Tuesday, November 26, 2013

First Green Screen Production: Echo and Narcissus

The students act with a child's 8.5 X 11 drawing serving
as the backdrop
Last year, with a few left over dollars in the year's materials' budget, the principal allowed us to order some new and different supplies including a stand-up table, stools, bean bag chairs, and a green screen. The cutting-edge teacher next door did a lot of the research and identified the tools. Similar to the great tech and teaching strategies she implements, I kept an eye on her efforts last spring and this fall, and now I'm starting to employ some of the new tools, starting with the green screen.

This is the book used. 
During parent conferences I thought a lot about children's needs as parents spoke. In response to the needs, I created a number of reading groups including a project/research book group, a literature group, and a play group.  The play group spent a few weeks reading, discussing, staging, and practicing the Greek myth, Echo and Narcissus. As part of that preparation, I read the whole class a number of versions of the myth so we could discuss the many ways that the story and characters were depicted. Since all of our versions likened beauty to "blond-light-skinned beauty," the readings also led us into a discussion about the cultural relativity of "beauty," and the fact that all cultures have notions of beauty, and that "beauty" is not limited to the way it is described in this myth, a myth that grew out of a light skinned culture. During the year we'll continue to read folk tales and myths from many cultures, and I will continue to revisit that theme among others.

This is the kind of green screen set-up we used. We
did not use the lights this time. 
Once students understood the characters, setting, and story well, they began prepping for the play. Since our room is set up for the upcoming culture presentation, it dawned on me that the neighbor's green screen would provide a good background for the woodsy scene, and better yet if I asked one of the students to draw a background, we could produce a green screen version with the child's beautiful drawing. Hence, yesterday, in front of a few class members, the play group performed in front of the green screen. Then last night I put the pieces together, crafted the film, and sent it out to the play group with a lot of compliments and some further practice tips as they prepare for Wednesday's live performance for a third grade class.

I'm sure this first green screen production won't be our last as we all have more to learn such as where to stand, how to refine the green screen tech and use of the lights, what to wear, voice volume/speed, and staging. Many of the children, not in this group, expressed a desire to do a similar production so I'm sure this play won't be our last. The green screen production was one engaging way to meet many new/old standards, build team, practice fluency, apply comprehension, and create. There are so many ways today to both teach and engage students, and this is one example.

Note: Please know that a production like this in a large class is not a simple affair--it's "messy" learning with lots of noise, movement, redirection, and discussion.  Good learning sometimes looks and acts that way.