Why teach about films?
Films are texts. They are an important part of our culture: that is, they are one of the ways in which human societies create and circulate stories and ideas. They are also popular and widely available. Films have a unique, distinctive and complex language that combines images, sounds, words, music, movement and duration in order to convey meanings and construct narratives. Children unconsciously and independently learn this language at a very early age (from TV as well as from films), so that when they arrive in school they already have the ability to interpret film texts and to make inferences and predictions about them. This is an important ability that needs to be fostered and developed, not only because it is a valuable foundation for literacy, but because it is of value in its own right, given the significant roles that moving image media such as film and television play in our culture. The factthat children’s ‘film learning’ tends to be ahead of their ‘book learning’ is not something we should worry about. It’s an achievement we can respect. And some children who find ‘book learning’ difficult may be able to achieve a great deal in learning about films.
Why teach about animated films?
Young children’s moving image media experiences tend to be dominated by animated films and TV programmes. In fact there’s a widespread perception that animated films are just for children and that it’s somehow a rather ‘babyish’ form. But the story of animation is fascinating and has its roots in prehistory. Humans have always tried to represent movement and examples of sequential drawings of animals and people can be found in cave art and Egyptian wall paintings. Animation can be thought of as the purest form of film because animators have complete control of every aspect of meaning and can make anything seem possible. The many different techniques of animation, from simple drawings or cut-outs to elaborate computer-generated images, constitute an enormous and diverse range of art forms that is fascinating to explore and enjoy. Animated films aren’t all fast-moving and funny. They can be subtle, complex and emotionally moving. They can be surreal, strange, hard-hitting and informative. This DVD collection of 12 recent animated films from the London International Animation Festival (LIAF) is designed to help you introduce children to the world of animated films and to realise its amazing scope.
What can children learn from animated films?
The teachers’ notes in this booklet draw on two research projects: Reframing Literacy and Persistence of Vision, in which teachers found that children from age 3 onwards could reach higher than expected levels of critical understanding and creative achievement when they were offered continuing opportunities to view, discuss and make animated films.
This resource is thus not designed to support stand-alone, time-limited animation projects. It’s designed to help you build in activities relating to animated films on a continuing basis and as a regular part of your teaching. The most appropriate curricular location for work with these films is likely to be in Literacy. The adaptation of the Assessment Framework for Assessing Pupil Progress (see pp 60-61) indicates how children’s learning can develop interms of the standard assessment focuses. Only Levels 3 and 5 have been selected because you will quickly find that when children are viewing and analysing films they are often able to, for example, identify and interpret textual features, or understand the purpose and function of creative choices, at levels well beyond what they might be able to do if they were reading a book. In recognition of this, the report on the Reframing Literacy project has adapted and extended the progression focuses in order to take account of non-print texts.
The focuses are:
1 Engagement, understanding and response
2 Inference and deduction
3 Structure and organisationof texts
4 Style and composition
5 Purpose, viewpoint and effect of text on the audience
6 Social, cultural and historical context.
The framework is set out in full in the booklet Beyond Words, which can be ordered from the UK Literacy Association (UKLA) at http://www.ukla.org/ publications/view/beyond_words_developing_childrens_understanding_of_ multimodal_texts/. Just as learning to read is reinforced and consolidated through learning to write, having opportunities to create animated films sharpens children’s appreciation and enjoyment of films and may well help them to make more adventurous choices in the films they choose to watch. Making Animated Films In The Classroom (pp 9-14) will help you to make a start on creative activities.