The Weather Movie: How Two Songs Inspired Teens in Poland to Create a Stop-Motion Video

When I moved house and changed jobs in August 2016, I had no idea the school year of 2016/2017 would become one of the most rewarding ones . Nor did I know I would meet four amazing teens who would inspire me to create the first stop- motion video in my EFL teaching career ever.

I  have been a life-long fan of movies. I love the YouTube series Everything Wrong With… and Honest Trailers, and I have taken the Filmmaking and Animation in the Classroom course on the FutureLearn platform. I have also been a keen and enthusiastic follower of Kieran Donaghy’s Film English blog for several years and I was lucky enough to have acquired Kieran’s book Film in Action during the Image Conference in Malta in October 2016. Thus, when I got a job as an EFL instructor at the Youth Cultural Center no. 1 in Poznan, Poland, and I was given complete freedom in curriculum development, I instantly decided one of my courses would be called “Movie English”. I was sure I could create an interesting alternative to “ordinary” English classes.

Two of my students, Zosia and Magda, enrolled for both Movie English and a regular course I was also teaching, so it was easy to build on their knowledge and skills and use these skills across the two courses.

Initially, our English Club, a group of 5 teens, joined an eTwinning weather-related project with two great colleagues I had known and collaborated with previously: Mrs. Maria Panou, an EFL teacher from Greece, and Mrs. Olena Kononenko, an EFL teacher from Ukraine. Several other European schools were involved, too. For those not familiar with eTwinning, it is a community for schools in Europe which offers a platform for teachers to collaborate, share, and develop attractive international projects.

The weather project participants agreed on and pre-planned the tasks, and then I introduced my students to the whole initiative. Sadly, after a week, we received an email from our National Agency telling us that Youth Cultural Centers were not entitled to take part in eTwinning projects, and our institution was banned from the one we had enthusiastically started. Nonetheless, I decided to adopt certain elements of the weather project into our Movie English course.

One aspect of the weather project was “music and songs inspired by the atmospheric conditions”. I chose two: Riders on the Storm and Here Comes the Sun. It was quite surprising to find out my students had never heard them before, though after a while some of them confessed Here Comes the Sun sounded vaguely familiar.

Initially, we examined the feelings and emotions that the two songs evoked, and we discussed whether the lyrics matched the tunes. Afterwards, the students were asked to write a short story whose initial scene would be illustrated with the gloomy song and the closing scene with the optimistic tune.

They came up with the following script, also quoted on their blog:

A family (father, mother, a 16-year-old daughter) are going somewhere by car. There’s a storm. It is raining and it’s very windy. Suddenly, the father loses control of the car and it rolls over. The parents die. The daughter survives. A boy who is the same age as the daughter, and who’s been walking his dog, sees the accident and helps the girl. He calls the emergency, and it transports the girl to hospital. After some time, the teenager visits her in the hospital. She is really grateful. He also brings her some sweets and a small pillow that he found near the accident scene. As it turns out, it’s her favorite pillow. There are some more visits in the hospital, the two fall in love, and when she is finally able to get up, they go to the hospital park. As they are walking, we can hear “Here Comes the Sun”.  

Whether I viewed it as very original was not the point. What I wanted my students to do was to have fun, acquire knowledge, and improve their English.

We already had a story, but the students still needed to learn how to practically transform it into a short video. During a couple of following classes, they researched and discussed the filmmaking industry, the Academy Awards, movie-making techniques, shot sizes, camera angles and other technicalities.

Then came the time for creating the storyboard (using the Filmmaking course template), where all the theory was put into practice.

The students decided the first scene was to be a wide shot and high angle for setting up the scene; the next one – a low angle for the car in the storm; the following one – a mid- shot for the phone call; then, a top shot for the emergency vehicles, followed by a medium long shot in the hospital and a long-to-extreme long shot for the final scene in the park. This plan was obviously modified in the process, but we had a firm basis to build on.

We gathered a selection of Playmobil figurines, toy cars, and other props, and we started experimenting with the camera, tripod, and light. It took the group four months in total (excluding the Easter holiday and some other breaks) to arrange the scenes, shoot the photos, edit the movie, and give it the final touch before putting it online. The story-creating, script-writing, and shooting was done by everyone: Zosia Matusiak, Magda Mołoń, Dawid Stryszyk, and Wiktor Kossowski (when he was present, Piotr Jankiewicz actively contributed, too). Dawid turned out to be the most patient, industrious, and creative editor, and Zosia studied music hard to play the guitar in the final scene.

The final product, our Weather Movie, can be viewed here, and the details of the project are displayed on their blog, Youth Cultural Center English Club Blog.

I would hereby like to thank the awesome team of teens who helped me try out something new in my EFL teaching career and, once again, proved to me that movies are one of the best and most inspiring EFL teaching media, whether viewed or created.

