In deciding upon a format for presentation, we reflected on our strengths as authors and our interests as readers. We had worked on sequencing, on using dialogue effectively, and on creating storyboards to plan. At first we thought we would write scripts and act them out on video. But when it came time to cast parts we had to ask, Does a female or a black student have to play the victim?
Unsurprisingly, Jeff Kinney had influenced my students as readers, drawing them to the simple lines of characters with complex personalities and dilemmas. Just about every member of our class was, at the time, obsessed with sketching Kinney-like comics. Could we draw the movie like a comic? Some asked, What if I’m not a good cartoonist? But we all knew that our words would be what truly held our meaningful messages. Choosing the technology for presentation would be tricky. We wanted to reach a wide audience and to hold their attention at a level that could educate and motivate change. How could we get our cartoons onto a screen? How could we make our voices not merely heard, but truly listened to?
I had experimented enough with the iMovie application on our classroom computers to know that I wouldn’t have to spend much time training students to get them started. Knowing that we could insert images and that my students had already become accustomed to being ‘photographers’ with my digital camera, we realized that we could take a digital picture of each cartoon slide. We could imagine our audience’s engagement with our class-written, class-produced movies.
Fittingly, we formed heterogeneous groups. Both our process and our purpose created the inclusive community that a simple “Let’s all be nice” would have made impossible. When it came time to record students’ voices, we listened to the sound clips over and over, and the term “voice,” that students recognized from rote rubrics, materialized. With the combination of original drawings and recordings, the pieces gained a personal dimension that another medium could not have accomplished.