Lights, camera, action, learn

MAPS Middle School students use video production to better understand meaning of novel

MANISTEE — Inspiring young minds to learn more is a challenge teachers face on a daily basis and that is probably even more true at the middle school level, where students transition from elementary to high school.

When Manistee Middle School literacy technology teacher Brian Veine thought about ways to engage his eighth grade students about the novel “The Outsiders” by S.E. Hinton three words popped into his head – lights, camera, action.

While those are three words that don’t normally come to a teacher when thinking about ways to turn up the learning process with their students, they were something that really hit home with Veine’s students. He used them in an alternative teaching method that produced outstanding results with his students’ comprehension of the book.

“It all kind of started with a grant that came up for a flip camera,” said Veine. “The way to get the flip camera was to submit a project idea and then what you had to do was get people to vote. So I got enough people to vote for this project where I won a flip camera.”

Manistee Middle School literacy technology teacher Brian Veine talks to his students prior to them watching a movie version they created of the S.E. Hinton novel “The Outsiders.” Students were given various parts of the book to develop scenes and then video taped and it was put into a movie version by Veine. The concept was to give the students a better understanding of the novel. (Ken Grabowski/News Advocate)

The project was that Veine had his students read the book “The Outsiders,” which includes a lot of teenage issues such as stereotyping about gangs and prejudice, loss, identity and other issues that that kids go through.

“We read the book and then what I did was assign scenes that kids had to write from the book,” said Veine. “We take those scenes and act them out while we are recording them. I then string the scenes together and make them into a movie.”

What makes the studies unique is it brings the students into what transpires in the book. Instead of just reading the words they are improving their writing and comprehension skills in writing their own scenes and then acting them out. Something else that helps out is several students play the same roles at different places in the book meaning they all have to following the story line and concept being told.

“I have been doing this for many years now and each movie has its own uniqueness to it,” said Veine. ”The students love this book. There are so many things they can relate to in this novel.”

Veine said he finds it rewarding to see his students get up and act out the scenes, because it reassures him that they understand the meaning of the book.

“It is the greatest thing for a teacher to see students get up on the stage and act their scenes out,” said Veine. “It is very rewarding to see them that interested in this book.”

One of the new Common Core Standards that schools and students will be measured on in the upcoming starting in 2015 is to compare written text and media. The next step in the learning process now that they have read the novel and made their own theatrical version of it is to watch the 1981 version of it that was directed by Francis Ford Coppola. They then have to write a comparison contrast paper between the novel and the movie as an assignement.

“It is part of the Common Core Standards to compare written text and media, so why not have fun doing it,” said Veine.

Innovative teaching methods that drive home the point are often the ones that make the greatest impression with students and it is something Manistee Middle School teacher Brian Veine is putting to good use.

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Posted by Ken Grabowski

Ken is News Advocate’s education reporter. He coordinates coverage for all Manistee County schools and West Shore Community College. He can be reached by phone at (231) 398-3125 or by email at kgrabowski@pioneergroup.com.

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