Using Video and Film To Teach Narrative Craft

We are in an upstairs room, so the room is immersed in bright sunlight, it’s just a gorgeous day in NYC.  Maggie Roberts’ disposition is as bright as the room.  We are going to learn a lot. She is starting us off with a micro blogging exercise.  The directions are simple just write-it feels like a quick write, Maggie assures us all not to worry the writing will get better:


“The sky was dark and eery with clouds that looked like witches’  fingers. There was complete silence and calm in the air until that first “BOOM!” Within a moment, there was a flood of rain and the day had taken a turn.”


“It’s uncomfortable sitting in this chair with my computer on top of the bags on my lap.  It’s tilted at such an angle that I feel a constant pressure in my wrists.  I’m pressing my wrists onto my laptop so it won’t just slip down and crash on the floor.  I don’t care, it’s worth it. It’s worth the discomfort because I know I’m going to learn so much. Perched in this room with so many others waiting to learn, writing alongside each other… The city sounds are here too – the loud “HOOONK” of cars are carried up and somewhere in a distance a siren calls.”

Maggie is giving us great tips – try using Oscar nominated shorts as a resource for great digital texts – brilliant:

The Dam Keeper (Trailer Two) : What makes this a great piece of writing? (Broad  immersion – open ended what did you see):

  • Consider the emotional arc
  • Shifting mood and the use of color & music
  • Tension
  • Problem & solution (struggles)
  • Character development
  • Secondary characters
  • Setting the importance to the story
  • Relationships (help/hurt)

We Cool Modern Family:   Pair the digital text with a writing rubric (Angled Immersion): Narrative Writers Use Techniques Such As

  • Flashback and Flashforward
  • Multiple Plot Lines
  • Inner Thinking
  • Dialogue
  • Revealing Actions
  • Multiple Points of View
  • First Person Narrator
  • Reader Knows More Than The Character
  • Description
  • Metaphor
  • Tone
  • Symbolism

The Rise: (Collaborating With a Lens) Using a virtual space for online collaboration:

  • Students are given a lens to view the digital text
  • A place where you can create a room with stipulations for how long it will be open.  It allows students to backchannel during the video viewing.  This is a way for teachers to gather formulative data and for students to collaborate around responses.

The big takeaway here to think about ways to use multi-modal texts to critique, scaffold, or just to appreciate great writing.  How can students translate this kind of work into their own writing?  We can do this work by  teaching them to play with sentence length (syntax) or to get in touch with empathy through shared experiences with strong images.  Another resource Maggie suggested was to get Katie Wood Ray’s Wondrous Words (it’s in the @amazon cart – waiting for payday).  To learn more from Maggie check out her blog: indent or follow her on @twitter: @MaggieBRoberts .

One thought on “Using Video and Film To Teach Narrative Craft

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.