Silent Film is a post-reading activity that Cynthia Hitz recently shared on her blog. I always hesitate to use actors when reading novels because there is often a lot of narration and not a ton of actual action, but this is a great way to make ANY chapter actable–by pulling out the action moments. Cindy’s a smart lady 🙂
In this activity, students determine which scene their classmates are acting out and work in groups to provide the correct, written description from a text.
How to prepare for Silent Film:
Silent Film is a post-reading activity… so the first thing that you’ll need to do is to to read a text in class (book chapter, article, story, etc.).
Then, select 8-10 sentences from the text that can easily be acted out (nothing too abstract, unless you have really amazing improv actors that could handle it!). In my experience, only the most obvious sentences work well. For example: “Brandon cleans the car”.
If possible, prepare a printed or projected version of the text or story that students can reference during the activity.
Finally, you’ll need to have a whiteboard and marker for each group of 3 students!
How to do Silent Film in class:
Pull up a set of student actors; enough to cover each of the major roles in the story. Make sure they are good ‘improv’ actors!
Form groups of 3 with the remaining students, and have them letter themselves A, B, and C. Have each group grab a whiteboard and marker.
Show one of the story sentences to the actors, and give them 30 seconds to plan how to act it out.
After the planning time, the actors act out the scene for the class for 30 seconds. While they act, the groups scan the text and determine which sentence the actors are depicting.
After 30 seconds, call out a letter (A, B, or C), and that person from each group grabs their group’s whiteboard and copies down the sentence that they think is being depicted. They must write it down exactly as it was written in the original text (forcing them to re-read it, versus working from their often inaccurate memories).
Any group that gets it right on their first try receives a point.
Continue with each of the 8-10 sentences.
How did Silent Film go on my first try?
When I tried out this activity today to review a story with my students, and it was great! We did have a few hurdles to jump through. Here is how it went:
Success: Project the script
I projected the script on the board since the kids didn’t have a copy of the text (Cynthia had the kids looking through the chapter from the book when she used this event).
Success: Numbered Heads Together
I used the ‘Numbered Heads Together’ structure for the activity. Kids worked in groups of three and had to decide as a group what the event was–just talking, no writing. Then, I called out a letter (Person A, B, or C), and that person grabbed their group’s whiteboard and wrote down the event. They had to write it down exactly as it was written in the original text (forcing them to re-read it, versus working from their often inaccurate memories), and any group that got it right on their first try received a point.
Fail: Wrong actors
I think I chose the wrong kids to be actors. They are good actors, but they needed too much ‘think time’. It was taking them FOREVER after they saw the scene to figure out what they were going to do. Meanwhile, the rest of the class was waiting…waiting…waiting. Choose your actors carefully!! I think that I would also give all of the events to the actors at the beginning so that they have time to look over upcoming events while the groups are thinking and discussing the current scene.
Fail: Wrong scenes
I chose bad scenes to act out. Some of them were good, but some of them were too abstract. I had three girls, and I told the class that their roles could change throughout the course of the activity. Not a good idea. I needed to stick with one person for each character and not have anyone be an abstract something like a plant. It confused the actors and the rest of the class!
After two scenes, I fired those actors and switched to a ‘charades’ format. I called up one person at a time to be the artist and draw the scene, and the activity continued the same way. This allowed us to do abstract scenes, and there was no role-switching. Not as entertaining as acting it out, but it was a good fix.
Fail: No scoring
I didn’t keep track of points; I left that up to groups…and they either didn’t keep track or were not very honest. Punks!