Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Teaching in the City 4/08

Today was the first day back from spring break. I expected a low turn-out but attendance was pretty high. I should know not to try to figure out high school students.

This class is entirely individualized and taught using web-based lessons. The students complete a week's worth of work, either in class or from home. My job is to walk around the classroom and troubleshoot.

It seems like the students really like this kind of instruction. They are free to go at a pace that suits them and it is impossible to get behind. Our school grades on a three week term. If a student only completes unit 1 during the first term, he/she is able to start up at unit 2 for the next term. Even thought he/she was not successful for the first term, they are not starting out behind in term two.

I've got students at every level in my two screenwriting classes. Some have just signed up and are starting on unit 1, others have completed all 18 units and are working independently on a feature length (90+ pages) script.

This particular class has three students who work independently and several who are working through the web-course. Two of my independent workers are pretty talented, but both suffer from attendance issues.

Today they are excited to get back and see each other so it takes a minute to get them settled in. Once they settle down though, they are very quite. Sometimes it is amazing when the room sinks into silence, except fro the tinny clicks beats from headsets and the sharper clicks from the keyboard.

Video #1:
In my first video class today, I have very few students enrolled. My two mainstays are F. and T. They are making a documentary about graffiti artists. At the end of last term, we went out with the camera and took footage of a bunch of great graffiti under the Ford bridge in St. Paul. Today, we began to piece some of it together in Final Cut Pro, the editing program we use. They girls shared their plans for additional footage and interviews, and used the phone to schedule one interview. I checked a camera out to them to use after school.

Video #2:
In my second video class, we worked on an interesting project. The kids went to the local barber shop and to the bank across the street and interviewed subjects at each. They want to put together a fake talk show, where it appears that they are interviewing the subjects via satellite connection. They want the guest to appear on the wall behind them as they talk. In addition, they want to chop up the interview and have the subject answer questions they were not asked.

We discussed the best way to work out the timing of this with the equipment we have access to. The "talk show hosts" must look at the screen and nod for an appropriate amount of time as the subject speaks, but the subject is not really speaking as the hosts are being shot, the subject will be added later in editing. We discussed this as a group and came up with three solutions to the problem, then narrowed it down to one last solution. Nobody was in total agreement with the solution we picked, so I suspect when it comes time to impliment it, we will have additional discussion.

Next we split up, a couple of kids worked on screenplays and the rest looked at ways to edit the bankers' interview into humorous sound bites.

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