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Unit plan & Notes for 3-206: “Reads Like a Book, Looks Like a Film”

May 21, 2008

Ms. Abodeely found the article linked below about the new children’s book, The Invention of Hugo Cabret, by Brian Selznick, and recognized the media literacy potential for her class. We are going to get hold of this book, and plan a writing lesson that incorporates the idea demonstrated in this book — having images without words advance parts of the story (see image below).

Replacing Writing with Images

Our first idea is that kids should start by writing a story in their tall tales unit as usual. Then they will discuss what parts of their story could be told well using pictures only (no captions, no narration, no thought bubbles, etc.) Students could then draw the pictures and add them to their published pieces along with text.

This exercise will be similar to “Storyboarding” that is part of our standard iMovie production process, but in this case their drawings would become part of their final written piece as well as their final iMovie presentation.

Use Digital Photos

To incorporate technology, we can have students take digital photos of their artwork to replace passages of their written stories, read the stories aloud on video, and show the replaced passages without any narration or other words.

Digital Storytelling Without Words

The idea of storytelling without words could also become part of our normal iMovie process. We could challenge students to tell certain parts of their video stories without narration, dialog or titles, incorporating wide shots, mid-shots, and closeups, music and special effects to communicate their messages.

Media & Traditional Literacy Lessons

The combination of telling a story with words and without will help students understand different forms of communication and how they relate to the written word.

Understanding how the written word relates to multimedia communication is a fundamental of media literacy, and a technology standard that we reinforce with all of our digital production work. Our works always begin, or involve the generation of student writing that is typically adapted for other media (like video or the Internet). The goal is to help students become more critical and active “readers” of images they encounter in their lives, and connect the way students make meaning of multimedia messages to traditional literacy skills. This book is exciting in that it is fitting the “language” and syntax of a visual medium into a literary format.

We will post our notes as comments to this post as we design the unit. Please join the discussion if you have ideas about this book and how it can be used in the classroom, or would like to try this project in your classroom.

7 Comments leave one →
  1. March 5, 2008 6:57 pm

    this is a great idea (and Hugo Cabret looks fascinating!).

    i imagine it will be a real challenge to keep the narrative going, and keep the story engaging, when just using the images. this should be a stimulating exercise for the students.

    good luck, and i look forward to seeing the results!

  2. March 31, 2008 9:16 pm

    IDEA for how this unit might progress:

    students write a bit of fiction
    students select and replace pieces of text with storyboards they draw
    students ADD new details to the story with storyboards they draw — no text
    students video tape themselves reading the stories aloud
    students create video versions of their storyboards and add them to the video of them reading as “B roll” (video over the narrator)

    We should do this as a class project first, then let the kids do it on their own. We’d need to add an introduction to the stories that would explain who will be playing what character, and that certain parts of the story will be told through images only.

    Let’s do it!!!

  3. May 13, 2008 4:17 pm

    Getting ready to start this unit in 3-206!

    I’m thinking the value of this project will be in the kids understanding moments that pictures can communicate as well as words, and thinking about what the differences between the two types are. as we know — the product they produce may not do this as well as hugo cabret, so I think we should do some sort of video intro to set up the productions.

    I see Hannah, William, Masimka, and Scarlet delivering different bits of an introduction something like below, followed by each kid reading a section of the story aloud, with image-based sections mixed in in iMovie.

    process: you guys get the book & start reading it, talking about why the author chose the sections he did to use only images, and talk about what close-ups, mid-shots and wide shots communicate to the audience/reader. you guys simultaneously start writing a story (this has to go quickly), then you choose parts of your story that might be good to replace with images. then kids break off to storyboard these sequences in small groups — paying close attention to closeups, mids and wide shots.

    here’s a crack at some opening narration. we can have them re-write this in their own words…
    “the stories you are about to see use a combination of words AND pictures to communicate messages. sometimes a picture speaks a thousand words, and doesn’t need any words to communicate all by themselves.” listen to our students read aloud — picture the story in your mind, and do what good readers do — think critically (wc) about what you are hearing. AND watch the images as they continue to tell our story, and do what good readers do — think critically about what you are seeing. what do close-up pictures communicate? why did we use photos for certain parts of the story instead of words?”

  4. Mr. Rhys permalink
    May 16, 2008 5:06 pm

    fitting this project into the curriculum map

    big understandings
    * folk tales/supernatural
    * fiction is an entertaining and informative way to express your imagination creatively
    * what is imagination? how do we use it?
    * what is fiction
    * how is it creative

    essential question
    * how does fiction help us express our imagination?
    * how can we blow up small moments to make them beautiful images?

    * how to write dialog
    * using commas
    * using rich language (connecting to images)
    * inference & prediction
    * expanding on a moment (TC small moments unit)
    * how to picture things, and turn them into words (skills), and the elements of fiction (knowledge), dialog (skills)
    * plot development

    modeling critical thinking with the “touchstone text”
    * prediction/investigation
    * imagery
    * sequencing

    1. model the product using Hugo Cabret
    2. write stories using storycards
    – evaluate stories with rubric
    3. identify storycards that can be expressed through a sequence of images
    4. read the stories aloud on video, cutting to image sequences in iMovie
    – evaluate videos with same rubric
    – discuss what changed

    what’s next
    JULIE is going to add the fiction skills to the curriculum map
    JULIE is going to contact and show project to Selznick and ask him to come in to the school
    RHYS is going to add the media literacy and technology skills into the curriculum map document
    DALE will add our draft back into the official map

  5. Ms. Abodeely, 3-206 permalink
    May 22, 2008 7:27 pm

    Hello All-

    I am extremely excited about this unit that I am creating with Mr. Rhys (and the kids). We are using The Inventions of Hugo Cabret as a literacy touchstone for reading and writing. For writing, we have discussed and explored the process of writing. Where do we begin? I found an excerpt from a Brian Selznick interview (the Huge Cabret author) in which he discusses his own process and from where Hugo was born. In fact, we are trying to get him here to speak. The background knowledge has helped both the class and me make some wonderful connections during our read aloud. Below I have listed some of the reading, writing and technology lessons I have used thus far. I am sure Mr. Rhys and I will add/revise/delete as we go along. This unit is very much a work in progress It is so much fun though!

    By the way — I have requested 20 copies on (a great resource for teachers!)

    Reading lessons:

    The use of imagery

    Adding words to imagery

    Envisaging text


    Informed prediction (using text support)

    Writing lessons:

    Components of Fiction

    Getting started (seeds)

    The art of a great introduction

    Telling vs showing

    Developing rich, nuanced problems

    Using rich language

    Technology Lessons:

    Wide, mid, and close up shot (visual literacy, “reading” images)

    Using images to show detail/emotion

    iMovie narration

    iMovie image import

    iMovie image sequencing

    More to come!


  6. Annabell Martinez permalink*
    May 23, 2008 9:45 am

    Dear All,

    Have you thought how you might enlist the support of Ms. Truppi in this project? She believes in connecting art and literacy in meaningful ways and this certainly is.


  1. PS 124 Technology Showcase Resources « PS 124 Staff Website

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