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Behind the Camera

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Keywords: digital video, media literacy, documentary
Subject(s): English/Language Arts, Social Studies, Photography, Technology, Social Skills, Video, Writing, Health and PE, Science, Journalism
Grades 5 through 8
Original Author: Kay Marcelle, Waitsfield
Rationale: Exciting things occur when individuals become part of a connected learning community, when teachers integrate appropriate instructional technology into the curriculum, and when learning is enhanced for students with powerful tools and applications. Research indicates that a substantial amount of a studentís learning from kindergarten to sixth grade comes from visual stimulation. Incorporating the use of digital images into the curriculum reinforces concepts essential to achieving high standards. The Waitsfield Elementary School is a preschool to sixth grade public school located in rural central Vermontís Mad River Valley, dedicated to the integration of technology as a support to the learning necessary for becoming successful citizens.

Currently, students in grades 5 and 6 are engaged in a newly developed media literacy curriculum. Our goal is to assist students in becoming savvy and knowledgeable consumers and producers of media. Our media literacy curriculum includes the production of a variety of digital projects. These projects must speak to a need within our community, including but not limited to health/wellness, inclusion of those with special needs, and support for the elderly within our community.

Lesson Title: Behind the Camera Ė Creating a Documentary
Grade Level: 5-8
Subject Area: Media Literacy, language arts/writing, health/wellness, science, technology

Lesson Summary: As part of a media literacy curriculum, students complete curriculum-based projects that culminate in multimedia products and/or presentations. Students learn subject content and technology skills in a manner that emphasizes collaboration, communication, deep thinking and problem solving. Students will draw upon direct instruction, with an emphasis on 20 persuasive techniques commonly used in media production to shape the attitudes and opinions of consumers. This application of knowledge will challenge students to see how ideas and technology support each other to communicate and shape public opinion, consumer habits, and our sense of health and wellness.

Students and their teachers will use a wide range of technologies to design, plan, research and complete their projects. Hardware used includes computers, scanners, printers, and digital cameras. Applications available include photo editing, web authoring, music composition, and presentation software as well as word processing, drawing, spreadsheets, and databases.

A critical aspect of the project is that technology is simply used as a tool; the focus of the project is on studentsí acquisition of knowledge in the area of media literacy and the ability of technology to support documentation and communication of important community-based health/wellness issues. The students involved in the creation of this documentary will be challenged to grasp the topic from a variety of perspectives and they will have to represent those various viewpoints accurately.


Working in groups of three to five, students will research and gather data on topics relating to the Mad River Valley Health Center and its impact on health care in our community. In our case, this activity provides a local connection to a science unit on the human body.

Tasks (i.e. director, interviewer, cameraman) are assigned. Prior to filming and interviewing community members including health center staff, students must thoroughly understand the topic and the process so each team will create a detailed storyboard using Tool Factory Workshop as a part of the preproduction process.

During the production phase of the project, students shoot digital still and video images, conduct interviews, use digital cameras to record their experiences, and compile historic photographs and documents.

The students then edit the digital images and select appropriate music and narration to complete post-production tasks. Their final project tells the story of the Mad River Valley Health Center, itís history, and itís impact on family health care in the community in a variety of ways, captures the attention of the audience and will be aired on the local cable access channel for viewing by the entire community.

Assessment: Rubric
Materials: Word Processor, Point and Shoot
Other Items: 3 XD picture cards, $120.00 each, total of $360.00
1 Olympus camera, $200.00 each, total of $200.00
25 DVD's to archive completed projects, $45.00 each, total of $1125.00
1 Microphone, $130.00 each, total of $130.00