Our Movie is Finished!

We finally finished our reader's theater movie of Three Cheers for Tacky a few weeks ago. It was definitely a learning experience for the students -- and myself. Right now, my main concern is getting it uploaded. More commentary on the process/bugs/lessons learned below.

I got the idea of making a movie with my first grade students after visiting Mathew Needleman's site, Video in the Classroom.com. (Be sure to visit his blog too!!) I was very impressed with the improved reading scores he noted with his ESL students after creating a Readers' Theater movie with them. The idea of allowing students to learn reading within a digital medium also impressed me. So in February, we began shooting Three Cheers for Tacky.

Initial Preparations
The students became extremely excited once they learned we were making a movie. Once I finished the script, we practiced our dramatic readings in class. I also gave the students personal scripts to take home so they could continue to practice their lines. We discussed what emotions they wanted to display in their voices while reading.

I had a found a simple penguin costume design online, using a hooded black sweatshirt with felt beak and eyes attached. I sent this home with the "penguin students." I had two students who had different costumes; they were the walrus judge and polar bear judge. Their costumes consisted of a gray sweat outfit and a white hooded sweat outfit with bear ears attached. My parents' support for this project was phenomenal!

I had a SmartBoard installed in my classroom this year. So when we recorded the audio for the movie using Audacity, I let the class see what the soundwaves looked like. They began to to quickly understand how the software worked. I heard comments like: "She'll have to record that again. The lines aren't big enough!"

I'm so glad that Matthew recommends using a storyboard to guide the pictures of the movie. Even though I don't think my pictures are the best, without the storyboard, they would have been a lot worse.

You'll notice that in the pictures, the students are standing in front of a green background. That's because Mrs. Bit-Off-More-Than-She-Can-Chew thought she could do a green screen effect on her first movie! As you can see, it didn't happen.

Putting It All Together
Once the shots were done, I uploaded them into Photo Story 3 (a free Microsoft program). I decided to not to just use Movie Maker because it did not have a wide variety of zooms and transitions like Photo Story did. After I finished editing the timing of the zooms and transitions in Photo Story, I exported the file into Movie Maker to add the credits and audio.

Movie Premier
If you stay tuned after the credits, you'll see a brief movie of our "Red Carpet Movie Premier." Again, my parents' support was wonderful! The students dressed up in their movie star threads and shades and walked the red carpet. Paparazzi-parents and relatives snapped pictures while the stars posed and strutted. I didn't get pictures of all the students who were there as I was setting up for the movie, but we had a great turn out. So much fun!

What I Learned...
Overall, creating the movie was a wonderful process. I'll definitely attempt it again next year. However, some of the audio did not match up perfectly with the visuals. Next time, I think I will do the visuals first and have the students read their lines while looking at the movie (like voice actors do for animated films). Also, I will add music during the actual course of the movie. This summer I plan to look for some inexpensive movie editing software to help this process go smoother next year. (What I really need is a Mac!!) Anyone have any suggestions?

Many thanks again to Matthew for inspiring this project! Your site is a wonderful resource for teachers looking for ways to use technology effectively!!


Mathew said...

I love the music, costumes, and the great reading. Great job to all involved!

Mary said...

This is definitely one of the most impressive Reader's Theatre I have ever seen. It is obvious that a true artist and dedicated teacher was behind this. It is awesome that the students and families contributed so much time and work into this.

Mary said...

This is definitely one of the most impressive Reader's Theatres I have ever seen. It is obvious that a true artist and dedicated teacher was behind this. It is so wonderful to see passion being reflected in the students. What great students and families that helped make this happen. I am truly inspired and am going to share this with my first grade team!