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Sunday, December 7, 2014

Mini-Documentary Project for High School

The past week I've been working with Melinda Newcombe, an ELA teacher at our high school. She teaches the Communications and the Media class and we decided this year to do a mini-documentary project.

Eventually students will be making short documentaries or informative videos about something in our school. More than just retelling facts, we are requiring them to tell it through a story or at least to include a story in the video.

We hope this generates a few segments we can use in our regular video announcements. I helped kick things off with a few thoughts and examples in a presentation. I also created some worksheets to aid students in planning. We are still working through the project, so I'll add notes, examples and other resources as they come.

Resources we used are below, but I want to point out first what a huge help the Stillmotion videos on storytelling have been. I used them last year in a similar unit I posted about. I refined that lesson and have used the Stillmotion videos slightly differently, but their information was foundational in our approach.

This is the presentation I used as an introduction. It mostly served to show a few clips of informative videos in different styles. The first is a video I created for our district several years ago when I was completing my master's degree. It was good for catching our students' attention with scenes familiar to most of them. The other videos are more well known, but in all cases I'm sure you could find any number of excellent clips online that will suit your needs.

Note that we are encouraging students to find a story, not just to retell some information. The description of a story (a character who wants something and overcomes conflict to get it) comes from Donald Miller's books A Million Miles in a Thousand Years and Storyline. I wrote about those ideas at length here.

Students formed groups of three or four and they used this worksheet to review the ideas and plan their videos.
     Documentary Worksheet 1

Then we showed this second video from Stillmotion. I love how the use of keywords can sharpen the focus. This worksheet followed.
     Documentary Worksheet 2

I also created this short video as an example. I was pressed for time last week, so it's rough. That's fine because it gave us something to evaluate. Most importantly, it shows realistically what we can accomplish with technology available to our students.


We will be using this planning worksheet in the upcoming week. 

Note that this refers to some different options for technology, such as Movie Maker or iMovie on an iPad. We have some laptops available for students, but some prefer to use their own devices. This requires us to keep an open-ended approach to the technology. This, along with the infinite options for documentary topics, is a stretch for both of us teachers involved!

As I said, more details, examples and resources will come as we finish up this fun unit.

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