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Movies for Motivation: Encouraging Literacy Through Student-Created Films

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Keywords: Literacy, movies, reading, books, English, editing
Subject(s): Video, Reading, Information Skills, English/Language Arts, Service Learning
Grades 9 through 12
NETS-S Standard:
  • Creativity and Innovation
  • Communication and Collaboration
  • Research and Information Fluency
  • Critical Thinking, Problem Solving, and Decision Making
  • Digital Citizenship
  • Technology Operations and Concepts
View Full Text of Standards
School: Crystal Lake South High School, Crystal Lake, IL
Planned By: Lori Ratliff
Original Author: Lori Ratliff, Crystal Lake
At my high school, many freshmen enter high school without the literacy skills necessary to achieve. They are often reading several grade levels behind, and their lack of ability often produces a lack of effort. These students are enrolled in our Targeted Reading class to help remediate their skills, but their difficulty reading hampers their motivation greatly. Reading is so tough for them that they often refuse to try, and many have developed a hatred of reading over the years. Their difficulty reading makes them refrain from reading, which makes reading more difficult. It's a vicious cycle.

Yet what these students ARE good at is hands-on projects, particularly those that incorporate technology. If I can transfer their strengths into a love for reading, I have succeeded, and they will succeed! Enter Tool Factory Movie Maker and this lesson plan.

The goals of this lesson are simple. By the end of the lesson, students will have engaged with a book, evaluated that book's value for their peers, and advertised this value through short films. Along the way, my students will be learning to enjoy reading more AND helping their classmates throughout the school enjoy reading. There is no better way to get a teenager to pick up a book than have their peers recommend it. Peer pressure is a reality of high school life, but lessons such as this one can use peer pressure in a positive way.

The lesson will begin as a year-long free reading effort. Over the years, I have used mostly my own money to create an expansive classroom library focused on high interest, low difficulty level young adult selections. One day a week, students are expected to devote thirty minutes to reading a book of their choice. They are also asked to read regularly at home. They are not forced to produce book reports or any form of writing that would hinder their enjoyment of reading. Instead, they are simply asked to document their progress and discuss their books with the class. At the end of the semester, they are expected to create some innovative project to advertise their book. These projects have been interesting over the years, but not overly engaging. They have not impacted our school beyond my classroom.

Enter Tool Factory Movie Maker! Students will be asked to develop a short film (no more than five minutes long) advertising their book to the whole school. They will be encouraged to incorporate relevant music, photographs, film clips, text, etc. The ease of use and multi-faceted approach of Tool Factory Movie Maker will make the editing process go smoothly as the students attempt to integrate various forms of media into one film.

As students produce their films, we will also conduct a short film unit where we research and analyze different cinematic techniques and famous directors. Students will be encouraged to pay homage to film greats by including some of their trademark shots. They will also learn about the entire film-making process through storyboarding, filming with several takes, editing, etc. Along the way, they will apply persuasive techniques learned in our writing units to make their books seem appealing to their peers.

The most important benefit of this project is getting students to love a book and infect our school with that love. My hands-on, project-oriented students would love a chance to expand their learning through this type of editing technology. And imagine how awesome it would be to show student-created films throughout the school!

At the end of the project, I anticipate an awards banquet where we award student films in different categories such as best editing, best cinematography, best use of music, most realistic portrayal of a book, most convincing advertisement, etc. My struggling students who are so rarely recognized for their achievements would be absolutely honored by such a ceremony.

I look forward to encouraging literacy with the use of Tool Factory Movie Maker!

Cross-Curriculum Ideas
We could use historical fiction as a connection to my students' Social Studies classes.
Film Awards Banquet, Films Shown to School
Materials: Video Cameras, Digital Cameras, Projectors, Projector Screens, Microphones, DVD/VCR Players, Video Tools, CDs and DVDs, Camera/Video Accessories, English/Language Arts, Reading, Literacy
Other Items: 30 High interest young adult books, $8-$10 each