Posts Tagged ‘Classroom Activities’

Screenplays in the Curriculum? Of Course!

Clapperboard (Credit: Photo by Will Jackson, via Flickr Creative Commons)

Television and movies are–for better or for worse–a dominating cultural force. They feed popular culture and the young minds imbibing it.

According to a 2012 Nielsen report, teens watch about 22 hours of television a week. And that’s not including movies, social media, YouTube, videos, and all sorts of other technologies.

Educators may find all of this media exposure distracting to their students. According to a report by Common Sense Media, “Many teachers think their students use of entertainment media has hurt their academic performance.”

So what’s an educator to do?

I recently watched the School Library Journal webcast Pop Literacy. (I highly recommend it.) It’s a great overview of how (and why) to incorporate pop culture into your curriculum, including a fascinating discussion of the word “appropriate” in terms of pop culture in the classroom.

One thing, in particular, struck me as worthwhile, fun, and exciting for students, as well as for teachers.


If young people are watching an average of three hours or more of television a day, it probably would benefit them to know WHAT they are watching and HOW it got there. Television shows and movies require a lot of elements along to way to becoming a finished product. One of the first? A screenplay.

A screenplay, or a script, is created by one person or a team of writers. Dialogue, interaction, action, and reaction, setting, set design, costume, and prop descriptions are woven together to create a world not just to be imagined, as in a book, but also to be brought into form.

How can this project be beneficial to students?

Most students watch and enjoy television. They are drawn in by the story, intrigued by the characters, immersed in the narrative, invested in its conclusion. Some students do not enjoy classroom creative writing–the process can be intimidating and overwhelming. Screenwriting is a way to engage students as part of the collaborative and creative process in writing a screenplay.

Reading. You can start by reading, analyzing, and discussing a screenplay. There’s a huge selection at imsdb.com, including Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, La La Land, and Star Wars: The Force Awakens. You can search by genre, or for a specific script. For younger students, try the read-aloud plays in SIRS Discoverer.

Discussion. Introduce students to the codes and conventions of screenwriting and review the significance of the three-act structure. Explore how to create a unique voice for each character and consider why a convincing setting is an important element of the screenplay.

Writing. Your students now have a basic idea of the screenwriting process and screenplay elements. Now, divide the students into teams, give them parameters, and set them to work imagining, discussing, and writing! Try this Writing a Screenplay lesson plan for guidance and inspiration.

Ready to move one step further and create student films from the finished screenplays? This filmmaking unit for 6th through 8th grade students gives an overview of the process.

Interested in learning more about screenwriting in the classroom? Check out the links below.

Teaching Scriptwriting, Screenplays and Storyboards for Film and TV Production
How to Bring Screenwriting into the Classroom
Teaching Screenwriting to Teenagers
Scriptwriting in the Classroom

Do you have thoughts about or experiences with screenwriting as an activity for your students? We’d love to hear them! Tweet us #ProQuest.

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Increase Student Engagement:
Help Launch the #AskAStudent Movement

Although national- and state-level issues like the Common Core testing debate dominate U.S. education policy discussions, micro-level issues like student engagement often get overlooked. According to the 2014 Gallup Student Poll, 53 percent of public school students in grades 5–12 are engaged at school; almost half of all students are either “not engaged” or “actively disengaged.” Gallup’s poll defines student engagement as “the involvement in and enthusiasm for school, [which] reflects how well students are known and how often they get to do what they do best.” So how do we improve student engagement? One way is to foster more communication between you—the educator—and your students.

Asking students questions about their interests and their lives can improve student-educator relations and academic outcomes. In a recent post, Gallup education research specialist Mark Reckmeyer tells the story of how a simple question—What do you like to do at home?—transformed a disengaged student into an engaged one. When this student revealed his passion for cooking, his teacher used this knowledge by aligning the curriculum to help him become more actively engaged.

Last spring, third-grade teacher Kyle Schwartz tried to get to know her students better by assigning them a writing prompt called “I wish my teacher knew.” Schwartz—along with the rest of the nation—was blown away by her students’ responses, many of which were posted on Twitter under the hashtag #IWishMyTeacherKnew. Students revealed poignant details about their lives, such as not having enough pencils, not having any friends to play with, and having parents who were deported. This assignment gave students the ability to voice their biggest challenges. It also gave Schwartz the opportunity to understand those challenges and adjust her teaching accordingly.

