Teacher Consultant

Kevin Hodgson

Southampton, Massachusetts

Western Massachusetts Writing Project

Best Practices

  1. See the scene: The use of graphic organizers (i.e., storyboards) is a critical part of the process of writing a script for a Claymation movie. Students need to “see” the scene in their minds and then connect the narrative with the picture element. They use storyboards to sketch out the main scenes and then write a brief narrative summary – not necessarily the dialogue yet. That will come later. Along with storyboards, we also use a simple sequencing graphic organizer that outlines the story from beginning, to middle, to end. This initial activity keeps the story moving forward along a focused arc, and it helps to keep the collaborators who are writing from moving too far off on tangents.
  2. Hear your voice: As students are writing up their script on the computer, I often have them stop and read it through out loud as a group. Since this Claymation project is a collaborative activity, we want to make sure that everyone in the group has a “voice” in the final product. What we have found is that by reading it out loud, they can catch basic proofreading errors in the text and also better track the progress of the story. The read aloud activity also ensures that everyone in the group is involved in the creation of the story. One drawback to the combinations of collaborative group work with a computer and different age groups of writers is that one person types and the rest of the members think out loud and offer guidance. But not all groups of students (particularly when you are mixing second-graders and sixth-graders together) can remain focused in this type of collaborative writing for long stretches of time. The read aloud activity brings them back to the story from time to time and reminds them of what they are doing.
  3. See your script in color: As the script approaches completion, we often color–code the text (either on the computer or later, when printed out, using highlighters) so that students have clear visual cues as to where their parts are located in the story. Similar to the read aloud strategy described above, this coloring of text also visually represents the various members of the group on a page. And if it becomes clear that someone does not have enough parts in the dialogue or has weak character development, then the group goes back and brainstorms how to improve the story.