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By Philip Webb on

Media literacy and our Moving Stories exhibition: An expert opinion

Learning consultant Philip Webb explores why books and films are so important for getting children engaged with literacy.
Lost & Found, 2008 © Studio AKA
Still from Lost & Found, 2008 © Studio AKA

I was recently talking to a nursery teacher who told me that her class were due a ‘ten sticker reward’ and instead of the usual biscuit or ice cream, what they really wanted was to watch the film version of Lost and Found by Oliver Jeffers again. She went on to tell me how engaged and totally involved they had been earlier in the year when they had first watched this amazing animation. Mind you, this is no ordinary nursery—they even have their own cinema in class—complete with the Holycroft sign.

Holycroft Nursery's Cinema © Philip Webb
Holycroft Nursery’s Cinema © Philip Webb

It is several months since I became aware of the Moving Stories exhibition and I was excited enough then but having had a sneak preview of the actual content this excitement has grown.

Still from Lost & Found, 2008 © Studio AKA
Still from Lost & Found, 2008 © Studio AKA

In my work as a Teaching and Learning Consultant, I have shared the work of Oliver Jeffers and particularly the film Lost & Found with hundreds of teachers. I use a small extract in my training sessions, which has lead to many teachers buying the video—with one school ordering five copies in the lunchtime following my session, as well as insisting on watching the whole film in their lunch break. The combination of the touching story, beautiful images and superb use of language combine to make, as the cliche goes, a film for all ages.

Still from Hugo, 2011, Showing as part of the National Media Museum's family activities and film screenings for Moving Stories: Children's Books from Page to Screen
Still from Hugo, 2011 © Paramount Pictures

Another book appearing in the exhibition is Brian Selznick’s brilliant The Invention of Hugo Cabret, filmed by Martin Scorsese in 2011 as Hugo. I have been working with our Curriculum Innovation team on their Media Literacy project in conjunction with the BFI and City of Film which culminated in a screening of films made by children on the big screen at the Museum. Put simply, Media Literacy could be defined as learning the language of film to deepen understanding or using film to support reading, speaking and listening and writing.

A scene from Hugo as drawn by a Y5 child at Victoria Primary School in Keighley © Philip Webb
A scene from Hugo as drawn by a Y5 child at Victoria Primary School in Keighley © Philip Webb

As part of the training of the teachers involved in the project, I used the opening of the book, which is purely made up of monochrome drawings, before the first written line of the book (‘From his perch behind the clock, Hugo could see everything’). Using this opening sequence of images, we ask children to write their version of the first sentence. The structure this gives then enables the children to write vivid descriptions of what they see. At Victoria Primary School in Keighley, Year 5 students have taken this a step further and produced their own chalk and charcoal drawings of these scenes and used software to add sound and narration to tell their own version. Their engagement with book and the film is total—the language they use grows daily—and their enjoyment is obvious.

Still from Hugo, 2011 © Paramount Pictures
Still from Hugo, 2011 © Paramount Pictures

These workshops have shown just much film engages children with stories and books and words and ideas. With these titles just two of the films featured in the exhibition, I’m really counting the days to the opening. What an opportunity for families and schools to visit the Museum, become involved in the ideas and maybe even create their own, just like the children in the Media Literacy project.

Bradford Media Literacy Project Screening © Philip Webb
Bradford Media Literacy Project Screening © Philip Webb

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