Both anecdotes demonstrate the power of communicating with students. Students are people, too. They have hobbies, talents, worries, and challenges—just like the rest of us. The more you know about your students, the better equipped you will be to improve student engagement and, in turn, academic outcomes. So #AskAStudent. Ask about their likes and dislikes. Ask about their challenges. Ask about their strengths. Ask their opinion. Asking questions will let students know that they are valued. It will also help you understand your students’ interests and needs.

There are many ways to ask students questions. Reckmeyer’s student was asked in person. Schwartz assigned her students a writing prompt, allowing them to remain anonymous—although many chose to include their names and share with the class. How you choose to approach #AskAStudent will likely depend on your students’ grade level: younger students, after all, might be more willing participants than older students. Use your best judgment. If one tactic doesn’t work, find another. Ultimately, the goal is to build student engagement from the ground up.

Below is a collage of students who were asked, “What do you like to do when you are not in school?” Help launch the #AskAStudent movement by sharing your assignments and responses with us on Twitter @ProQuest.

Real-Life Classroom Connections: Endangered Species

Big Debates, Local Impacts

Getting students to engage in debates about controversial Leading Issues like endangered species protection is difficult. Using local examples is one strategy to help students understand that abstract debates have practical, local implications. If students understand local impacts, then they are more likely to understand larger debates.

Include these four major steps in your locally-focused lesson:

  1. Find local examples
  2. Discuss impacts
  3. Formulate opinions
  4. Debate viewpoints

Sea turtles are an example of an endangered species in my community. Take a look.

Find & Discuss

Walk down Fort Lauderdale Beach right now and you will see the Endangered Species Act in action. Roped-off sea turtle nests scatter the shoreline. Artificial lighting, which disorients sea turtles, is reduced. Signs warn beachgoers to back off or else face fines and imprisonment.

Sea turtle nesting season in Florida runs from March through October. Under normal conditions, female sea turtles emerge from the ocean at night. Once on the beach, they dig holes and lay eggs. After almost two months of incubation, the hatchlings emerge and, barring any natural or man-made obstructions, find their way to the ocean.

Sea Turtle Nest on Fort Lauderdale Beach in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.  (Credit: Victor Bullen)

Roped-Off Sea Turtle Nest on Fort Lauderdale Beach
in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.
(Credit: Victor Bullen)

Formulate & Debate

Unfortunately, humans and coastal development have helped drive sea turtles toward extinction. Conservation efforts are trying to reverse population declines, which is why many sea turtle species, including the Green, Leatherback, and Hawksbill, are listed as endangered species. Some argue that the Endangered Species Act helps prevent vulnerable species from becoming extinct. Others, however, contend that the Endangered Species Act hinders economic development. The debate over federal endangered species protections will likely continue to be a contentious issue in South Florida.

A Sign Warns Against Disturbing Sea Turtle Nests  (Credit: Victor Bullen)

A Sign Warns Against Disrupting Sea Turtle Nests
(Credit: Victor Bullen)

Tell us about an endangered species in your neighborhood. List it in the comments section below or Tweet us at #ProQuest.

(Video Credit: AP via YouTube)

Sample Bookcarts Available in eLibrary

The one-of-a-kind BookCart functionality found in eLibrary allows librarians and educators to build persistent links to pre-selected content, creating reading lists, subject and topic pages, standards-linked lessons and activities, community interest pages, and even pre- or post-assessments.

In an effort to convey the value of the BookCart tool, a few dozen sample BookCarts have been made available to customers who have not already created or imported BookCarts into their account. Look for the BookCart link in your eLibrary navigation bar to find them.

Screen Cap of Book Cart feature

The sample Book Carts were created by ProQuest editors and align to common subjects and courses in K12 education. For more about the power of eLibrary BookCarts, watch this brief 2 minute video overview.

CultureGrams’ Fall Treats

I have always wondered how people around the world celebrate different seasons and holidays and  more importantly how they eat during these times.  Over the weekend, I wanted to make something that was seasonal and tasty for family and friends for Sunday dinner so I picked a CultureGrams recipe, and loved it.  I chose a classic Armenian dish called Ghapama which is a stuffed baked pumpkin. The recipe can be found here. During the cooking process, we decided to add some of our own traditions to the Armenian dish by adding a festive jack-o-lantern face to our pumpkin.

I love food and I believe that food is a one of the best ways to experience and connect with other cultures.  CultureGrams’ World Edition online has a large collection of authentic recipes from all over the world that enable readers to get a taste of different cultures in their own kitchen. CultureGrams’ recipes, country reports, graphs and tables, and other features can be used in several different ways in the classroom. Take a look at some of CultureGrams’ fun activities for the classroom.

Who else has used a CultureGrams recipe and loved it? Leave a comment and tell us about it.

-Jenni Boyle