphasize the thesis/message and always come back to that central message. I’d just use a simple 20-word sentence for the message, and then sketch out in stick figures and text (where/what/camera angle/message) the idea for each scene. A good resource is:

    I wonder if a focus on “place” would be interesting to kids. My students learned photography from a mentor ( and then took photos first around our school and then around our town using those strategies. Then they developed a short photo essay around the pictures. They used this template: The same idea could be applied in video format.

    I’ve been brainstorming ideas for place-based learning here:

    I did put together many digital storytelling tips and resources for a video project we did not have time for at:

    Have you checked to iMovie 09 site for ideas?

    I’m just thinking here for when I get my chance to try this. Hope you link to your results.

    Have fun.

  5. Errin Says:

    A “how-to” video is a good introductory project. You can have them type in ‘how to’ in YouTube or Google Video and many examples (good, bad, and some inappropriate) come up.

    After viewing some examples (how to make a peanut butter and jelly sandwich is a good start) there’s lots to discuss – appropriate topics, what is good about an effective how to video and what is not so good about a less effective video, etc.

    I agree with Nicole, storyboarding doesn’t take too much time and is a very important step in the film production process, whatever level you’re at!

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