Wednesday, January 23, 2008

thou Hamlet of a most plain English

Sorry for my bossiness, but watch this before you go any further:

Yes, their script included the word 'bonked'. Humor, as it turns out, is all about timing, not all the time. That's one reason why this video works and can serve as:
  • a model for future classes doing the same project
  • a useful demonstration of student comprehension and analysis
  • a product that other students could use in their study of Hamlet
Many props to Mr. Marcinek for his willingness to try a totally new project! The concept, quite obviously, was "ripped from the headlines" (thank you, Lee LeFever).

Below is the process, pulled directly from the assignment sheet. Beneath each step, I have added some observations and commentary.

1 – Select a theme. We have discussed many different themes threaded throughout Hamlet. Your job is to select one and propose your initial idea to me.
  • Once they share their idea with the teacher, have students make their proposals to the class. Allow for fecund discussions to develop. Everyone loves fecund discussions.
  • Don't shy away from asking probing questions. If they 'want that theme', make them earn it. Think 'inquisition', but Elizabethan style. Don't forget your codpiece.
1.a (I'm adding this step): You must talk about audience. You must tell them over and over that they are creating something for others. Video projects have a tendency to regress to cryptic jokes in the yearbook - 'MR ate the BM with the OO while JS got MCD...laughin' always' - and five people 'get it'. 'Audience' is, in truth, quite a new word for them. They've really only created for you, and they have this thing (many of them) about not caring too much about you. Tell them students in Dubai are waiting to see these videos for use in their study of Hamlet. If possible, make that statement truth before you employ it.

2 – Gather at least five textual examples that represent this theme. I want to see act, scene and line numbers.
  • Don't just see act, scene, and line numbers, hear them. Let them use their sonorous voices to demonstrate the strength of their textual support. Demand the use of iambic pentameter. Sonnets are acceptable as well.
3 – Once you have gathered the textual evidence, you will organize it into an outline which will eventually be translated into a story board.
  • Don't move on to Step 4 without having the students use their mellifluous voices to once again hammer home their deep understanding of not only theme, but how the selected actions from the play support chosen theme. Use appropriate background music to enhance their defense.
4 – Create a story board which will serve as the blueprint for the film. Provide pictures with the script for each storyboard scene. The storyboard must be approved before you begin filming.
  • This is the money-step; the one all about writing, clarity, organization, and any other word that you think once thought had to be jettisoned during a multi-media, tech-infused project. These words are not flotsam; they're the project and the reason you assigned it in the first place. You were looking for a new way to engage students without having to sacrifice a valuable skill set worth refining.
  • DO NOT, I repeat, DO NOT give students cameras until they satiate your deep-seeded desire to see absolute clarity in their story boards. This is the most important part of the entire project. This is the project. I've said it before and I'll say it again, they're not Scorsese's, but they are students working on a skill-set heavily loaded with words like 'communication', 'organization', and 'focus'. As Hamlet once "said":
The storyboard's the thing wherein I'll catch the essence of this theme.
5 – After your story board is created you will begin to gather or create elements to use for the film. Keep in mind that you are utilizing the blue print of a Common Craft video in order to convey your theme simply. You may use a variety of options here.
  • "Simple is difficult". True to that. If the goal is to convey a theme in a simplistic fashion, dissuade students from complicating the real point in all of this - synthesis - by forbidding Flash, Photoshop, and other whiz-bangery - especially when THEY DON'T KNOW HOW TO USE THEM!
  • Use I-Movie or MovieMaker, but keep it consistent. MovieMaker is open source, so I'm a big fan of it, and I own an Apple!
  • Have a storage system in your classroom so students can keep their props in a central, attendance-blind location.
6 – Once all of the aforementioned tasks are completed, begin filming. Filming should take one class block. Film in sequential order to expedite the editing process.
  • One class block. That's it. If you hammer them (with love) during steps 1-4, then one block is all they'll need. We have 90 minute classes over here, so if you're not "on the block", do the math.
  • They'll need some tripods. The video above still cries for one.
  • Hover, help, and hound them while they are filming. Keep a constant vigil over them as they shoot their video. Ask questions, like, "Can you show me on your story board what you are filming right now?" and "How are you insuring that your product will resonate with a global audience in their study of this play?"
  • SAVING: If you use MovieMaker, you're going to want to do a couple things:
    1. Film takes up a lot of server space, so it may be better to save to: an external hard drive, a 4GB (minimum) jump drive, or the desktop. If you save to the desktop, keep in mind that if every student has a unique log-in, then you'll need that same student to log-in the next day...on the same computer.
    2. Presuming students want to include copyright-friendly music, these audio files will need to be saved in the same location as your footage. In a nutshell, MovieMaker doesn't really save anything to itself; it just looks for the files on the computer when you open the program. With our network configuration, if Benito Dingus saved the MovieMaker file to the desktop on Monday and Wanda Warthog logged on to the same computer on Tuesday, the file would not be accessible. Open source isn't perfect. No network is perfect.
7 – The final stage will be editing and voice-over recording.
  • This project requires a voice-over and as noted in #6, some students may want music. If they want both, they are going to need a program like Audacity to compress both tracks down to one. MovieMaker only supports one audio track.
8 – When filming is finished we will have an in-class screening of the films. Other classes will see them.
  • Classes in Dubai.


Unknown said...

I am honored! Well done Ken! I especially love the link to my much acclaimed movie, "Bearded Teacher". I was robbed of an Oscar nomination that year for Best actor! Moving on, I like the additional bullets you included!! Very helpful for future productions of this very fun and engaging assignments!

I think linking up with another school in Dubai, Bangalore or Pennsylvania, would be a great idea! Thomas Friedman would surely agree!!! Two teachers could establish a lesson, a reading timeline and a wiki in which both classes could communicate and comment about their nightly Hamlet reading.

Students could be paired up in groups and create discussions about the readings. The final project would be a video like the one Ken posted from my English 12 Honors class. Students could dump their videos on the Wiki and have a screening of all the films, an award show for excellence in specific, predetermined categories and really enjoy reading Hamlet! William Shakespeare would be proud of how far we have come since the ink and the quill!

Huh....The world really is flat! I think tomorrow I am going to knock down the walls in my classroom - pending they are not load bearing - and welcome in anyone who wishes to coordinate this classrooms for the future project!

alytapp said...

This is fantastic. I am a tech coach in PA, and I am sharing this with our entire English department. I especially appreciate the focus on content and script. This brings it all together.

Ian said...

Very nice. I don't think any techno-naysayer could dispute the fact that there was a lot of analysis and evaluation going on there.

Bravo! Lee could not have done it any better.