Some of the most memorable projects and activities that I remember from my own high school experience involved filming what can only be described as cinematic masterpieces, if only in our own minds. I remember two standout performances in particular – a group project film about a viral pandemic outbreak, which you would think should have prepared me better for the last year and a half, but all I really remember is that aliens were to blame – plot twist! The other standout was a French group project that we filmed as a very dramatic soap opera, complete with fake crying and impassioned pleas of, “mon Dieu!” every other line.
So, what makes these types of cinematic projects and activities so memorable? There’s definitely an appeal to filming something with your friends that you can show off, especially if it showcases your knowledge of the subject area, or comedic talents, and unlike back in the day, when our expertise in front of a camera was limited to breaking out our parent’s camcorder, today’s generation is way more used to filming themselves on social media apps daily (hourly?) at their fingertips.
Because of the familiarity and enjoyment that our students associate with apps like Tik Tok or Instagram Reels, it’s worth looking into how these social media platforms can be used in the classroom. Sure, students could just film something on their phone and upload it to an editing app or site, but there’s definitely more of a buy-in when they are allowed to use Tik Tok or Reels because of the built-in editing tools, and the fact that they are already using these apps for fun, which means that we as teachers can reach that holy grail of teaching when our students are having so much fun they don’t even realize they’re learning.
Before incorporating any social media platform into your lesson, make sure to first go over cyber safety rules such as making it a lesson requirement to use privacy settings that only post the video to a selected group and eliminate any views or comments from outside the classroom. Cyber bullying should also be discussed and the expectation that all videos be filmed in appropriate settings without others in the background that may not want to be on film. Depending on your school board procedures you may also want to get parent or guardian consent for students to be on a social media platform, even if it is posted privately. Another option is for students to use the platforms to film and edit, then save the video to their phone without actually posting it.
Okay, so now what? How do we use this tech in our classrooms? I decided to focus on ten specific activities that allow students to use Tik Tok or Reels to demonstrate their understanding of a novel study. Chapter summaries are about to get a major glow up!
Students choose a character from the novel and create a video that includes three character or personality traits including textual evidence to support their ideas. The text tools can be used to include text boxes right over the video. Students can even dress up like the character and act out each trait.
Students can work in pairs or groups to act out their favourite or significant scenes from the novel, or recreate a scene with an alternate ending.
Instead of jotting down point form notes about the major developments in each chapter, how fun would it be to have students act out the significant events in a clip that jumps from one event to the next!? The fun part about this approach is that all of the summaries can be combined at the end of the novel and viewed as an entire summary of the novel itself.
This is basically a discussion of what the student liked or disliked about the novel, but instead of just words on a page, envision the magic of words, emojis, gifs, etc. on a screen!
Students can choose a song on Tik Tok or Reels to create a pros and cons list about a character’s actions or about the novel itself, by pointing to the beat of the music to reveal their list via the text on screen.
Similar to the pros and cons list, students can choose a song and reveal a compare and contrast list of two characters to the beat of the music.
Students can describe each stage of the plot diagram as it relates to the novel and include text on the screen for each part. This can be done with students verbally explaining each part, or using a song as background music.
Students choose an element of fiction such as setting, theme, conflict, etc. and create a video that explains how this element is created in the novel. Students can use the text tool to create pop ups of text that give examples, or act out certain parts.
Students choose a plot event from the novel that could be reported on by a local news network. Students film themselves giving a news broadcast that covers the “5 W” details of the event.
Students choose five songs that could be included in a movie version of the novel. Their clip should include a snippet of each song with an explanation of how it relates to a particular scene either through the lyrics or tone and mood.
Well, there you have it! I hope this inspired you to incorporate some of these ideas in your own classroom! If you try them out, connect with me on Instagram and let me know how it goes!