OVERVIEW: In this lesson, each student will create a storyboard for a short video self-portrait that communicates the personal significance of a place, relationship, object or experience.
To inspire students, the lesson features a clip from the film The Beaches of Agnès, a cinematic self-portrait of French filmmaker Agnès Varda. For more information on Varda's career and her influence on French New Wave film, see POV's Background page.
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Note: This film is in French with English subtitles. Also, if you wish to show the entire film in a classroom setting, it is recommended that you record or request the edited broadcast version of the film, which is free of nudity and other material that may not be appropriate for the classroom.
By the end of this lesson, students will:
- Describe memories of meaningful places, relationships, objects or experiences.
- Analyze how a series of memories were shared in a video.
- Create detailed storyboards for video self-portraits that feature their own memories.
GRADE LEVELS: 9-12
- Internet access and equipment to show the class an online video clip
- Handout: Video Clip Analysis (PDF file)
- Handout: Storyboard: Video Self Portrait (PDF file)
Estimated Time Needed:One 50-minute class period, plus homework time
Clip 1: "Paris" (length 2:12)
The clip begins at 31:15 with a shot of a train passing in front of the Eiffel Tower. It ends at 33:27 with a shot of a girl reading by the river as a boat passes.
1. Ask each student to write about a memory of a place, relationship, object or experience that has been meaningful to him or her. This may be done either as homework the night before or as a warm-up activity.
2. Invite some students to share what they've written. Ask them to describe how the topics they have written about have influenced their lives.
3. Explain that the class is going to explore the relationship between memory and art by discussing how class members would use video to tell someone about their chosen topics. For inspiration, the class will first watch a brief video clip from the film The Beaches of Agnès, an autobiographical film of French filmmaker Agnès Varda.
4. Tell students that Varda is often associated with French New Wave film, a style popular in the 1950s and 1960s that challenged traditional filmmaking techniques. Films made in this style were frequently shot on location, made use of natural light, included long tracking shots and used other techniques that were unusual for the time. Varda's autobiographical film, The Beaches of Agnès, also experiments with the rules of storytelling by creatively using music, everyday details, meaningful locations, documents, photographs and reenactments to share memories of her life in the 1940s after her family moved from the French coastal town of Sète to Paris.
5. Distribute the Video Clip Analysis (PDF file) so students can take notes while watching the clip. Tell the class that you will show the clip twice. The first time, students should read the English subtitles to understand what Varda is describing. The second time, students should focus on the music and visual elements of the clip.
6. After showing the video clip twice, go over the questions on the handout and point out the various strategies Varda uses to communicate her memories of that time in her life. Ask students to consider how they might use similar techniques if they were to make short video clips about the topics they wrote about in Step 1.
7. Pass out the Storyboard: Video Self Portrait (PDF file) handout and ask each student to use up to four of these pages to create a plan for a video about his or her chosen topic. Encourage students to consider creative uses of location, lighting, everyday details, documents, photographs, objects, music and reenactments to communicate their memories. In the Production Notes section of the handout, they should list details such as actor movement, camera angles, types of shots, picture composition and camera movement.
8. Tell students to complete their storyboards for homework.
Students can be assessed on:
- Thoughtful responses on the Video Clip Analysis (PDF file) handout.
- Clear and detailed storyboards that describe visuals, audio/narration and production notes for their video self-portraits.
EXTENSIONS AND ADAPTATIONS
- Ask students to produce videos from the storyboards developed in the main activity. Showcase the final videos in a class film festival. Alternately, hold an online film festival where members of the class and parents give audio feedback on student videos using Voice Thread.
- Adapt this project for social studies classrooms by asking each student to focus on artifacts, interviews, photographs and other items from the life of an historical figure. Afterward, discuss anything new that students learned about their chosen people by looking at their lives through a creative assignment. What did students learn about themselves through their interpretations of these people's lives?
This Interview magazine article describes The Beaches of Agnès in the context of Varda's overall career.
Digital Video Production
This how-to guide from Kent School District in Washington State provides practical information for creating video projects in a classroom setting. The site includes a sample storyboard, which may be a helpful model for students to review.
These standards are drawn from "Content Knowledge," a compilation of content standards and benchmarks for K-12 curriculum by McRel (Mid-continent Research for Education and Learning).
Arts and Communication
Standard 2: Knows and applies appropriate criteria to arts and communication products.
Standard 3: Uses critical and creative thinking in various arts and communication settings.
Standard : Uses viewing skills and strategies to understand and interpret visual media.
Standard 10: Understands the characteristics and components of the media.
Standard 5: Understands how informal and formal theater, film, television and electronic media productions create and communicate meaning.
Standard 1: Understands and applies media, techniques and processes related to the visual arts.
Standard 2: Knows how to use structures (e.g., sensory qualities, organizational principles, expressive features) and functions of art.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Cari Ladd, M.Ed., is an educational writer with a background in secondary education and media development. Previously, she served as PBS Interactive's director of education, overseeing the development of curricular resources tied to PBS programs, the PBS TeacherSource website (now PBS Teachers), and online teacher professional development services. She has also taught in Maryland and Northern Virginia.