Films often have a bad reputation in education, particularly at primary school. They are often seen as an end of term treat, something to do on a rainy lunchtime or at worst, a time filler to pass the day.
Most Language Arts curricula have viewing and presenting strands alongside the reading and writing, yet the latter is often treated as an after-thought during literacy time. Yet when we look at the media children are using in their daily lives, film is an important and rich source of learning.
Which brings onto to the topic of I am Eleven, a documentary which explores a variety of topics with interview subjects in 15 countries united by a commonality – their age.
I’ve been meaning to blog about this film for the past two years, but as usual life gets in the way. During 2013, my syndicate was kicking around ideas for a provocation to bring the concept of globalisation into context the children could relate to.
While the school had a number of students who had migrated to New Zealand, many had not travelled outside of New Zealand. Viewing everyday life, the differences and similarities as well as exploring the ‘big ideas.’ How children, ate, slept, bathed and went to school all provided rich conversations points.
In order to get the most out of the screening:
- We did a lot of work beforehand on tuning in. Getting the children to think about inequality, differences. We wanted the children to think about what to look for as they were watching the film.
- There was also a lot of work post-screening. I purchased the DVD which enabled us to go back and highlight important passages. I am Eleven is a movie you can watch multiple times and still find little details you missed.
- Even the binary question that week was I am Eleven focused.
The best part of this film was that there was very little in the way of voice over. The children in the film spoke for themselves without adult filtering. It’s probably the closest the class would get to visiting an orphanage in India or roam the streets in Bulgaria. While blogging, photography and skyping can give kids an insight into the world around the film was an important part of the unit.
Our unit took a turn after skyping with the director of the film, the awesome Genevieve Bailey, and the children wanted to document and share an aspect of their life with the world to provoke further discussion about how children view their world around. The kids were inspired to make documentaries based around ‘big ideas’ of their experience of being 11 (and 12) in New Zealand.
My favourite where the group who looked at cliques – the children agreed to hang out with people who were different social groups to see what happened. The kids took the concept further during passion project time by revisiting their initial ‘clique’ experiment three months later to see if the results had worked.
A few weeks ago, Genevieve mentioned on twitter that she was going to be in Singapore and was available for a school screening. Despite it being the start of the year, I jumped on the opportunity and Years 4-7 enjoyed their own special screening at school.
She was very generous with her time – stopping to answer lots of questions from the children. What was interesting about this particular screening was that the different year groups were looking at the film from different perspectives.
My year 4s were in a exploration and discovery unit, here was a genuine explorer here to talk about the process. The 5s were inquiring into leadership while the year 6s were just about to start a unit on beliefs. The secondary children in Year 7 are in the middle of a unit on identity.
All different perspectives, yet I am Eleven provoked discussion and further learning for all 4 year groups.
So what are some lessons I learned from this movie?
The value of online connections – from the initial discovery through to this week’s screening. None of this would have happened without social media connections.
Good media gets shared – My journey with I am Eleven started with a blog post. From there 6 classes at my old school and 4 year groups at my current watched the movie. There was a big question about whether the kids particularly the younger ones could manage sitting for 90 something minutes. The answer is, yes if the quality is good.
Film isn’t a passive media – film is not sit and get. It can be used to provoke, engage and inspire children’s learning. This film could be used to engage children to take action around global inequality, bullying or telling stories about their world.
Media is no longer one-way: our kids are growing up in a world where they can interact with creators in ways that were unimaginable a generation ago.