Magdalena Brzezinska is a graduate from Adam Mickiewicz University in Poznan, Poland, with a degree in English Philology; EFL teacher and teacher trainer; sworn legal translator; certified art therapist. She used to be a Community TA and Mentor, e.g. for MoMA’s Art and Inquiry course. In her free time, she organizes international projects featuring participants’ artwork and literature.

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The Weather Movie: How Two Songs Inspired Teens in Poland to Create a Stop-Motion Video By Magdalena Brzezińska

When I moved house and changed jobs in August 2016, I had no idea the school year of 2016/2017 would become one of the most rewarding ones . Nor did I know I would meet four amazing teens who would inspire me to create the first stop- motion video in my EFL teaching career ever.

I  have been a life-long fan of movies. I love the YouTube series Everything Wrong With… and Honest Trailers, and I have taken the Filmmaking and Animation in the Classroom course on the FutureLearn platform. I have also been a keen and enthusiastic follower of Kieran Donaghy’s Film English blog for several years and I was lucky enough to have acquired Kieran’s book Film in Action during the Image Conference in Malta in October 2016. Thus, when I got a job as an EFL instructor at the Youth Cultural Center no. 1 in Poznan, Poland, and I was given complete freedom in curriculum development, I instantly decided one of my courses would be called “Movie English”. I was sure I could create an interesting alternative to “ordinary” English classes.

Two of my students, Zosia and Magda, enrolled for both Movie English and a regular course I was also teaching, so it was easy to build on their knowledge and skills and use these skills across the two courses.

Initially, our English Club, a group of 5 teens, joined an eTwinning weather-related project with two great colleagues I had known and collaborated with previously: Mrs. Maria Panou, an EFL teacher from Greece, and Mrs. Olena Kononenko, an EFL teacher from Ukraine. Several other European schools were involved, too. For those not familiar with eTwinning, it is a community for schools in Europe which offers a platform for teachers to collaborate, share, and develop attractive international projects.

The weather project participants agreed on and pre-planned the tasks, and then I introduced my students to the whole initiative. Sadly, after a week, we received an email from our National Agency telling us that Youth Cultural Centers were not entitled to take part in eTwinning projects, and our institution was banned from the one we had enthusiastically started. Nonetheless, I decided to adopt certain elements of the weather project into our Movie English course.

One aspect of the weather project was “music and songs inspired by the atmospheric conditions”. I chose two: Riders on the Storm and Here Comes the Sun. It was quite surprising to find out my students had never heard them before, though after a while some of them confessed Here Comes the Sun sounded vaguely familiar.

Initially, we examined the feelings and emotions that the two songs evoked, and we discussed whether the lyrics matched the tunes. Afterwards, the students were asked to write a short story whose initial scene would be illustrated with the gloomy song and the closing scene with the optimistic tune.

They came up with the following script, also quoted on their blog:

A family (father, mother, a 16-year-old daughter) are going somewhere by car. There’s a storm. It is raining and it’s very windy. Suddenly, the father loses control of the car and it rolls over. The parents die. The daughter survives. A boy who is the same age as the daughter, and who’s been walking his dog, sees the accident and helps the girl. He calls the emergency, and it transports the girl to hospital. After some time, the teenager visits her in the hospital. She is really grateful. He also brings her some sweets and a small pillow that he found near the accident scene. As it turns out, it’s her favorite pillow. There are some more visits in the hospital, the two fall in love, and when she is finally able to get up, they go to the hospital park. As they are walking, we can hear “Here Comes the Sun”.  

Whether I viewed it as very original was not the point. What I wanted my students to do was to have fun, acquire knowledge, and improve their English.

We already had a story, but the students still needed to learn how to practically transform it into a short video. During a couple of following classes, they researched and discussed the filmmaking industry, the Academy Awards, movie-making techniques, shot sizes, camera angles and other technicalities.

Then came the time for creating the storyboard (using the Filmmaking course template), where all the theory was put into practice.

The students decided the first scene was to be a wide shot and high angle for setting up the scene; the next one – a low angle for the car in the storm; the following one – a mid- shot for the phone call; then, a top shot for the emergency vehicles, followed by a medium long shot in the hospital and a long-to-extreme long shot for the final scene in the park. This plan was obviously modified in the process, but we had a firm basis to build on.

We gathered a selection of Playmobil figurines, toy cars, and other props, and we started experimenting with the camera, tripod, and light. It took the group four months in total (excluding the Easter holiday and some other breaks) to arrange the scenes, shoot the photos, edit the movie, and give it the final touch before putting it online. The story-creating, script-writing, and shooting was done by everyone: Zosia Matusiak, Magda Mołoń, Dawid Stryszyk, and Wiktor Kossowski (when he was present, Piotr Jankiewicz actively contributed, too). Dawid turned out to be the most patient, industrious, and creative editor, and Zosia studied music hard to play the guitar in the final scene.

The final product, our Weather Movie, can be viewed here, and the details of the project are displayed on their blog, Youth Cultural Center English Club Blog.

