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Enabling e-Learning snapshot: Documentary making as a context for developing writing

You can't improve students' writing if they're making documentary films, surely?

With the recent additions to our curriculum, we have been focusing more on learning about digital technologies, instead Renee Strawbridge, (DP Mount Biggs School, Feilding) set a teacher inquiry goal to see if digital/visual formats could be used instead of written text to increase literacy skills

Within her year 6-8 class, there were students who experienced challenges engaging with the physical task of writing; including those who didn't enjoy it and faced barriers to learning, including dyslexia and dysgraphia. So Renee set about using documentary-making as a context for learning to developed their writing skills.

Informative text was the genre, where students worked towards individual goals to gain specific skills in planning (using writing to clarify ideas) and scripting, while developing technical skills and knowledge about documentary film making. For more about the technical skills developed, see the full snapshot, Documentary making as a context for developing writing.

Other technologies and tools were used, to help students research information (ie: Mercury Reader) as well as informational report writing. They were able to collaboratively plan their documentaries using storyboard exemplars and templates while crafting scripts using Google docs. They also interviewed experts which included:

  • planning questions and writing interview scripts 

  • writing emails to outside experts with questions

  • filming interviews.

Depending on their topic students chose to film re-enactments, interviews, or narrate visuals. They then developed scripts for the interviewers, actors, or narrators of their documentaries.

As a result; some traditional barriers to writing were removed, students were highly engaged, showed increased collaboration, improved structure and language features in writing, developed new understandings of presenting through film making and shared digital outcomes with an audience while developing digital fluency.

These documentaries are also an example of Designing and Developing Digital Outcomes (Technology learning area) in action, where students create digital outcomes to respond to local need; in this case informing a wider audience. More correlations are made to DDDO in the full snapshot in TKI, Documentary making as a context for developing writing.

A special thank you to Renee Strawbridge and Mt Biggs school for sharing this story with us.


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