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Dan Grant

Dan Grant

Dan Grant teaches a Grade 5 homeroom class at Bayview Hill Elementary School, with York Region District School board.

Table of Contents


Students will create a 60-second public service video announcement focused on maintaining a healthy life style. This activity will combine Grade 5 Ontario curriculum expectation requirements from Health, Language and Arts. Although this activity was crafted for Grade 5, adjustments can be made to accommodate other curriculum expectations.

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Purpose of Learning Object

Students brainstorm an idea, then write a script and do a storyboard.  The storyboards are reflected in the final movie product.   Students rehearse and finally film. After filming, students produce their commercial using a variety of software and resources including Apple iMovie, Microsoft Movie Maker and Audacity.

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Description of Learning Tasks

Learning Tasks and Lessons:

In order for students to create a meaningful piece of non-fiction writing, they need to have learned, researched and reflected upon the material they will be discussing.

The theme of the unit is participating in a healthy lifestyle, based on the Grade 5 health curriculum and science curriculum of body functions. The “Healthy Lifestyle Public Service Announcement” is a culminating activity based on Health curriculum expectations.  Students should have, by this point, an understanding of the importance of daily physical activity, as well as knowledge of the factors that contribute to an unhealthy lifestyle.


This media literacy unit to create commercials includes a number of lead-up lessons that involve students in the following interactive processes:  viewing, critiquing, deconstructing, brainstorming, identification of components, script writing, storyboarding, role playing, filming, editing, and presenting.

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Curriculum Connections

Curriculum Expectations


  • describe the factors that motivate participation in daily physical activity and connect them to various activities;
  • analyse information that has an impact on healthy eating practices


  • generate, gather, and organize ideas and information to write for an intended purpose and audience;
Media Literacy
  • create a variety of media texts for different purposes and audiences, using appropriate forms, conventions, and techniques;
  • reflect on and identify their strengths as media interpreters and creators, areas for improvement, and the strategies they found most helpful in understanding and creating media texts.

Arts – Drama

  • solve problems presented through drama and dance, working in large and small groups and using various strategies;
  • use different forms of available technology to enhance their work in drama and dance.

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Required Technology

All students and teachers require access to:

  • computers and internet.
  • MovieMaker and Audacity software
  • a digital video camera
  • a microphone.

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Students are involved in metacognitive processes during each of the lessons of this unit.  On a daily basis, students are asked to self-assess their learning, using a variety of self-reflection tools which include:  learning stems; journaling; considering criteria;  rubrics;  k/w/l chart; etc.

Public Service Announcement (PSA) Reflections

As a class we reflected on the PSA process as the project was underway.

Prior to each new lesson, students identify what they already know about the topic.  During the lesson, they identify new learning.  At  the end of the lesson, students are asked to reflect on what they learned, how they learned, and what it tells them about themselves as learners.  In this way, students use reflection to document their learning in a metacognitive process.

At the project start, students are briefed on the three stages of the filming process:  pre-production, production, post-production.  They are asked to estimate how long each phase will likely take.   In my class, the response was  pre-production 20%, production 60% , post-producton 20%.   At the end of the unit, I re-asked the question, and their response changed to pre-production 75%, production 10%, and post-production 15%.

The follow-up response demonstrates a substantive change in student  understanding and awareness of the importance of planning and preparation.  We drew a link from this new learning to writing, mathematical understanding, and social studies and science project work.

This digital story telling activity offers invaluable experiential learning for students.

Students were asked the following questions after they completed their PSAs.

1.  Reflect on the process you went through to film the Public Service Announcement.

2.  Consider the creation and writing process.  How did you come up with the idea and develop the idea into a script?   How did you develop the script into a storyboard that you peer edited to come up with the final version?

3.  Consider the actual filming process, acting, camera, directing, sets and location.

4.  What did you learn by creating the PSA?

Student Reflection Question 1

What evidence do you have that shows that you learned something from the PSA activity?

Student Reflection Question 2

Based on what you learned from the PSA,  what would you do differently if you were going to create another video?

