Guest blogger, Julie Stonehouse: How can moving image help us to consider the impact of structural choices?

A previous blog post – How can moving image help us to teach narrative structure? – has explained some of the steps that we have taken at Boroughbridge High School  to embrace the new challenges of GCSEs whilst sparking the interest of our students and building their confidence as writers and critical readers.

When initially approaching the teaching of structure with my Year 10 middle ability class this year, my priorities were simple:

  1. Build confidence by capturing students’ familiarity with interpreting film
  2. Begin to revisit media and literary terminology introduced at KS3
  3. Consider the impact of the director’s choices on the audience

At the start of the lesson, I showed my class the film trailer for Marc Foster’s 2007 film adaptation of The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini. We then discussed some initial questions: what do we expect from this film after watching the trailer? What genre of film could it be? What key themes are raised?

After this discussion, I shared the big question for the lesson with the class – ‘How does the opening of The Kite Runner hook the audience?’ We unpicked this as a class – considering what we might expect from the opening of any film and what would effectively hook and engage us with a film. Here, the emphasis was placed firmly on our reaction as the audience and the impact that a film could have on us as the viewers.

We then watched the opening two minutes of the film. At this point, I shared these screenshots with the class: 

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Students were able to identify camera angles such as ‘bird’s-eye view,’ ‘wide camera angle’ and ‘establishing shot’ and I used these observations to question what information the director wanted to give us at the start of the film. All students understood that the director intended to introduce setting, characters and themes to hook their audience. The third and fifth screenshots raised interesting ideas about the protagonist and the importance of their perspective in the film.

At this point, students were ready to write a response to the big question. And crucially, the points made by the students here centred on the impact of the director’s choices on themselves as viewers of the film:

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Following this lesson, we looked closely at film and text pairings (as mentioned in Anthony’s previous blog post about teaching structure through film) and the students were able to approach the analysis of these texts with confidence and a growing awareness and understanding of the purpose of structural choices and their impact. Perhaps most significantly the class were genuinely interested in the structural devices that we discussed. And there wasn’t a single mention of ‘Paper One, Question Three’…!