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Anatomy of a Media Arts Lesson: Making

Anatomy of a Media Arts Lesson: Making

Posted by: San Francisco Film Society

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A production-based activity within a media arts lesson is the most obvious component and will typically take up the bulk of a lesson’s allotted time. It is often the part that students are most excited about and engaged with, yet it’s an all too common pitfall for media arts educators to misinterpret this excitement as readiness. Young artists still require structure in the making portion of a lesson, and the more complex the equipment, the more guidance is needed.

Remember, while “making” often refers to camera work, all that is truly required from the making portion of a lesson is just that: making. This can range from sketching a shot set-up to creating a collage for production design inspiration to writing a journal entry for story ideas.

In other words, students are not only creating a final product, but also producing smaller works along the way. These may become part of the larger project (such as an animated title sequence) or they may simply inform the final project (such as a storyboard or costume sketch.) Multiple making activities not only help students stay engaged throughout what can seem like a long process, but by incorporating making throughout each phase of the project, you are creating more opportunities for students to produce work that can be used towards assessment and evaluation.

A few considerations and suggestions:

• Break down the steps of the activity, and make expectations clear to students:

  • Expectations can be time-based (i.e., spend 10 minutes filming b-roll, and then take a break to review your footage) or process-based (i.e., make sure the instructor checks your shot set-up before you press record).

  • When appropriate, a worksheet or checklist can help students stay on track.

• It can be beneficial to have two cycles of “making” or production.

  • Younger learners might benefit from an immediate “do now” activity, where they complete a short activity at the start of the lesson, break for discussion, and then dive into a larger activity.

  • Older learners can learn a great deal from an experimental or test activity, where they try a new technique, review the outcome, and then try again making necessary adjustments.

• Vary the breakdown of how students work on activities. While small groups are typically the most ideal breakdown (not to mention representative of real-world media work), it’s important to incorporate opportunities for individual work and whole-group work throughout the project as well.

• Be sure to build in opportunities for students to work in different roles (camera person, director, actors, etc.).

  • It is important for students to rotate roles so that they have wider exposure to different modes of learning and more holistic understanding of the filmmaking process.

• Have a clear plan in regards to the role of the adult instructors—for example, will one be circulating among different groups, or will each group have an assigned adult?

• Laying the right groundwork through discussion and watching will enrich the making portion of a lesson and give students a reference point to turn to when troubleshooting. Make sure to draw connections between the different parts of your media arts curriculum.

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