My A2 class is split between three teachers. I only teach the class once each week and my focus is section one of the exam. I attempt to teach them the importance of knowing the theory before making a decision with the production. However, the students tend to see my lesson as very separate from the fun practical lessons they are enjoying with the other teachers. They do not like to see the importance of the link.
When we review coursework choices, I ask students why they have chosen a particular shot/ angle/ music, the response is never in relation to a particular theory. It is usually more along the lines of “because it looks good”. Once again, the hexagons come into play…
The focus of this lesson was media language. The pupils began with a mock example of what I wanted them to create, hexagons containing both theory and unistructural statements from their projects. For example:
• Kristina Woolsey (2005) explores the media language revolution and explains how our culture has moved from an oral culture into one where movies and television are our central experience
• James Paul Gee(2008) believes there is an educational gap between the development of new media literacy and an education establishment’s ability to keep up
• Kathleen Tyner (2007) explored the reality of media language and concluded that technology has not changed our culture but is instead a new way of communicating ideas.
• I know that an audience would recognise flashback from a close up of the character’s eye followed by a slowly rendered transition into a black and white narrative
• My shots, angles sequencing and sound all had to be constructed in such a way that the viewer could understand them
• My shots evoke emotion to bring the viewer into the experience As with the other hexagon lessons, I asked the students to make sense of the statements by explaining how and why they might link together.
So far, pupils did not seem too challenged by this task. They understood how and why the statements could fit together and agreed that it would be quite easy to form an essay from this.
Students were then provided with new hexagons each containing one of the following parts from the criteria for a level four (top) answer:
• clear understanding of different theories of Media Language
• Associated media theory and can relate concepts articulately to the production outcome
• specific examples of how their product can be understood in relation to relevant theories of media language
• relevant examples of how their product can be understood in relation to relevant theories of media language
• interesting examples of how their product can be understood in relation to relevant theories of media language
• clear examples of how their product can be understood in relation to relevant theories of media language
• The use of conceptual language is excellent.
• Complex issues have been expressed clearly and fluently
• Sentences and paragraphs, consistently relevant, have been well structured, using appropriate technical terminology.
Search for Meaning
Students had to now rethink the order of their hexagons by linking in the criteria, matching it to the theories and descriptions of work. This proved more challenging but fruitful none the less.
I asked them to write down and attempt to answer any questions that came to mind. They began asking questions such as…is there enough here for a level four? What would need to be added? Is that example relevant? How does it show that there is understanding of the theory and that it is not just stating what was said?
With all of these new questions in mind, I provided pupils with blank hexagons. I asked them to focus on the topic area that they felt most comfortable with for this exercise (genre, narrative, audience…). They took out their notes on their chosen area and started by writing down several theories that they had researched. They then wrote their own unistructural statements about choices that they wished to make in the production of their films. Because students had earlier thought about the gaps in my original hexagons, the ideas that they were coming up with for their own were far superior.
Pupils were organising their hexagons into a coherent argument and including links that demonstrated that they not only knew the theory but also understood it and could apply it to their own work.
Once pupils had spent time organising their ideas, I provided them with a past example of their own work in response to question 1b. They were able to tell me what was missing and how they might fix this problem when responding to this question in future. Although the hexagon lesson did not eradicate the problem of pupils finding the theory side of media a hindrance to the fun they are having in their practical productions, it did provide them with an easy way to link ideas and theories. Once again…hexagons = success.