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Dr Becky Parry, University of Leeds Children, Film and Literacy.

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1 Dr Becky Parry, University of Leeds R.L.Parry@leeds.ac.uk Children, Film and Literacy

2 Doctoral Research Primary School in North of England Year Five class (into Year Six) Creative, collaborative and participatory methods Key Issue: Children can articulate complex understandings of narrative based on film (and media) but this is not reflected in their school-based story writing.

3 Film in Children’s Writing When pupils, who are already sophisticated consumers of visual narrative, write a story, they often use methods absorbed from these media to convey the action. This gives their writing a filmic quality that may seem jerky and undeveloped in contrast to the writing of those which make use of more literary conventions. (Millard 1997 p.124)

4 Media-based Stories Graves (1994) argues that media- based stories are problematic because of the implausible plots and characters, the reliance on dialogue and lack of description.

5 Films as Storytelling Resources Children’s films do not intrinsically lack depth and have the ability to connote rich meaning through modes such as colour, lighting, costume, gesture. Multimodal= many modes such as sound, light, editing, shot etc.

6 Children move readily between different forms of narrative when reading stories (Robinson, 1997). Writing stories, drawing on different media clearly presents more difficulty.

7 Schema and Story worlds Films scaffold ideas such as characters or events in story worlds. Narrative elements Film or visual elements

8 Seeing the Story Although children are immersed in film, and can read film, many aspects of its composition are not visible to them, unless they access formal film education.

9 Visual and Audio Imaginings Although they clearly do see and hear their stories they write them in one mode.

10 Step to the Challenge Joe: Hay Zak What’s up? Zak: Have you heard about the talent competition, I’m so going to win.” Joe: Can I enter? Zak: Yea but it costs £1 to enter So he entered. The next day the competition started. Joe was first. Joe: I was ok I got two yeses and one no. Zak: My turn. When finished he came out and said, Zak: Did you see that I was wicked. Joe: Stop bragging you loser. The next day Zak was up against Joe in the challenge. Zak: You may as well just give up Joe. Joe: What and back down from a loser like you. No way.

11 Stories in My Head The elements the audience would be able to see, hear and infer in a film are missing.

12 How do we best teach children to,,, use the full ‘affordances’ of film in their writing rather than the surface features? Affordances: what does the film form make possible?

13 Children need opportunities to….. explore the distinct and similar ways different media tell stories. A Toolkit: Symbolic or Semiotic Resources

14 ‘ Developing Media Literacy: Towards a Model of Progression’ ESRC funded research project University of London, Institute of Education The project ran from January 2009 until January 2012 Questionnaires, interviews and classroom action research

15 Children in years 2, 4, 8 and 10 and then again when the same groups were in years 3, 5, 9 and 11. The data was analysed in a number of ways, including thematic coding and narrative analysis. In this account I report on data derived from a week of activities that focused on media language and narrative – Scary Stories with Year 4.

16 Creating spaces for sharing experiences Making explicit the intuitive ideas they had developed as readers of texts. Vygotsky’s (1962) distinction between spontaneous concepts (concepts children develop through concrete engagement with everyday experience) and scientific concepts (concepts which are abstract and systemized and usually learned during formal schooling).

17 Paying attention to the visual mode In one analysis activity the children were invited to pay attention to the type of shots used in the opening sequence of the Tim Burton film ‘A Nightmare Before Christmas’.

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19 Introducing Specialised Vocabulary In the next analysis activity the class were explicitly taught the names of some fairly simple shots (Medium Shot, Close Up and Long Shot). Manola and Luke referred to a ‘closing up and turning up camera’. Lee and Jade imagined the camera-person to help them conceptualise the shot: ‘Camera man walks forward, gates open, see castle’.

20 Mid Shots Burn and Durran (2006) observe that children tend to draw most of their storyboard shots in mid shot, reasoning that young children are often not consciously aware of the ‘grammar’ of film.

21 Batman Animation The children watched a clip of a TV animated version of ‘Batman’ as a set of individual sequences. Attention was drawn, to individual shot choices, but also to camera movement within a shot and sound.

22 Gesture / Posture The children were then given a set of 12 stills from the clip in sequence in the form of a storyboard and asked to write notes addressing the questions: ‘What’s in the frame?’ ‘What’s the camera doing?’ ‘What sound can you hear? ‘What does that mean?’ Joe, noticed and pointed out a character walking backwards: Researcher: What does that mean? Joe: You walk backwards because you want to keep what is in front of you, in your line of sight.

23 Batman Storyboards Through group talk, mime and paying attention to one mode (Visual), Joe was able to use his experiences of scary texts to make an observation which was somewhere between an everyday spontaneous conceptual understanding and an abstract and concrete understanding of character point of view and how this relates to audience expectations.

24 This led to a further conversation about a film ‘Blackwater’, (certificate 15) the children had watched at home: One girl was brave - she went forwards not backwards and she’s the one who didn’t get killed.

25 Lucky Dip: Emily Skinner BFI Story Short

26 Storyboarding the next scene The year four storyboard drawings reflected careful observation of the shots chosen by the filmmaker. The children were clearly also selecting the shots on the basis of effect on the audience. These depictions exceeded those observed by Burn and Durran (2006), reflecting understanding of more complex shot choices and more complex meaning

27 The children first attempted to represent the combination of signs in the film (a little girl, a rabbit, a pier, point of view shots) and then they represented and recombined this set of signs, exploring their potential meaning further.

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31 Shared Toolkit Of Meaning Making It is particularly by learning to use these semiotic tools in discourse with others that humans appropriate the culture’s dominant way of thinking, reasoning and valuing. And in making them their own and in bringing them to bear on new problems and new situations, they may transform them in ways that add to and potentially improve the culture’s shared toolkit of meaning-making resources. (Wells and Claxton, 2008 p.4)

32 Popular culture in the classroom: The Conditions for Progression A space which values children’s engagements with popular culture. A space which builds bridges between their experiences in different media and modes. A space which helps children learn the ‘language ‘of the distinct representational systems of their culture(s). A space which interrogates meaning, affect, and audience.


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