Primary literacy – Make a documentary

Sticking with the theme of news, here’s an activity around documentary-making.

There is often a local, national or international news article which poses questions or demands further research to ‘fill out’ the picture. In real life, this often takes the form of quickly put together documentaries.

By putting together a documentary, children practise many of the skills we teach in English and Drama such as script writing, acting, writing in a particular style, speaking and listening etc.

Ask the children to choose a subject. It could be something to do with the school, their community or a national or international item.

They will need to gather facts on it and pictures to support their information. They can then write and practice a script, being mindful of the style needed. Finally, they can film the documentary and edit it using simple free software such as Windows Movie Maker. We suggested that the documentary be between six and ten minutes long. Many of the children thought this was too short but then found sometimes it was a struggle to fill the time. Adjust it according the ability of the groups and topics chosen.

When we did the activity we found that the interactive whiteboard made for an excellent background or for displaying pictures. The children saved their pictures or backgrounds on a PowerPoint slide show and noted the order and changes of slides alongside their script. If you get the position of the child correct in relation to the camera and board their shadow won’t spoil the image.

We held a special ‘Newsnight’ evening for children to present their work on the news and showed a selection of the documentaries at it, then uploaded our finished documentaries to our website for parents to see.

Dave Lewis
Portsmouth High School Junior Dept

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