print ad for Nike shoes, she prompts
her students with the questions: “What
do you think ‘a little less gravity’
means? Who’s the target audience?”
Her students are represented by
the small icons located to the left and
right of the embedded Nike ad. Stu-
dents respond to their teacher’s ques-
tion by recording a video or audio clip
or by typing an answer. In addition,
they can use a stylus to highlight or
circle a word or image. Their teacher
calls Voice Thread a “fabulous tool”
to engage students in higher-order
Today, students can build advertisements in print and nonprint formats.
They can create magazine ads, web
banner ads, and scripts for radio or
television, just to name a few platforms. Video is a medium that most
young people are comfortable with,
so getting students engaged in writing
for video is an important first step in
the media-production process.
Digital natives have more software
and apps than ever before to produce,
edit, and distribute their stories. With
the advent of You Tube, Teacher Tube,
and the like, even more venues exist
for uploading and sharing media productions. And virtually every computer and tablet includes media-making
and editing software.
In New York City, a group of fourth
graders, working with a media edu-
cation consultant, created a global
warming public service announce-
ment (PSA). In the video they up-
loaded to the Media Spot website, they
explained in great detail all of the steps
they took before shooting their PSA.
We see the students using the internet
to do their research, locating appropri-
ate images, writing a script, creating
storyboards, filming, and then editing.
The credits to this production list all of
the resources they used, including ap-
propriate copyright acknowledgments.
Movies and the Language of Film
Our students love the movies, whether
they are watching them or making
them. Hundreds of apps and software
programs exist for students to use
when making productions using their
cell phones or tablets. Creating scripts
and storyboards and recording sound
and music are easier than ever.
There is one element of filmmaking
that most students don’t fully appreciate, but it is worth exploring with your
students: the languages of film. As I define them, these are the tools and techniques filmmakers use to tell a story:
cameras, lighting, audio and music,
set design, post production (editing),
and actors (costume, makeup, body
language, and expressions).
Studying the language of film meets
the following Common Core State
Standards in English language arts:
• Compare and contrast a story, drama,
or poem to its audio, filmed, staged,
or multimedia version, analyzing the
effects of techniques unique to each
medium (lighting, sound, color, or
camera focus and angles in a film).
• Analyze the extent to which a filmed
or live production of a story or drama
stays faithful to or departs from the
text or script, evaluating the choices
made by the director or actors.
Teaching the Languages of Film
When you ask students to recall a
scene from a favorite film, invariably
they will refer to an actor’s performance, the plot, or the music.
I recently created a list of DVDs with
extra features that teachers could use
to teach the languages of film. The list
is divided by specific language of film.
The extra “Behind Hogwarts:
Dumbledore’s Office” on the DVD
Harry Potter and the Chamber of
Secrets explores set direction. You
can explore costumes in “The Costumes Are the Set” on the DVD Bram
Stoker’s Dracula Collectors Edition or
explore editing in the interactive feature on the DVD Harry Potter and the
Order of the Phoenix. Students can edit
a scene from the film and choose from
a number of sound effects and music
options. (Find the full list at www.
Media literacy is an important subject
area if students are to be prepared for
the future. Perhaps the Common Core
State Standards say it best: “To be ready
for college, workforce training, and life
in a technological society, students need
the ability to gather, comprehend, evaluate, synthesize, and report on information and ideas; to conduct original
research in order to answer questions or
solve problems; and to analyze and create a high volume and extensive range
of print and nonprint texts in media
forms old and new.”
—Frank W. Baker is the author of three books, including his most recent, Media Literacy in the K– 12
Classroom (ISTE, 2012). He also maintains the
nationally recognized Media Literacy Clearinghouse
website and conducts media literacy workshops at
schools and districts across the United States.