Thursday, December 9, 2010

Integrating Film into English Education

As many of the books for our class claim, and I totally agree, is that film study is typically used in English courses as a "day off" or another tool to use once in a while. This is an extremely aggravating sentiment, especially when my goal in the secondary education world is to ultimately teach film study/production courses or at least incorporate film study into the English curriculum. As I was reading John Golden's book entitled Reading in the Dark: Using Film as a Tool in the English Classroom, I stumbled upon a genus rational for the integration of film in English and literature education. The author explains that when he taught a senior level English course, he had a 5 week unit of film study in the curriculum. After the 5 weeks were over and he returned to teaching literature, he says:
"...What I really noticed was that when we turned to a novel in the next unit, my students seemed to be much more willing to critique and analyze that written work than they had before the film unit. On the next year's guinea pigs, I tested this theory further by moving that unit up earlier into our school year. I discovered that it was not just students' analytical skills that improved: it was also their reading skills. Now, they didn't know that, and I certainly didn't tell them, but it was true: the watching and analyzing of movies seemed to greatly affect their ability to read and critique literature."
Film analysis forces students' brains to look at literature differently: more analytically, more rhetorically.
Therefore, when I see that teachers define literacy and solely regarding written literature, it is extremely upsetting for me. Literacy, especially for this new generation, not only involves written literature, but involves film, media and any visual literature. Film and other visual mediums are a language needed to be understood and analyzed, just like written literature.
Furthermore, the artistic choices that an author makes while writing literature regarding words to emphasize certain aspects of the narrative, is the same way that filmmakers make artistic choices using visuals to emphasize aspects of the narrative.
Because of this relationship, I feel that a film adaptation unit would be extremely imperative and useful within literature education.
I think that Romeo and Juliet is an excellent text that can be used to educate students regarding literature and film adaptation.
Here would be an example lesson plan for this unit:
1. Introduce Romeo and Juliet- the history, significance, background, etc.
2. Introduce artistic choices that authors make while writing:
Meter (Iambic pentameter specifically used for Romeo and Juliet).
Figures of Speech:
Rhymes and rhyme schemes
Tropes: Irony, Synechdoche, Paradox, Oxymoron
3. Diction/register: choice of words
3. Read through the first act of Romeo and Juliet together as a class, looking for these artistic choices within the writing.
4. Introduce artistic choices that filmmakers make during production:
1. Shot choice:
Extreme Long shot, medium shot, close-up, extreme close-up
2. Camera movement: (Cinematography)
Stationary, pan, tilt, dolly, truck, hand-held, tracking
3. Focus: (Photography)
Wide angle, long angle, deep focus
4. Editing: (Post Production)
How long to hold a shot, transitions, juxtapositions, what the cut explains
5. Acting:
How the actors/actresses deliver the lines
6. Music:
How the music emphasizes emotion: scary, happy, sad, romantic, etc.

5. Watch the equivalence of the first act of Baz Luhrman's adaptation of Romeo and Juliet- stopping once in a while to discuss the visual techniques how they emphasize aspects of the narrative.

Homework assignment:
The students, in groups, will create their own adaptations of a scene from Romeo and Juliet (The teacher will decide which scene- every group will produce the same scene).
Assign a theme to every group in which their adaptation has to abide by:
Western, Science Fiction, Fantasy, Infants, Elderly, Soap Opera, Reality TV.
The students have a choice to make their adaptation as a digital comic, a digital film using Imovie, or using voicethread- images with voice-over.

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