Action-Packed Learning

Fun filming. Image: my own

During last year’s Grade 6 study I kept hearing the same question:

“Are we watching the movie today?”

This year it’s been:

“Do we play with the cameras today?”

Before the students began developing their movie analysis, they had time to explore the different uses of a camera and the roles of director, actor and editor. Having made up their own rules (mainly along the lines of “No fooling around” and “Respect other groups”) they worked productively together and enjoyed the freedom of exploring a different space to the classroom.

The word “play” in the students’ question was an apt interpretation of a lesson which offered them time to do just that –  experiment, explore and learn in a way that might otherwise traditionally be consigned to the ‘one-way delivery’ of lectures, video demonstration or textbook.

Last year Steve Denning interviewed authors Douglas Thomas and John Seely Brown, posing a series of questions which both promoted and challenged their educational theories. In response to a ‘traditionalist’ argument, they stated that “If you watch a small child explore the world, they don’t need to be told to study, explore, experiment or learn; they do it naturally.” It is with this in mind that I believe that Middle and High School students need as much ‘play’ time as “a small child”.

After the Grade 6 students finished their ‘movie-making’ and uploaded their footage, they reflected on the process that they had gone through. Each student wrote a blog post, some helpfully linking to his or her partner’s blog. They embedded screenshots of key angles and other types of shots in their posts and shared their thoughts. Students went from trying out different angles to joining another group to film with multiple cameras and even jumping over the camera for the ultimate action shot! These extracts speak for themselves (click on each image to visit the full post):










It is only near the end of this academic year that I really feel I’m starting to use the students’ blog posts in my classes. With more time to ‘play’ in class, the blog posts can exercise the important skills of reflection, presentation, inquiry and further investigation,  responding to the natural curiosity that the lesson hopefully has drawn upon.

For an excellent example of developing learning beyond the classroom, read Jeff Utecht‘s Reverse Instruction in SL IB English. I have drawn inspiration from his model and hope to pursue it with my IBDP Language and Literature classes next year.

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9 Responses to Action-Packed Learning

  1. alexguenther says:

    Great post (as usual) – one thing I really like about all of this in terms of “English” as a subject is that your fresh approach + technology makes it so much easier to bring elements of language and art into the curriculum which were neglected for so long – like drama, spoken word, memorization, improvisation, storytelling.

    Shakespeare and Homer didn’t create their works to be peered at in tiny columns of text with footnotes – that’s a weird system that we devised in order to work with the technology available to schools at the time. We’re now in a place where teachers can inspire their students to be bards, librettists, film directors, and whatever else, without the slavish obsession about printed text which shackled the study of language and literature for so long.

    Putting on a play obviously seems a lot more like “play” than reading a play in a book, but to me it’s also precisely as educational. Making a movie seems WAY more like “play” than reading about movie-making techniques in a book, but to me it’s much more meaningful as an educational project. It’s great that teachers like you are incorporating this sort of excitement into students’ explorations.

    • Avatar of coxm coxm says:

      Thanks for your comment. I do often wonder what writers such as Shakespeare would think if they could see the way their works have become studied… hopefully we can avoid the “school-boys [going] toward school with heavy looks” that he clearly identified with.

  2. Avatar of Clair Wain Clair Wain says:

    Dear Madeline

    I always enjoy reading your thoughtful and well-written posts. I am always delighted to read about opportunities for play the secondary school age children are able to encounter. Being an Early Childhood Teacher I whole-heartedly believe in the value of play.
    One of my favourite descriptions of play is from Friedrich Froebel and I believe highlights the importance of play through out our lives,

    “Play is the purest, most spiritual activity of man at this stage, and, at the same time, typical of human life as a whole – of the inner hidden natural life in man and all things. It gives us joy, freedom, contentment, inner and outer rest, peace with the world. It holds the sources of all that is good.” (Friedrich Froebel)

    Friedrich Wilhelm Froebel (1782-1852) was one of the influential pioneers in early childhood education. He was the first to embrace the learning that children engage in through their play and made it part of a child’s education. He set up the first kindergartens nearly 200 years ago. He was working before there were any theories about play in the modern sense. Froebel argued that play is the highest level of learning and is therefore the most spiritual activity of the child. By this he meant that children begin to understand themselves, others and the universe, and play is the organising mechanism through which this occurs.
    Play, he believed shows children applying what they can do and understand at the highest levels of which they are capable. Play makes it possible for very young children to think flexibly, to adapt what they know, try out different possibilities and to reach abstract levels of functioning in a way that is appropriate.
    Despite the ideas of Froebel being so old I think it is still revelant in today’s age.

    Looking forward to your next post


    • Avatar of coxm coxm says:

      What a tremendous comment – thank you for sharing your thoughts and the Froebel quotation. It’s essential to consider it “still relevant” as you say, and also as a powerful reminder of the enduring importance of play.

  3. How great is the switch between wanting to watch a movie and wanting to make a movie! Anyone who reads this post or watches you teach this could never argue that technology creates “screen-zombies”. These students are active learners who are demonstrating great thought, reflection, and humor. And I love that they made their own rules, which they are way more likely to follow than ones handed down from the teacher.
    Thanks for sharing!

  4. Avatar of Reiko (^_^) Reiko (^_^) says:

    Hi, Madeleine,
    Wow, your post! Students are lucky they have a teacher like you. I agree students in all age need an educational play time.

    My class??? I am trying. I have learned so many new things at the COETAIL this year — adapting my pace.

    You said — It is only near the end of this academic year that I really feel I’m starting to use the students’ blog posts in my classes. With more time to ‘play’ in class, the blog posts can exercise the important skills of reflection, presentation, inquiry and further investigation,  responding to the natural curiosity that the lesson hopefully has drawn upon.

    “Blog” is a new thing that I’ve started doing with my students this year, and we are/were not constantly doing it. I will try “students’ blogging” again next school year.

    Thanks for your great post. Have a good summer (^_^)

  5. WOW! Again, a great project and a nicely written post! Thank you for your comments on blogs and the link to Jeff Uttech post. It is important that blog post are not just a new form of homework. This article about accommodating vs transformative blogs in the classroom my also help you for next year. link to
    I wish you a great summer!

    • Avatar of coxm coxm says:

      Thank you for the link, Anne-Marie. I think we should connect our students’ blogs: perhaps Grade 10 has good potential, as I recall you responded to their digital tales project earlier in the year. I hope you too have a great summer and stay in touch next school year!

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