I found Jamie Keddie’s seminar on Videotelling really interesting, and not unlike some activities I’ve previously done with EFL learners when using video in the classroom. I particularly liked the storytelling aspect to Jamie’s lessons (and am a big enthusiast for the value of stories and the art of storytelling). There was something though, that when watching Jamie’s demonstrations, didn’t feel quite right. I try to explain it here:
This thought process took me from Videotelling to Videotalking, and so in creating my own lesson this sharing element – with more acceptance of what learners have to contribute – was more what I had in mind than just ‘telling’.
I used a short animated film called Rew Day by a Bulgarian film maker, Svilen Dimitrov. I chose it for several reasons:
- I think it’s a beautiful piece of animation
- I like that it starts at the end and that most of the story is told in reverse – a fact which I think offers opportunities for discussion with higher level learners about how we view time and reflect on our experiences
- I like the contrast in mood between the beginning and end of the story
- I liked the challenge it presented in terms of planning, by having almost no words, but also the scope this affords learners for writing their own narration or script to accompany the story
- The fact that it’s animated inspired me to include learners’ own visualisation and drawing as part of a lesson plan
- Although they should be treated with the utmost care, I think the subjects that arise in the film (the unexpected; optimism; death) are engaging and something that most people can relate to.
A further note about this: I think we should approach difficult or taboo subject matters with the greatest sensitivity, if need be asking learners directly whether they’re comfortable discussing certain topics. But I don’t think we should entirely avoid these topics in the classroom. (See The Parsnip Lessons for more on this). If I’m honest, part of what appealed to me about this short film was it’s personal relevance to me at the moment (at school we recently learned of the sudden and unexpected death of a colleague and friend). While this shouldn’t be one’s aim in a lesson, it is no less true that if approached with sensitivity, exploring such issues through other mediums can be restorative for learners, and perhaps more engaging as a result. (Anyway, I digress – or dig a little deeper, perhaps)
Here’s the video, followed an outline of what I might do with it in the classroom. It’s important to me that the outline (or plan) maintain flexibility, in that dogm-ish way that is responsive to learners and the context.
In writing the outline it struck me that this is the sort of lesson that needs to develop through practice – that is to say the direction in which it goes, what happens in the classroom, and what the language focus ends up being, is entirely dependent on the context.
I didn’t create this with a particular group of learners in mind, but do plan to try it out in the next few weeks. As such, what personalised discussion arises (e.g. on the topic of chance;luck;death) will depend on what the learners express interest in. For this reason, I haven’t planned or scripted this part of the lesson.
Similarly, I’ve chosen not to plan specific timings for each stage of the lesson. While I have rough ideas of how long each stage could take, with the knowledge that I have enough material and options to choose from in the classroom, and the built in flexibility in terms of the shape the lesson ends up forming, it seemed futile to allocate specific timings to each stage.
If I feel it appropriate, I really hope to try this out with a group in the coming weeks.