Sunday, May 5, 2013

Romeo and Juliet

Here you will find a humorous 4 minute summary of Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet made using some animation software called "Videoscribe" from Sparkol.
This software is available as a free trial and provides an easy-to-use interface for the creation of multimedia content.
Not only does this video teach you about Romeo and Juliet, but it should inspire you to think about how your students could use this (or a similar tool like Prezi) to create multimedia.

This was created by myself and fellow teacher Zach Jones.

You can go directly to the video at YouTube HERE, or click the play button in the embedded video below.

This is a demonstration of the kind of text that a Year 10 Advanced English Class will need to produce as an assessment task. The assessment task would require students to combine knowledge of their chosen text, critical analysis and digital textual creation skills, specifically with a direction to compare texts with similar themes or motifs.

The analytical skills developed throughout this task and the teaching sequence leading up to it will begin to scaffold students towards the level of text analysis required in years 11 and 12. 

The assessment task will ask students to create a plot summary of a written text of their choice, highlighting major themes or plot features. This could be recorded as a voice-over, and accompanied by images highlighting popular texts (movie, T.V. show, graphic novel etc) that share the identified plot devices or themes. The video will be composed using VideoScribe, and should be between 3 and 4 minutes long. Through this task students will achieve a number of the outcomes in the NSW 2012 English Syllabus: Outcome 1 (EN5-1A), as they compose an informative text through digital media that draws upon both written and visual texts. Students will also achieve Outcome 2 (EN5-2A), combining a range of skills and processes to respond to texts and compose their own digital text.

Teaching Sequence
This assessment will occur at the end of a unit in which students study John Boyne's 'The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas', and the film 'Rabbit-Proof Fence' through the theme of barriers. This will have given the students an understanding of the principles of intertextuality and analysis. The teaching sequence leading up to the issuing of this task will begin with showing the class a short video (for example the Tropfest 2011 finalist, 'Missing Her', available on Youtube). The teacher would then facilitate a class discussion in which students highlight the major plot devices and themes of this video. A mindmap could link these plot devices and themes to other texts the students suggest that utilise the same devices:

 (created using Mindmeister software).

This in-class activity will scaffold students into the assessment task, familiarising them with the identification of major themes and plot devices, and how these can be linked to similar popular texts.

At this point in the lesson, the demonstration video will be shown to students, modelling the type of text they will be required to create. The video will be explained by the teacher, especially highlighting the use of particular techniques (such as transitions and sound effects), in order to convey an understanding of the digital textual creation skills that can be utilised to convey an engaging message. An explanation of the task, and class discussion answering any questions will follow. A lesson will then be devoted to familiarising students with the digital tools necessary for the completion of this task, prior to work on the task itself. It is assumed that the school has purchased a license for VideoScribe, which the students can log on to and use the software. If this is unavailable, Prezi software is available for free, and could be used to develop a comparable product. Students will be advised that several programs will need to be used in combination to achieve the desired effect. The demonstration text used Audacity (for sound recording), Garageband (for editing and foley) and VideoScribe (trial version), with images and royalty-free sound clips sourced online, and tropes researched through sites like the excellent

This type of digital text offers a number of affordances, including engagement, and the capacity to highlight relations between voice and images without specifically explaining them. One benefit of this text type in the context of the task assigned to students is that it requires the use of several different ICT tools to create a single product. This combination of ICT tools, text analysis and the comparison of texts required in this task make for a rich learning experience, engaging higher order thinking skills such as analysis, synthesis and creation, as identified in Bloom's revised taxonomy. This task will scaffold students towards the higher levels of text analysis, comparison, and contrast required in stage 6 English. The demonstration text highlights the intertextuality that forms a core component of this task, and this will be explained to students in the teaching sequence. Students are not only able, but are required to employ this rhetorical device, combining images from visual texts with a voice recording, detailing the major plot devices and themes of a written text. They will learn to identify the common themes that run through many works, even in different genres. Romeo and Juliet, for instance, evokes West Side Story, The Notebook, Boy Meets Girl, Avatar, The Godfather, and many others (feuding families, forbidden love, secret marriage, etc). If the text chosen matches the archetype of the Hero’s Journey, reference could be made to Joseph Campbell’s TheHero of a Thousand Faces, and its identification of tropes seen in Star Wars, The Matrix and so on (The chosen one, the sage, the refusal of the quest, etc).

The demonstration text also highlights the useful use of humour in creating an engaging narrative. Similarly, the combination of written, visual and oral/aural texts required in this task, cater to a variety of learning preferences in students. Students will not be specifically informed of this affordance, but will benefit from it regardless as they complete the task, and, to a lesser extent, simply in viewing the demonstration text itself.

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