5th Grade Digital Storytelling Documentary: The Making of 5-501's The Invisible Man.

Mr. Tandarich, a 5th Grade teacher at PS 124, in Brooklyn, NY is a comic book lover (as this student-produced interview from 2008 can attest). I have worked with Mr. T to integrate technology into his curriculum since 2005 -- his preference is normally to work within his literacy curriculum around student reading of classic novels. We've always looked for ways of incorporating Mr. T and his students' familiarity and interest in the comic book genre along with 21st century forms of storytelling, and this year, it came together in 5-501's Classic Production of The Invisible Man!

Documenting the Process to Expose others to Critical Decision Making

The documentary video demonstrates how it all came together. As happens each year with this group of kids (that I've been working with since they were in 3rd grade) I'm amazed at how easily they were able to pick up new software and production concepts.  This rapid increase in savvy has to be a credit of increasing exposure at home, along with routine use of these technologies in school.  This was their first project using iMovie '09, which I thought might give them trouble -- on the contrary, they took advantage of the advanced themeing and effects options to enhance their production, and I was able to step aside and document the action on video.

The Process

Mr. T and the students read the novel, The Invisible Man, and watched the 1933 film adaptation. Then, based on their knowledge of comic books and our our opening lesson deconstructing Power Records' adaptation of a Marvel Comic, every student in the class illustrated comic book frames of what they felt were the most compelling moments of the story. Mr. T then pasted the comics on the board, and students voted on ten scenes that should be included in the video version of the comic book, and a small group of students took over the production from there.

To produce the video, students scanned their comics, and imported them onto three MacBook laptops with iMovie '09. The groups divided the story and each edited a section: recording narration, and adding titles, transitions, music, and sound effects from the extensive audio library now included with iLife. We then combined the 3 sections into one master computer, and analyzed the rough draft with other members of the class. This new group of students then helped fill in gaps in the story with titles and additional narration, so that an audience unfamiliar with the novel could understand their movie.

Evident throughout the process, and in the resulting videos, is the students' deep engagement with the creative process and quality control on this production. They demonstrated an understanding of how to use mulitple digital media to represent details in the story and bring their comics to life on screen, and were always cognizent of the specific tone they were intending to create through editing and expressive reading.  The result: a 21st century version of a classic!

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