I would hereby like to thank the awesome team of teens who helped me try out something new in my EFL teaching career and, once again, proved to me that movies are one of the best and most inspiring EFL teaching media, whether viewed or created.

Magdalena Brzezinska is a graduate from Adam Mickiewicz University in Poznan, Poland, with a degree in English Philology; EFL teacher and teacher trainer; sworn legal translator; certified art therapist. She used to be a Community TA and Mentor, e.g. for MoMA’s Art and Inquiry course. In her free time, she organizes international projects featuring participants’ artwork and literature.

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Multimodal Literacies, the Visual Arts & ELT

Is there a paradigm shift happening in the world of TEFL and language teaching? in this podcast, Emma Pratt talks to Anna Whitcher and Kieran Donaghy, the dynamic partnership behind the Visual Arts Circle, a community of practice formed for language teachers interested in multimodal literacy, visual literacy and the visual arts. The Visual Arts Circle’s sixth annual Image Conference kicks off in October 2017 in Lisbon.

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Multimodal Literacy, the Visual Arts & ELT

Is there a paradigm shift happening in the world of TEFL and language teaching? In this podcast, Emma Pratt talks to Anna Whitcher and Kieran Donaghy about Multimodal Literacy. Kieran and Anna are the dynamic partnership behind the Visual Arts Circle, a community of practice formed for language teachers to explore the visual arts and visual world in their practice as teachers.

What is Multimodal Literacy?

Multimodal literacy refers to our ability to interpret and effectively use more than just oral and written language. We’re talking about the visual world. By this we mean signs. representations, symbols and visual references, that, when mixed with the aural world, time, media and context, create whole other languages.

Why should we care?

We work with language and communication. That’s why. We ask the question, what does multimodal literacy mean to us in the language classroom presently and what they could mean? The circle’s key interest and objective is in exploring, researching, reflecting and finally providing approaches, techniques and materials that help other language teachers engage with the visual world meaningfully and with confidence in their classroom.

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Redesigning Grammar: Graphic Frameworks in Grammar Focused Instruction

jade-blue-headshot

Jade Blue

Jade came to ELT from a background in theatre arts and now works in the UK and Germany as an English language teacher, Business English trainer, and teacher-trainer. Jade writes an ELT blog, has been published in Voices and has recently contributed to a Routledge publication on Reflective Practice in ELT.

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Why my grandmother didn’t want me to be an artist: Art as text, caves and flickering.

Involved in all aspects of ELT since 1999, Emma Prattemma-louise-pratt-in-studio-July-2016a began her teaching career working in museum community education projects. Emma is currently Director at Frameworks Education Group and founded ELTcampus in 2014, an online learning platform for teacher development. The TEFL Preparation Course was shortlisted for an ELTon in Innovation in Teacher Resources. She edits, designs and writes for the ELT Today newsletter and its monthly podcast.

She works in teacher development for CLIL, has an interest in the application of teaching artistry in LT, is a practising visual artist and member of the Visual Arts Circle for Language Learning.

Image: Chauvet Cave: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:18_PanneauDesLions(PartieDroite)BisonsPoursuivisParDesLions.jpg

In this article I explore what art as text can mean. I also present a couple of examples that you might actually find interesting to explore with your students.

A couple of years ago, a wise friend gifted me the curiously named “Cave of Forgotten Dreams” (Herzog, 2010). This beautifully made documentary is about some of the oldest surviving examples of visual art we have today – in the cave of Chauvet in France. The drawings are over 30,000 years old. Continue reading

Visual Literacy in the Language Curriculum

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To inaugurate the website of the Visual Arts Circle we have invited Dr. Sylvia Karastathi of New York College, Athens, Greece who has a PhD and post-doctoral studies from the University of Cambridge, to write about the increasing important role of visual literacy in English language teaching.

Few language teachers can claim that they never use still or moving images in their lessons; yet, this standard practice is rarely touched upon in teacher training curricula on the assumption the way to introduce images into lessons is self-evident. This short article starts by introducing some key ELT resources on using images in the classroom; it then goes on to argue that we need to approach images not simply as an aid but as a key component of “multimodal communicative competence”.

The Status of the Image

In his 1966 ground-breaking study The Visual Element in Language Teaching Pit Corder made the useful distinction between “talking about images” and “talking with images”, differentiating between physical description and personal response. Since then, practical books such as Andrew Wright’s Pictures for Language Learning (1990), Jamie Keddie’s Images (2009), Ben Goldstein’s Working with Images (2009) and Peter Grundy’s et. al. English Through Art (2011) have suggested a wide variety of engaging activities that exploit the power of still images in the classroom and demonstrate their potentials to facilitate language learning. More recently, principled uses of the moving image in the classroom have become the focus of discussion in ELT with publications such as Ben Goldstein and Paul Diver’s Language Learning with Digital Video (2014) and Kieran Donaghy’s Film in Action (2015).

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