4. Process and Reflection
My school has a 90 minute block schedule. We had already finished Of Mice and Men and Hamlet, and we had made connections to the overarching theme of resilience throughout.
To get the students used to the soliloquy, I had the groups write it out on butcher paper so they could read it while being filmed. At the same time, the groups were looking up information on the speech—trying to figure out what the speech was about. This was when we watched Daniel Beaty's great poem and also started to think about how the hero's journey fits into everything. We focused on Hamlet's journey, how he was at the moment of not being able to go back, but we also spoke about where this type of moment happened in Of Mice and Men.
After our discussion today, the groups filmed the entire speech in about 45 minutes. They were able to film anywhere in the school as long as they were not bothering other classes.
Upon seeing the rushes for this day, I realized that the whole speech was too much for each group to get down really well, so I divided it into six sections for the next class.
I had each student think about and elaborate in a writing prompt about where they have experienced moments like this in their lives. Then, each group chose the best location from someone in their group to film at outside of class.
I had each group also focus down on just one section of the speech so that we could get a more professional version. Next year, I will spend more time on this day going over my evaluation criteria for digital speaking; how things like appearance, performance, and eye contact really make a difference in today's world, and how important it is to ramp up performance if you want to be noticed.
I do not usually give much homework, but I really wanted them to film in locations that were important in their lives, so the assignment for this day was to go as a group and film in a location where one person from the group has experienced a resilient or self mentoring moment.
Right from the very first day we spoke about filming, I let the students know that they would get to film the soliloquy in class, and that they would also need to get another version of it filmed at a location away from school. This year, however, it didn't work out. I gave them too much time to work on it on this third day, so many simply filmed their second version of a shorter scene at school.
When I do this project again, I will focus more on this day’s discussion and leave no time for filming. I will give more examples of places where you might have had a moment like this, and I will likely show the film from the Australian Theatre for Young People video. All students in groups who did film outside made a solid connection between the location and the content of the speech, and their scenes are much more interesting for the audience.
The final day of the project was for editing. I got the Mac lab, and all groups were able to download their film into iPhoto and then edit in iMovie. The few groups that had problems were able to download on a PC, send them to me in an email, or upload to their Google drive accounts. I then took the best clips from each group and put them together to produce the whole film. Several of the groups who edited together their versions of the speech were great. I will try to get permission from them to upload to YouTube and link here.
Most groups got a reflection on the relevance of the location filmed, but the individual reflections handed in with the group evaluations at the end of the unit showed a wide range of understanding. Most students understood the connection between the place they filmed and the soliloquy, but many still said things like, "We filmed there because there was a brick wall, and it looked good behind the person we were filming."
Next time I will require all groups to film a segment of the speech as homework in a location outside of school where they have faced a similar moment in their lives.
I also required all groups to film a segment where they stated what the soliloquy itself was about. Only one group related it to the mythic journey and the idea of needing to make an important decision on their own before they can move forward. Many related it to the concept of resilience, but too many simply said it was about whether it is easier to live or die.
I believe more attention to the concept of resilience earlier may help some to see the connections. When I do this unit again, I would spend some time having students interact with the webpage on resilience created by O'Donnell-Allen and St. Romain.
I think with these small changes the learning will flourish, and we will still have a lot of fun with the project.