Student Reflection Question 3

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Scope and Sequence

Media Awareness

Stage 1 – Print Advertisement

During our language unit, students look at the techniques used by media companies, most specifically advertisers, to convey their message to a target audience.  As a class we first looked at print advertisements,  noting celebrity endorsement, humor, target audience, colours, and images.

Students are provided with the following sheet which they use to do initial research on ads and healthy lifestyles.  Using this information, they create their own print ad on healthy living.  The ad is completed in Adobe Photoshop.

This research forms the basis of the Public Service Announcement (PSA) video they would create at the end of the unit.

Junk Food and Healthy Lifestyles

The following three websites are excellent sources of information on the importance of healthy eating and exercise for children.

Visit the following websites, and any others that you may be able to find,  and research the following questions;

Healthy Eating
What is a healthy weight?
What is obesity? Why is it dangerous?
What is the ”energy balance”?

Active Lifestyle
How can you maintain a healthy and active lifestyle?
What sorts of activities can you participate in?

What strategies do advertisers use to encourage people to buy their products?
What are the three key facts about advertisements?
–         junk food advertisements
–         balanced healthy lifestyle
–         children and fitness

Stage 2 – Video Advertisement

The class watches and critiques commercial advertisements to become aware of media techniques and strategies.  Students then critically analyze the effectiveness of various techniques for the specific target market.  This analysis follows  a gradual release of responsibility matrix where the class transitions from examining commercials as a large group, to small group to individually.

The students had experience with Adobe Photoshop and an awareness  that images can be drastically manipulated.   The Doves’ Campaign for Real Beauty commercial provides a powerful example of how advertisers manipulate images.   The commercial is available on YouTube.  The following is a current link to the Dove Commercial.

As well,  Sony’s Bravia commercials provide  an extremely rich source of material to understand the work and thinking behind a commercial.  Our class examined a number of Sony’s Bravia commercials and paid particular attention to their use of colour, images and sounds.

Its three commercials can be found at  Sony’s European website.   The three ads are :  “Bouncing Balls – San Francisco,”  “Bunnies – New York City” and  “Paint Explosions – Glasgow.”   Sony provides behind-the-scenes films about each of these commercials so students can see the creative and tactical thinking that went into making each one.

Class engagement skyrockets with the Sony commercials which prompt  lively discussions about marketing and advertising.  Students relate in particular to the story behind the making of the “Bouncing Balls” ad.   It highlights a collaborative process that engages a myriad of people, from various cultures and countries, who provide their own unique skills.

The students  are enamoured by the the stop motion techniques used in the “Bunnies” advertisement.   Students would later use these same techniques to create two stop motion films, a non-fiction and a fiction story.  The stop motion non-fiction story they made called on students to explain the concept of equivalent fractions,  and the fiction story was a sequel/prequel to the ‘Spiderwick Chronicles”.

Stage 3 – Video Production Process

As a class, students study  and discuss the process of creating a movie.  The process is broken into 3 elements:  pre-production, production, and post-production.

Making a Movie Overview

There are many different types of movies, and each one is made differently. However, they all go through the same process.

A movie starts in pre-production, where the idea for a film is conceived and planned out.

This part of the production can be as simple as jotting down the shots you want, or as complicated as writing an entire script and drawing storyboards for every shot.

For the most part, the more time spent in pre-production, the better the movie will be.   Professionals spend 80 percent of their time in pre-production.  If you are making a movie with a purpose, knowing what you want before you pick up a camera will save you a great deal of time later.  If you are unsure of what the final outcome is going to be, you will end up shooting a lot more footage than you need and spending lots of extra time editing it.

Once you have a vision in mind, you pick up the camera and move into production.  The digital video cameras today are incredibly good at capturing images and sound, and there are ways you can make your footage look like the movies.  Take first-rate footage to make your movie a success.

