Visual literacy is an important part of the Montgomery County Public Schools English 12 Curriculum. For the purposes of this curriculum, the authors expand the definition of the word “text” to include video, images, web content, and other non-traditional formats. When we watch films or parts of films in class, I consider it vital to get students to consider how each choice a filmmaker makes influences how the audience experiences the movie. As such, we talk a lot about the effects of music, camera angles, and lighting as we are watching. As an introduction to the idea that camera angles, the type of shot (wide, medium, or close), and lighting can be manipulated to create certain effects, I created this Flickr Slideshow.
In class, I would use this at the beginning of a film unit. I would project the slideshow on the Promethean Board and ask students to consider the feeling evoked by each image. I would probably have students write down a word or two for each picture in a notebook, then have them discuss their responses to each image with a partner before leading a whole class discussion. Hopefully, consensus would emerge, leading to some new insights about how we are manipulated by a director’s or cameraman’s choices. Students could then apply this new awareness to additional visual “texts” as we encounter them in the unit.
This lesson would help students achieve mastery of the following MCPS English 12 standards:
Standard 1: The student will comprehend and interpret a variety of print, non-print and electronic texts, and other media.
Standard 2: The student will analyze and evaluate a variety of print, non-print and electronic texts, and other media. 2.1.2— Analyze stylistic elements in a text or across texts that communicate an author’s purpose; 2.1.4— Analyze and evaluate the purpose and effect of non-print texts, including visual, aural, and electronic media.
An extension of this activity would be to have students experiment with their own digital cameras (phone cameras, digital cameras, or even ones on loan from the school) to see what effects they can achieve using angles and lighting. They could work with partners and create their own Flickr slideshows to share with the class.