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Using camera shots to improve literacy

Watch Literacy Advisor Chris Whitney and teacher Robin McHugh discuss the work around relating camera shots to literacy.
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Chris Whitney: I think working with a text and transposing that into film has great benefits for children for their reading comprehension. One of the skills that children need to develop is visualisation, and so taking a piece of text, for example there is a scene in the story that I’m thinking of where Grandad takes the hand of a little boy as they walk along.
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And one student said to me: “That would be really good to take a close up of the two hands together.” So it’s an excellent task to do to start with text and to ask the children to visualise what camera shots or angles or movements would be used. Across the curriculum and particularly in science it is very useful for children to make their own films. So let’s start by watching a short film of an experiment or a set of instructions and really looking closely at the type of camera shots used.
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If you want to film “how to make a birdseed feeder” or “how to” follow any set of instructions, the first thing that children will need to know is that not everything is going to be shot with a long shot or looking way into the distance or else you won’t see anything, the equipment that has got to be used. Equally, if everything is shot just in close-up all you will ever see is the detail of what is made up, perhaps not the finished product or how it is used.
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So we start by watching film and analysing it and looking at the shots and then learning from those and going out and using a variety of different shots to tell the story of the experiment or the set of instructions. If we read and analyse film it seems inconceivable that we wouldn’t go on to be making film then, to show children that the skills that they have discovered in reading and analysing film are used, flipside up when they come to do their filmmaking. And when they do their filmmaking those particular skills, they will be able to see the reverse of those the next time they come to watch film.

Before we start creating our five-shot films, and now that we understand a little more about camera shots, it’s a good time to consider how we can use them for improving literacy.

In the video above, literacy advisor Chris Whitney discusses how she has engaged her pupils in relating camera shots to the literacy curriculum.

After viewing film sequences, Chris explores how pupils can be encouraged to turn these into prompts for creative writing, as well as ‘picturing’ words as shots when reading. Analysing film sequences and their shots, camerawork, sound, lighting and mise-en-scène (props, costumes, settings etc) can have a powerful effect on pupils’ vocabulary, descriptive writing and ability to deduce and infer.

How could you use these techniques with your students?

Would you change the approach to suit your cohort and their unique learning environment?

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