Encourage your Future Auteur: Making Movies in the Library

The school where I work is being transformed into a whole-school STEAM magnet thanks to a federal grant our school district has received. Much to the delight of our teacher librarian, the library will be included in the grant and will get its overdue update to become Library Commons. Ours is the last district middle school library to not have been already transformed. Besides new shelving, modular furniture elements, and a centralized circulation desk, the new library commons will include space for collaborative and creative work by students, a Makerspace.

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A still photograph from Georges Méliès’ pioneering 1902  film, A Trip to the Moon, which combined stop-action animation with live action actors.

Several core teachers already incorporate differentiated instruction into their curriculum. They are open to integrating projects that require visual literacy to complete lessons. For instance, in preparation for the yearly field day, sixth grade students in the existing business magnet prepare carnival fair games for the bazaar held in the school gym. Besides forming teams to create a game, the students are also responsible for marketing their game to the rest of the school body via short commercials shown on the morning news show during the week preceding Field Day. Up to now, the students create films on their own, with little input from any teachers or staff. The results, while cute, are mixed in technical quality. Some are far too long, filmed from too far away, or the sound is poor. In our future library, we hope to have a production studio available in order to aid our students to produce better quality videos using some standard equipment and some basic direction. Another teacher has asked our IT Coach to help her teach her eighth grade ELA students for tips on making short video book reports; they apparently are learning from ground zero.

Encouraging visual literacy has already been found to enhance deeper understanding of complex content and concepts. Moreover, students who may have trouble verbalizing their understanding or building on what they’ve read can express themselves in a different way. And as Britton states,

Someone who wants to do something because it is fun is more likely to find an activity to be meaningful than someone who is doing something for a reward or to learn something. When someone is engaged in a playful space, that person will learn more easily. Creating playful information-based spaces allows the learner to explore and engage with content on the learner’s terms instead of on the instructor’s terms.

I searched for Makerspace movie studio ideas that required neither expensive tech equipment, robots, circuitry, or coding, nor were merely arts-and-crafts-corner projects. On her blog hosted by School Library Journal, librarian Karen Jensen of Teen Librarian Toolbox has seven posts  on her Makerspace resource page regarding ideas for video production in the library. In her post, Making Movie Magic with Tweens and Teens in the Library from 2015, Ms. Jensen shares the Powerpoint presentation from a webinar she created. In it she shows how to make and share simple movies using apps to manipulate digital film from students’ own devices or library-owned iPads. Jensen presents ideas from very basic short looping films called GIFS from a series of photos to more complex stop-motion films using any variety of props or images.


In her presentation, Jensen includes links to how-to sites and apps that students can use to edit and produce their movies. Because the purpose of the student films is to share them, she also includes links and information for sharing platforms like YouTube, Vine, and Google Hangout.

Fully articulated iPad stand used for viewing iPad or to use as a steadying tripod for stop-motion animation.
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An example of a simple background for a stop-motion film from Teen Librarian Toolbox.


A librarian could easily follow Jensen’s entry slide by slide, clicking on each link she has included, to create a whole movie production studio in their school library, it is that complete. Jensen even offers several project ideas to get your students started and suggests hosting a Film Festival. Besides having students download the free apps, a school librarian could further encourage film production by setting up a studio space, with inexpensive lighting, and a tripod or another similar device to hold an iPhone or iPad steady while filming for the stop motion.

As an ‘amateur du cinema’, I could get very deeply involved with a whole movie themed project with teenagers.

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