Bringing Language to the Big Screen Play Presentation
Verna-Marie Hafner

Verna-Marie Hafner

I am a grade 8 French, history/geo. and physical education teacher with the TDSB. I love incorporating technology into teaching via video editing, design, and photography.

Table of Contents


My learning object allows new video editors a chance to make their own movie, while fulfilling French curriculum expectations.  From start to finish, students are excited about the final product – a movie trailer – and work diligently to perfect their French, drama, and video-editing skills.  This is a learning object that is easily transferrable to other curriculum areas with the same interesting results.

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Purpose of Learning Object

Students will be motivated to use and build their French speaking skills so that they can bring their imagined movie to life on the big screen, using movie editing software.  A DVD cover will add aprofessional touch and students will instinctively want to perfect their written French in order to have the best film.

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Description of Learning Tasks

Students will use their French vocabulary knowledge (adjectives, passé composé, imparfait and présent) at the end of the Passages 2 Unité 5 unit on film/le cinéma to create a storyboard for a movie trailer, a DVD cover, and a summary of their film (on the DVD cover).

During this unit, the students review:

  1. demonstrative, possessive and attributive adjectives,
  2. imperfect, past and present tenses.

Students receive instruction and learn:

  1. vocabularly related to cinema (see document: Les genres de films P2 U5),
  2. how to use their digital/video camera (both as an audio and video tool) and the impact of different camera angles,
  3. how to listen to and download music from Freeplay Music,
  4. how to use Windows Movie Maker,
  5. how to use Adobe Photoshop (or another piece of graphic editing software).

Within the project, students will:

  1. analyze movie trailers (see links in Resources section below).  Brainstorm attributes of an enticing movie trailer.
  2. form working committees to plan a trailer.  Note:  Students may work alone  if there are sufficient computers and cameras.
  3. discuss the type of movie trailer they want to create.  Group modifications can still be made at this time.
  4. sketch a storyboard for their trailer.  They can use pen and paper (note document attached).  If the students are clear on their concept at the outset, it’ll save them time and frustration at the computer later.  Students should include camera angles and dialogue in the storyboard.
  5. summarize their idea for their movie trailer and share this, and their storyboard, with the teacher.
  6. listen to various pieces of music to get an idea of what might go with the scenes they have created.
  7. begin filming.
  8. choose specific pieces of music.
  9. begin editing their movies.
  10. set a time limit of 3-4 periods to finish all of the editing, otherwise some groups will want to continue forever.
  11. work on the DVD cover while some of the group members are editing.  Students should alternate roles.

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Curriculum Connections

French – Written

  • Produce clear, coherent written texts in a variety of forms, adjusting the language to suit the purpose and audience.
  • Write narratives and descriptions, using vocabulary and sentence structures appropriately and effectively.

French – Oral

  • Create media works of some technical complexity (e.g., television or radio reports, videos), using appropriate technologies.
  • Observe the rules of pronunciation and intonation in student speech.
  • Correct errors in students’ spoken French (e.g., vocabulary, language and sentence structures, anglicisms).


Producing Media Texts

  • Produce a variety of media texts of some technical complexity for specific purposes and audiences, using appropriate forms, conventions, and techniques.
  • Identify the conventions and techniques used in a variety of media forms, and explain how they engage the audience and convey meaning and influence.


  • Explain how individual elements of various media forms combine to create, reinforce, and/or enhance meaning.


  • Create drama pieces, selecting and using a variety of techniques.
  • Demonstrate understanding of the appropriate use of the voice, gestures, and the level of language in different dramatic situations.
  • Use the vocabulary of drama and dance correctly in analyzing, explaining, and critiquing the meaning and effect of their own and others’ work.
  • Choose technology for enhancing their drama and dance work, and evaluate the effectiveness of their choice (e.g., camcorders, lighting dimmers).
  • Identify and discuss the qualities and skills needed to create and perform productions in drama and dance.

*Ties could also be made with music and art if you teach these subjects, or could work with the art/music teachers.

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Required Technology

  • Access to cameras with recording capabilities (1 per group – groups of 4-5 people).
  • Access to computers with simple video editing (Windows Movie Maker).
  • Sufficient disk space for storage of files at your school.
  • Access to Adobe Photoshop Elements (available on all TDSB computers) or other editing programs for the creation of the DVD cover.

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Within the lessons of the unit:

  • think/pair/share + discussions throughout the unit lessons on enticing ways to attract viewership to movies/trailers, attributes of a ‘good’ actor,  how to build intrigue in film.

Within the final project:

  • self-assessments/teacher feedback throughout the project to ensure students are on track to meet their goals,
  • teacher-small group discussions to clarify points throughout the learning process,
  • anecdotal notes taken throughout the development of the projects,
  • submission of scripts/’storyboards’ during the project to ensure the group’s progress (in the form of a portfolio with a checklist).


- ‘La Bande Annonce’ (evaluating oral, visual, and technical aspect of the trailer) – see example created by class.
- (evaluating written work on the DVD cover) – see simple example – more detail could be added depending on material taught.

