Students on the Big Screen


Growing up, a lot of students don’t feel that they are understood whether it be by their parents, their peers, or their teachers.  And in a world full of judgement, it is becoming increasingly important for students to learn how to empathize and get to know people for who they really are.

Middle school teachers Billy Corcoran and Mindy Ahrens were inspired to design a project that would help students express themselves in a creative way.  Students were tasked to create a short documentary about themselves.

The teachers implemented the project in 4 steps over the span of 3 months.

The first step was to show their students other student made documentaries and multimedia features.  They analyzed the pieces discussing what they liked and didn’t like from the documentaries and why. Then they brainstormed how they would like to tell their own stories.

Once students had solid ideas about their documentaries, they were able to start gathering footage for their projects.  They encouraged students to shoot as much B-roll as they could. Students also contacted sources they wanted to interview for their documentaries and came up with interview questions.

After the students shot their interviews and B-roll, the third step was to write a script for their documentary and edit it together.  Students were taught basic editing skills and tricks. The teachers remained very involved in assisting students with video aesthetics, helping students discover the best way to tell their story.

The fourth and final step was to share the the students’ work.  Corcoran and Ahrens made the documentary screenings extra special by planning a student film festival.  The festival lasted a couple weeks and screenings would take place in the evening so that friends and family could come see the films too.

The documentaries helped students learn more about multimedia production and video aesthetics.  They had to work on a deadline and be creative when putting together their final product.

However, students learned more than just video production skills; they learned about each other.  Corcoran and Ahrens said that they saw students making friends with peers they had never previously even talked to.  They also were more collaborative during class projects and discussions. All in all, the project was a terrific success and can serve as a model for any teacher looking to help their students feel more connected.

Story via Edutopia