For the last two weeks I have been working on a digital story telling project with my 3rd grade classes, 6 or them to be exact. While this project wasn’t difficult to pull off or plan, I did think that writing about it in the context of the elementary classroom and the es student might be beneficial to some. This post and the next few subsequest posts will be my reflection on the process of digital story telling using green screening, the successes, the parts that failed, the preparation, the details I got right, and the ones I overlooked. I hope your next project goes a little smoother after reading these posts.
Ok, so this project is the direct brain child of Jason Ohler who visited SAS earlier this year and presented to our ES staff about the power of storytelling and showed examples of story telling and greens creening that he has used in the past. One of our ES teachers, 3LH, is doing her Masters thesis around digital storytelling and this oroject was part of her final research if you will. Being that I had not done a large, grade level-wide green screen project like this before I happily jumped at the opportunity.
Its all about the Preparation…
The movie is the story. The story drives the whole project. In our first team planning meetings we discussed what the story was going to be about and what the writing was going to focus on. It was decided that this would be the culmination of the grade 3 realistic fiction unit and so the stories would be based one of the students’ pieces of writing in this area. With that in mind we set forth to try and best guess a suitable timeline for kids to finish writing pieces, illustrate their sets (background images), digitize these, film students in front of the green screen, pull all the pieces into iMovie, edit the film and do the actual green screening, and export and post the movie to their student blogs. Scheduling can often be the first hurdle you will come upon when trying to pull off a project like this. Don’t let it side track you.
Green screening with a class is logistically heavy including organizing lab space, scheduling your technology resource facilitator (TRF) if you have them, computer labs, laptop carts (if you have them), more time with your TRF, iMovie editing, student filming make-ups…The list can seem daunting. Take it piece by piece and forget about focusing on the whole project right now.
First, start by figuring out how long your filming will take and what pieces your students need to have completed when filming starts. For us, we guessed at part of this having not done it before and we erred on the side of caution and overbooked time for filming not sure how long it would take. For 18 students we booked two double time slot of class (basically two 40 minute time slots).
Second, We also made sure that by the time students were set out record that their stories had been written and rehearsed. A few of the teachers had kids memorize their pieces, others were content to have kids hold papers or notes and use them as references while being filmed. This ultimately is up to you the teacher to decide, but decide and stick with your decision from the start. Personally, I felt like the classes that had kids memorize their stories, even though their stories were shorter than other classes (but in no means of lesser quality) had better, more polished looking, movies in the end.
Third, We also had student do the drawings that would serve as their backgrounds before filming started. This served three purposes, one, it got this part of the project out of the way, and two, it gave kids some visual guide on which to read their story and act out their story if they chose to do so, and finally, it got the kids to visualize and get what is in their head as imagination down on paper and allowed them to see if what their perception of setting was, worked with their story. And remember…IT IS ALL ABOUT THE STORY. NEVER LET THIS BE ABOUT MOVIE MAKING, GREEN SCREENS, COMPUTERS, OR SOFTWARE. In fact, if your do your planning the technology should play in the background of the project like the kids illustrations of their stories.