Grade-wide Collaboratively Planned Documentary Series

Students at The Academy of Talented Scholars produced a series of documentary videos collaboratively scripted across 3 classes that share their perspectives on their school. The grade-wide collaborative project began at the end of their 4th-grade year and continued into their 5th.

The Scripts for these films start as personal essay responses to various prompts with a thesis, 3 supporting opinions, and a conclusion.

Small groups of students worked to find common themes across the writing which were collected on an online Mind Map (linked on this page).  Each group was responsible for planning and producing a short documentary on the emerging themes.

Documentary Mind Map.png
Open the Interactive Mind Map

To learn about the documentary film genre, students watched clips and discussed what the filmmakers used (music, settings, interviews, etc.) to tell stories and create tone and express their point of view.


The outline of that discussion, and resulting notes and the script outline that resulted from the student writing were organized in the Mind Map on this page that will continue to grow as the students review new documentaries and create new scripts for short films.  The resulting videos will be added to this page!

What Students Do

Close Reading of (Media) Texts

Identify key ideas and details in documentary films; interpret how documentary filmmakers make choices to create meaning and feeling for their audience.  Define the genre (using online video clips and graphic organizers)


Each student across the grade writes an essay on the features of their school, express their opinions, support with details (using a graphic organizer)


Production teams find themes across different students’ writing, choose selections, synthesize, revise and add to those ideas (with paper/pencil, blog comments, mind map)

Video Planning (Writing) & Inquiry

Production teams consider how they can use documentary video to share their ideas about TAOTS, and decide how student writing will translate to the screen; they support ideas with evidence: text, images, video clips, interviews and other media (using storyboards)

Persuasive (multimedia) Writing

Deciding how their points of view will be most persuasive to a specific audience (prospective parents and students)

Filming, Conducting Interviews, Performing

Find and frame the ideas from their writing and storyboards; perform narration as “voiceovers” or on camera in the appropriate tone (using iPad, phone/flip cameras, or pro camera with adult)

Digital Video Editing

Using the computer to layer different media (text, voice, images, video clips, music) to create the intended effect on the audience (using iMovie, WeVideo, or other editing software)