The Value of Storyboards in the English classroom

English teachers teaching film
It Began with Disney.

In the early 1930s, when Disney was at the height of its creativity in cartoon animation, it was common practice for the artists working at the studio to pin their rough sketches onto bulletin boards. They would do this in order to visually structure the storyline and provide a visual framework for the animators and production team. Because there were so many artists working on each project it was the simplest way to ensure that everyone was on the same page and knew where the project was headed.  Thus storyboards were born.

In today’s cinema, where special effects are so important and technology is constantly improving and becoming more complex, storyboards once again provide a visual outline and point of reference.

Just as theatre directors have routinely ‘blocked’ their productions from beginning to end, film directors are realising the value of storyboards as visual references for choreographing action sequences. Apparently Steven Spielberg has been known to storyboard his films from beginning to end.

Students learning styles.

We know that there are as many ways of learning as there are students in a class. We also know that there are some recognized and recorded ways of learning, archetypes if you will.

One of these is visual. Some students (and teachers and parents) are visual and understand things far better if they can see them.  Even those of us who managed learning fine the traditional way can discover that they get even better results with visual frameworks.

Using storyboards in the English classroom does not only have to occur when studying film.

Give students the option of sketching their ideas and thoughts before translating them into writing. This way they have something to act as a kind of scaffold and they are not paralysed by a blank page.

The beauty of storyboards is that they are not meant to be high art, they are sketches and they can be notated with colours (adjectives) actions (verbs) and other information that will then be included in the writing.

If you are using storyboards for the first time and in a film unit then the following can be a useful exercise.

In note form:

  • Have the students come up with an idea for a film.
  • Get them to think about what archetypal narratives they will be drawing on.
  • Encourage them to think about they are going to position the audience to view the main characters.

Next:

Get a copy of this  storyboard template.

Have the students sketch the first 4-6 shots in the film and add the details like:

  • Variety of camera angles and shots
  • Use of colour
  • Settings appropriate to the genre
  • Lighting
  • Soundtrack and dialogue

Then when they have all the elements completed they can either present the information as a spoken task or as a written rationale.

Once they get accustomed to using the storyboards you can have them available for the planning and outlining of any assessment task.

Till next time,

Teach Well

Carolyn

If you want to get some classroom ready resources for teaching film check out the links below.

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