MovieTalk twist

I tried a MovieTalk variation that I’ve mentioned. First my classes read some Russian anecdotes together. Then small groups had to storyboard a story with plans to make short wordless videos. I told them the video-making had to take less than fifteen minutes, once in the lab, because I don’t like it when bells and whistles take away from input time.


Each group had at least one kid who knew iMovie. The kids chose different ways of getting the movies made, but since they had planned the shots and (minimal) props in advance, they could get done quickly. I think they used built-in cameras on our lab computers. They tried to make the action slow enough so that I would be able to talk all the way through.


The first story is about a kid packing to go vacation with friends on a river shore. He takes what he thinks he needs, but when his mom says he has to take his toothbrush, he decides he doesn’t want to go after all.


The second story is about a girl who goes to buy gloves. A salesman tells her that the pair of brown gloves she wants costs a kiss. She tells him that’s fine. She’ll take three pairs, and her grandmother will come pay for them later.



Today I started MovieTalking the first story. The kids loved watching their classmates, and they loved retelling the story. They didn’t care that there wasn’t much in the way of high-tech editing.


Now I’m going to be able to use these stories over and over, but there’s not so much work in them that I’ll feel bad if we don’t use them more than a week or so. And I think that other classes are going to want to make videos too. Without requiring sound, it’s easy to have a bunch of kids making videos in the same room. If there are any techie kids out there, they might be inspired to make better videos on their own.

8 responses to “MovieTalk twist

  1. What a great idea! Did you have target vocabulary? I am wondering what guidelines you used besides the 15-minutes in the lab? This sounds like an idea I would love to do with all levels!


    • I didn’t need target vocabulary, because I can use whatever vocabulary I want to when I show these! I’m the only one talking. I don’t mean to sound flip…actually, any other teacher can MT these little videos (knowing the stories), and maybe inspire kids to make their own videos. The kids read the stories in advance. My next plan is to ask kids to read short stories by Russian authors or Russian folk tales, outside class, in English, and create storyboards and short movies of those in the same way. Then I can tell versions of those stories and folk tales in class in Russian that is appropriate to the level of the kids. With time, we can get to reading the real things, or watching videos of the tales that are produced by Russians, but they’ll have a knowledge basis for them. Otherwise, I tend to push kids too hard into culture they’re not yet ready to absorb.

      Hope this makes sense. I’m pretty coffee-fueled and excited that you think it’s cool.


      • Diane Volzer

        Thank you. That makes sense…you started with familiar stories…good idea!


      • But…I’m going to start now trying it out with kids who haven’t read the story, as a scaffolding step to get to the reading. We’ll probably do a parallel story first.


  2. Susan Underwood

    LOVE it! And I love that you were able to limit it to 15 min lab time. That’s the thing that makes me want to not use the computer lab is that it could take a week to do what should take a day.


    • Exactly. The time just expands and expands when we get into the lab with projects. Having some examples to show kids that they don’t have to create works of technical genius might also help.

      I need to credit the fan videos that students created to respond to literature. I started watching those to prep for teaching a book in my English class. They were simple, but showed the high points of an entire novel in under two minutes. Those examples galvanized me into realizing exactly how to tell the kids what to do.


  3. Whoops. I didn’t answer Diane on guidelines. I reminded the students that we’d read four stories recently. We discussed which ones would make the best movies. (The one about a discussion between two men was not one that the kids could figure out how to “show,” but later two students asked to take it on…they are working on it independently.)

    I explained the movie project. (In other classes, I’ll simply show examples and MovieTalk them to get kids clear.) I said that their version of the story had to follow the story unless they had a really good reason not to. Example: our only tennis player didn’t want to trust his racket to the kids making the Boy Packing video, so they traded in a plastic bat as a prop.

    Then I said that they had to create a storyboard (we used white boards) to figure out what scenes they would need to show the story. That required very close reading of stories they had already covered a few times.

    Finally, I told them that we would have fifteen minutes in the lab the next day for this particular project. They might have taken a few more minutes, but we had a pen-pal assignment there first, and then they had to be done with this project with time to export it from iMovie and load it onto a thumb drive, or they wouldn’t get credit. (I didn’t want to be stuck searching for projects after class in the lab.)

    FYI…exporting to Quick Time takes the least time of the options on iMovie.


  4. fabulous! all the way and in all ways!


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