Teaching Tools

Learning Across Grade Levels

Learning Across Grade Levels

Posted by: San Francisco Film Society

Elementary, middle and high school students learn differently depending on their ages and accompanying developmental phases. This curriculum is designed to be adaptable for all grade levels, and it is important to keep in mind these developmental differences as you plan your FITC program. Teachers in media arts should consider how developmental phases can function in relation to production work. By capitalizing on how students understand and process the world at each level, instructors will encourage young people to work to their highest potential. 

Elementary-aged learners are curious and imaginative. As they rapidly develop a worldview and a sense of understanding, they function as keen observers (think about the pesky younger sibling who is constantly asking “why?”). Young students often gravitate towards stories as a means of understanding, rather than facts or figures. They want to hear stories, and they want to tell stories. As a storytelling medium, filmmaking is well-suited art form, and film projects can be used to help students learn both how stories are told and how to tell a story, either original or existing, in new and different ways.

Middle School students are, quite literally, in the middle of childhood and early adulthood. It’s during this time that unique points of view, personal tastes, judgments and critiques are beginning to solidify. Giving students a chance to explore, capture and record something that is of immediate importance to their own lives allows them to express this emerging point of view in a powerful way. Young people at this age also tend to look to their friends and peer group as a key factor in their definition of self—how do they fit in, or not? The collaborative nature of media production takes advantage of this hyper-social phase and allows young people an opportunity to work together in a meaningful and productive way. 

High School learners have a great deal of independence, which allows for deeper exploration and creativity in media projects. They are capable of moving beyond the phase of replicating other media works and can add their own unique twist or take to an idea or story. They are able to engage with more complex topics and, in fact, may become most invested in projects with a degree of controversy as they establish their own stances on real-world issues. High school students are much closer to the adult realities of college and career, and media work can take on meaning beyond the classroom, giving students a chance to consider real-world opportunities in the field.

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