More Consideration of Video as Text

I have been curious about ways I can bring in the concept of “video as text” to my students other than “here’s the video” of the story we just read. That seems too passive, and with our new curriculum standards requiring our students to be critical consumers of media (across many platforms), I want to find more and varied ways of getting my students to experience video as an extension of their understanding of writing and composition. The other day, I wrote about using the site, What’s the Big Idea?, for work around the philosophical concepts of lying by using short film clips to complement our engaging discussions.

This week, as we introduce our student to literary concepts that will play a role this year (protagonist/antagonist, foreshadowing, conflict/resolution, setting, etc.), we begin with a read-aloud of Rudyard Kipling’s classic Rikki Tikki Tavi story. Normally, I read the story over a few days, engaging in discussions and then students write a response around a question. Then, after the writing, students get to watch the 1966 (!) television version of the story.

This year, my co-teacher and I decided to try something a little different. In thinking of video as a potential text, we read the story up until a dramatic stopping point. Yesterday, instead of continuing to read the story, we had our students watch the video. We did this for a number of reasons: it reminded all of the students about the story so far (including those who were absent) and it required a deep listening and viewing skill as the story drew to its dramatic close. We scaffolded our graphic organizer, and they took notes as they watched, and last night, their task was to write a paragraph response.

That doesn’t seem like a dramatic shift for thinking of video as text, and yet, it is. The visual was the story, and I’ll be curious to hear their responses to conversations today about how they felt about using the video, and how it was different than us reading the story to them (and how it would have been even more different if they had been given the story on paper to read quietly). That kind of critical analysis is important, particularly if we extend those ideas for the videos they watch online (who is producing it and why? what techniques to you see?), commercial and political advertisements (close reading skills of video), and more.

In fact, we’re starting a digital storytelling project today – our Dream Scenes project — where their “text” will be a video, and so we’ll be moving from them being the consumers of the video as text to the creators of video as text, and you can be sure we’ll be reminding them of connections to the Rikki Tikki Tavi experience. And we will be visiting this theme all year in writing/reading class. It’s an important skill and awareness that all of us should be developing with our students, in this very visual age.

Peace (in the vid),

PS — I highly recommend following the work of Frank Baker, who often writes at Edutopia about media education. His Media Literacy Clearinghouse is a wealth of information.

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