Being a long time advocate of using video in the classroom, I am constantly looking for ways to include it in almost all of my lessons with my young teenage student demographic. They love visuals for lessons, and if they are presented with quality, thought-provoking ones, they tend to respond most favourably. Therefore, it makes sense to use visuals and video to stimulate the creative process in L2-students.
The film I have chosen to use in this activity is a British prison drama, Starred Up. It is one of the gritiest and most powerful prison dramas I have watched in many years. However, it is certainly not suitable for anyone under 18, so you may be asking what are you using it for with 14-15 yr olds then? Iagree, and would never do that. In fact I don't use full length featured films as a springboard for lessons. That is totally unnecessary, since there are fabulous editing tools now available for you to use to cut segments of films (e.g. Wondersher's Video Convertor- which allows you to hardcode subs too). It means when you find a section that is excellent, but the whole film is not needed, you can present it without any repurcussions of inpropriety. Plus, you don't use up valuable class time watching the whole movie.
That is why I have chosen this clip very carefully for the activity.
First of all, watch the short clip below and I will explain how I intend to use it with my new intake of students this year for a creative writing piece.
So, as this is the hook of the movie I thought it a really good time to show the students how important that is for any story, visual or textual. I was struck by how well the director captured the mood of what it must be like for a young prisoner moving up from a juvenile detention center to an adult prison. In the five minutes long clip, there is no dialog, only guards barking orders. But, as a viewing audience member looking in on the plight of people like the teenager, you get a sense of foreboding of what a person is faced with when they first arrive in prison.
First of all I will give some necessary vocabulary for the students to use in their writing:
jail, prison, prisoner, cell, guard, casuals, isolation, exclusion, lonliness, parole, depression
to strip, to stand still, to keep quiet, to obey, (not) to talk back
sad, frightened, worried, scared, terrified, lonely, alone, isolated, bored, angry, disappointed, regretful, isolated, embarrassed, ashamed, naive
These lists, although not exhaustive, can give the students more choice for writing, and allow them the opportunity to write more freely during the process.
Before the students begin, I will have a small discussion that asks some critical thinking prompts or Essential Questions (EQs) as we prefer to call them.
What would you feel like being locked up in prison?
How do people cope with the situation?
Why do prisoners feel alone?
What do you think are the frustrations of being in a cell?
Should prisoners be locked up alone for great lengths of time?
Why do some prisoners become repeat offenders?
After we have discussed these salient points, I will get the students to consider how the character from the clip is feeling on his arrival. They will then be told to write as the character in prison and how he is feeling on that first day. The next paragraph will be one week later. The final paragraph will be learning that he has parole. I will also ask the students to write the piece in the 1st person. The students will do this on penzuclassroom and submit by the due date.
I know this is nothing new for you, but I wanted to share how it is possible to use clips from films that can hopefully lead to students writing more freely in English L2. If we personalize the task, and get them to be creative for a character (probably) none of them will ever be, it could make for some quality writing practice and allow them to see how their creativity is an integral part to the learning of any language.