After you have captured the footage, you are ready for post-production, simply known as “post.”  You download footage onto the computer and edit it together using a non-linear digital video editor such as Apple ® iMovie®, Microsoft® Movie Maker®, or other programs.  These simple-to-use programs allow you to trim video clips, put them in order on a timeline, and add transitions between clips, as well as music, sound effects, voice-overs, and special effects.

Now that you have a finished movie, you are ready to send it out into the world. Since it is digital, you can send it in an e-mail, post it to a web page, or burn it to a DVD.

Stage 4 – Storyboards

An extremely important part of  the process is the development of storyboards by students working in small groups.   We looked at how professional film-makers use storyboards, their importance and the thinking behind them.

To help the students understand storyboards,  we looked at actual storyboard meetings conducted by film-makers.

Film-makers often provide their storyboards as an additional feature on realeased movie DVDs.  We looked at storyboards from  Spirited Away,  Shrek, The Incredibles and Wallace and Gromitt: Curse of the Were Rabbit.

We also learned about the “Storyboard Pitch”.   Students watched rejected storyboard ideas from Shrek, noting how their creators tried to sell their ideas to a group of animators and directors.   In this way, students recognize the importance of  presentation skills were and a collaborative work environment.

Students created storyboards using the following template, Storyboard Blank.

To practice storyboarding,  students had to storyboard a short commercial.    The commercial was a 30-second Participaction public service announcement. Students were able to identify the many of “shots” or “frames” required, as well as specific techniques used by Participaction to convey a message of fitness and healthy living.

Stage 5 – Public Service Announcement (PSA)Video

Students followed a typical writing process of brainstorming ideas and collaboration to develop their story ideas.  These ideas were developed into storyboards for their video.  Students were required to present their draft storyboard to the class for a collaborative discussion of their ideas, and how these could be improved or adjusted.

The following are attachments of storyboards created by students for their Spiderwick Chronicles sequel.

Spiderwick Storyboard 1

Spiderwick Storyboard 2

Students were asked to incorporate ideas for improvement into their videos.  After the final storyboards were created and approved by the teacher, they could proceed to filming.  The actual filming was done using a Panasonic digital video camera.   Images were exported using a Firewire cable into an Apple Macbook. Editing was done using iMovie.

iMovie was only used in the PSA video.  Microsoft Movie Maker was used in preceding films to great effect.  I found that Movie Maker provided more flexibility with student work because access to Microsoft XP based computers are much more readily available to our students at home and school.

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Accommodations and Modifications

The teacher may select work groups and carefully pair students of differing abilities to provide peer support.

The teacher directs support to groups on a needs basis. In my classroom, support staff was made available to help with the clarity of the storyboards and provide adjusted timelines as needed.

I visually posted and colour coded all expectations, and posted all of the project information on the Classroom blog along with sets of instructions and dates of assignment completion.

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All of the students were guided through the use of  the created rubrics, and were assessed according to those rubrics. Differentiation was provided in the form of time allowed for each stage completion and the degree, and form, of direct teacher intervention and instruction.  Since it was important for the students to know that they were all doing the same as everyone else, the same assessment was used regardless of interventions or differentiated instruction provided.

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Research Base

A teacher created a stop motion piece as a teaching strategy for mathematics.  After introducing a unit of work which integrated the use of technology with the mathematics curriculum, and providing students with opportunities to work in group situations, it wass stated that,” it appeared that the use of slowmation assisted students to take ownership and pride for the models created in the slowmation and link this learning experience to more abstract situations in later lessons”  (Kervin)  This article provided an outline of a unit divided into six one-hour lessons, one lesson per  week , and was a useful model to consider.

According to Fryer, there is great value in inviting students to retell their thoughts and ideas about different subjects as digital stories.  Digital communication devices can be powerful supports for storytelling and assessment.  According to Dr. Burmark (and reported in Fryer), “our brains process images over 60,000 times faster than text alone.”   Audio editing software like Audacity can be used to create a digital story out of separately recorded audio clips.  Fryer reports that “long-term transfer of studied ideas and concepts can far exceed the short term retention more common with ‘traditional’  assignments like worksheets and study guides.”

