Teaching Diary: Students shoot short stories

This is just another example of how to use ‘new’ technology (well videos aren’t that new actually – but since almost every student nowadays owns a mobile phone that is able to record a video, things are getting much more easy) for teaching purposes.

In one of my social media articles about using youtube for teaching purposes I explained how you can use videos for teaching and entertainment purposes. This post here is now an example for exactly this.

The assignment: Create a movie. About whatever you want. Only premisse: You have to speak English.

The rules: No rules! I gave this assignment to my ‘English communication’ (while English being the foreign language) classes and wanted them to use everything they learned so far. I gave them my number and told them they could always ask me for help, if they need me, but most groups never took advantage of that. Once more the proof: Give your students space and trust and they will work perfectly on their own.

The outcome: Quite different, however mostly satisfying and once in a while overwhelming (always depending on the expectations of course).


A little more…

Obviously not all classes are on the same level. Furthermore there are classes with ‘high flyers’ in it and classes that consist of mostly ‘average’ students. Besides that there are hundreds of further influences that define your expectations. However, like mentioned above, my expectations have been mostly matched or exceeded.

Without talking to much about the sociological component here, students do appreciate space for creativity and their own work pace. When you managed to develop a good and understanding relationship with your class, assignments where you don’t have to set the rules straight but only define an ‘outcome’ or an ‘aim’ will work very well – quite often a lot better than assignments with fixed rules. However, when you are planning a big project, milestones can help to keep track of that. We will cover milestone projects for your class later this year. For now we focus on the ‘make a movie’ assignment.

What students learned during this assignment:

Project management. They had to work in groups and delegate all tasks within their group. Those tasks included story writing, finding locations, the technical components (filming, cutting, editing) and of course acting (that’s what everybody had to do – after all it was English Communication class).

The movie shown above is, of course, not an Oscar movie or the most awesome assignment ever – however it blew away most of my teaching colleagues because they didn’t knew that their students were able to speak or think well enough to do something like this. Even though it’s not perfect (that’s were the teacher comes in later when reviewing it) it leads to one very important thing: Fun with a foreign language.

Furthermore, like mentioned above, students increased or gained skills in different areas (cutting, using the pc for editing purposes and so on).

After students finished the movie I usually watched it together with them and explained what was good and where they made mistakes. This worked out quite well and students were always happy with this task – even though it meant a lot of work for them (as you can see at the end of the movie above).

Side note

Besides being fun and a nice experience for your students, creating movies is also a good way to spread the word about your course or school. Students are very likely to share their own movies on social media sites which will lead to a greater awareness of your work. But enough with the marketing thoughts here – my teaching diary is not a place for those thoughts, they will be thought of later in the social media marketing section.

And now. Take 2!

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