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Scope and Sequence

In order to ensure the success of this project, students should learn the correct terminology of  film, as well as movie roles, and be able to write sentences in a variety of tenses and use adjectives correctly.  As such, this project is best started in mid-April of the grade 8 extended French year to allow sufficient time for completion before end of school.

Throughout the year, it would be helpful to introduce students to the technology that will be used, as well as view and read through a variety of French films, allowing students to build on an idea even before they have sufficient grammar structures to complete the project.

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Accomodations and Modifications

This project was written for extended French students.  While some groups may need some help with proofreading their final pieces, most students should be able to work independently.  Some students may require more structure in the timeline so due dates may be arranged to track progress.

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If this project were to be used in a core French class, students may need more assistance editing the written script for their movie trailer and editing their DVD cover summary.  Also, components of the project could be skipped.  For example, the focus of this project could be simply the written summary or the DVD trailer.

The DVD cover could be completed without using graphic editing software.  It could be a cut and paste project with a few photos and text written by students, or it could be completely hand-drawn.

Students could work by themselves instead of in a group.

Students could alternate at computers if there are not enough computers for all groups.

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Research Base

In general, research on the use of video within a language classroom has found that video increases motivation and engagement, develops literacy skills, can be used across the curriculum and across grades, and can accommodate different learning styles and abilities.

There are numerous benefits for teachers including, “motivating students and keeping them on track.”  (Burn and Reed, 1999).  Furthermore, “…the use of digital video can raise pupils’ enthusiasm for what they are studying. It can also motivate a wider range of pupils than traditional teaching methods, according to a study by the British Film Institute for the government’s computer agency, Becta.”  (Article: Using Digital Video to Enhance Learning)

Video creation can improve a student’s understanding of character, setting and narrative structure through the planning and editing of a film (Parker, 2002).  Students, as consumers of large amounts of video, often don’t have many opportunities to create their own.  “Our students are learning through consuming video but not creating it – a little like learning through reading without also learning to write.”

Research also shows that movie production can be an emotional experience for students, with benefits for students that include:  the encouragement of self-expression and creativity,  the development of a range of social learning skills, including communication, negotiation, decision-making, and problem-solving (Reid et al., 2002)  for “…everyone’s talents may vary, but you never know who has that inner, incredible director just waiting to come out, one child one adult who can now express themselves who couldn’t before.  And I think we all have a story inside we want to tell and here’s a chance to finally be able to do it.”  (Article: Apple Bets New Video-Editing Programs Will Catch On, 2001)

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Evidence of Innovation or Exemplary Practice

Digital video editing addresses literacy using a variety of learning styles (visual, active and verbal).  Creating a film as a final project is still a fairly new idea.  As well, this project is innovative in its use of technology and the way in which a student’s idea can be brought to life.

This project allows students to be writers/directors and imagine the plot outline for an entire film.  The group is then asked to narrows ideas into key scenes to entice their viewer to watch their film.

Furthermore, this project allows  the student to try out various roles, such as those of writer, producer, actor, director, music engineer, and designer.  Students are able to develop their leadership skills in small group teaching sessions, and their excitement for learning grows as they see that others are engaged by their work (even in the unfinished stages).

Finally, student critiques, prior to an evaluation, leave students eager to revisit and fine tune their project.  In my classroom, it was difficult to ‘pull’ students away from this project, such was their desire to create a wonderful movie.

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Other Applications

- create a short video illustrating a time period in history and have students play the roles of characters – i.e. Heritage Minute idea
- have students work in groups to create short videos on nutrition concepts/fitness videos for use in DPA class (may be in French or English)
- use video to act out the invention of an important item in history – describe the impact of the invention on the world – i.e. ‘Science Minute’.  In this way, students would teach students.

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Impact Analysis


All too often French teachers hear students exclaim,  “Oh no,  I have French class.”   However, with this project,  students were eager to attend class and motivated to try and perfect their oral and written French skills.


It is easy to get carried away by the enthusiasm of the students for this project.  It is essential to remember that the goal is  to ensure careful assistance with written and oral French, as much as a great final product.  It is not unusual for students to get so wrapped up in the project that they forget to ask for help.  For that reason, it is necessary for teachers to remind students to continuously check in.


The school-wide impact of a project of this nature proved to be astounding.   Teachers would stop by on the way through the library to see how the projects were progressing; the music teachers began speaking about how they could incorporate their subject in the following year; and students sat down with teachers to teach them the program.

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Additional Resources

It is useful to show students a variety of movie trailers so they can learn about this form of advertising.  It is equally helpful to show students examples of DVD covers.

Websites: (for DVD covers) (for French DVD trailers)

Complete digital video editing training unit for kids:

How to Use Windows Movie Maker:

Pinnacle Studio Tips:

How to Use Adobe Photoshop Elements:

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Copyright and Proper Citation Considerations

As we worked through the project, we realized that students didn’t understand that they couldn’t just use a song from another artist, due to copyright issues.  Therefore, we had to teach students how to access copyright free music to get instrumental pieces that are legal to use.

We had previously used the music editing program Audacity and some students modified the copyright free music to create their own piece. The video and photos used within these trailers were pieces filmed within the school in specific student-chosen locations.

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