Herrington and Kervin (2007) detail cases of integration in the classroom as ways for students to experience powerful cognitive tools.  They claim, “technology can play an integral role in supporting higher order thinking.”  The article identifies characteristics of authentic learning environments as those that provide “authentic contexts that reflect the way knowledge will be used in real life.”   Indeed, Genereaux and Thompson state that reflection is key to learning from experiences  and cite McDrury and Alterio (2002) who notes, “formalized storytelling is an effective way for students to reflect.”

Fryer, Wesley A. Storiesd to go. Tech Edge, p. 24-26.

Genereaux, A., Thompson, William. Lights, Camera,Reflection! Digital movies: A tool for reflective Learning. Journal of College Science Teaching.

Herrington, J., Kervin, L. (2007) Authentic learning supported by technology: Ten suggestions and cases of integration in classrooms. Education Media International, vol. 44, no. 3, pp.217-236.

Kervin, Kristy. Explaining the use of slow motion animation as a teaching strategy to develop year 4 students’ understandings of equivalent fractions. Contemporary Issues in Technology and Teacher Education, 7(2), 100-106.

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Evidence of Innovation and/or Exemplary Practice

Our class produced two other films using the skills and techniques learned in the Public Service Announcements Videos.  The process develops greater media awareness, as well as a deeper understanding of the writing process.  Students make real connections to the importance of planning and creating draft works prior to creating a final product.

The Ontario Ministry of Education – Numeracy and Literacy Secretariat visited our class and filmed the students engaged in developing and creating their videos. These films can be viewed or downloaded at

There are a number of worthwhile video segments on the page three that relate specifically to my class :

Dan Grant – Media Writing

i.         Becoming Proficient Communicators                            (Length: 5.5 minutes)

ii.         Deconstruction and Construction of a Media Text     (Length: 5.5 minutes)

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Other Applications (Extensions)

This project was introduced primarily in one subject area, but would lend itself well into the content of any other subject.  It extends well into literacy expectations.  Linking this project to 6+ Writing Traits is also easily done and a natural connection.  We have looked at the social studies curriculum and have applied the learning to the study of the election and political party public announcements, using the process described.

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Impact analysis

How does this project make a difference?

This project helps show the students what they are capable of.   Students demonstrate increased engagement, motivation and willingness to take risks.

There is a great deal of independent learning,  as well as incidental sharing and learning beyond the project and beyond the classroom.

For my part, my teaching practice reached a new level thanks to the use of different media tools such as Audacity to extend and enhance student reading comprehension, and the use of digital storytelling to enhance student writing  through the use of images and storyboarding techniques.

How does it change student engagement and learning?

Boys brought more focus and direction to their work than they had previously.  Their reflections clearly show how much they got out of the experience. They benefited from the real-world connection between reading and literacy, and there was a noted increase in their reading levels due to their higher interest in the material.  All of the students asked to do the project again in different subject areas.  For girls, it proved to be empowering to experience creativity in a different setting and at different reading levels.

All students increased their ability, and efficacy, in independent learning pursuits.

How the teacher uses instructional practices, designs learning and decision-making

The project enhanced my understanding of the importance of organizing the class so that students take increasing responsibility for their learning and success.  I found graphic organizers helped to develop student thinking.

As well, clearly defined expectations in timelines and overall clarity of project management on my part contributed to student success and learning.

This project demonstrates how effectively students can develop their problem-solving capabilities, while strengthening literacy skills.

What impact has there been across the school, division or with colleagues?

This project prompted ripples within the school, across the board and out into the province.

Within the schools, teachers in grade 5 and 8 have been applying the process in their classrooms.

The digital storytelling and use of technology was well received at a Literacy Collaborative Fair in the spring.

I have received solid, positive,  feedback from high school teachers and board-level computer resource teachers.

The Literacy and Numeracy Secretariat featured an aspect of the project on one of their webcasts.

Literacy and Numeracy Secretariat:

Non-Fiction Writing Webcast

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