One of the thing which appears essential to me is to educate our children to this visual world because it is obvious that image dominate our today word.
The best way to empower them in this context is to give them as much toold as possible to not be dominate and even influence by all those images.
This is why I believe that children should make commercials even before seeing any. And this is something they can do early on, let say around 5 years old.
I think that it will be wise to implement some audiovisual class as early as kindergarten. I will start with some very basic games:
- first bring some still picture taken from magazine and simply ask the student to look at them closely and tell what they see. they can do that as small group of 2 or 3 or individually. The idea is to make them focus and notice details that they would probably not have even pay attention to in the first place.
- then it would be nice to project some other pictures with a retro-projector after darkening the classroom to improve the focus on the image but also give a sense of "special moment" to the kids. The exercise will be the same as the first one, just telling what they see on the picture except that this time the whole class will see the same image. it should be interesting to notice what they actually observe on each picture as a collective. the goal is to eventually have them surprise each other by not noticing the same thing.
- if the class is well spoken, it could be nice to ask them to tell a little short story about the image, what the story of it.
- Make a flip book will be a great new step as well as a nice craft for the children to realize. Sure they will not do the drawing themselves, each teacher can easily choose what kind of flip book she would like her class to make and make the template for each kid to assemble and play with and keep forever. (http://www.wikihow.com/Make-a-Flipbook) The goal is there is for the kids to feel some more sensation about an image go from still to movement. Experimentation stays much better than explanation.
- it is now time to pass to videos and I will start with something they probably know better than anyone: cartoon! Except that I will not simply show them a cartoon and any cartoon, I will follow some very precise steps. First I will take a Looney Tune cartoon as they are usually short, extremely well done and intelligent and rich of elements to observe. I like to take Bugs Bunny. So the idea is to first show them the cartoon without the sound. The children will pay more attention to the images in order to understand what is going on. And they will understand. So as soon as the cartoon is done, they will be able to tell the story to their teacher. From there I will have some other step which will be new games, knowing that the children will certainly pay more attetion to the words as they surely want to check if they got the story right, the next game will be to "pay attention to the tone of the voice". is the voice happy, sad, grave, high, fast, slow, clear or not, angry, scare...
So the children will not only listen to what is being said but also to how it is being said.
then the teacher can have them share what they observe and there the all will learn from each other.
The next step will allow the children to see the same cartoon again. And this time they will have to focus on the music! Is there music, what kind of music is that and when? is that an happy music, a fast one, a slow one, a scary one? they should be able to notice the change of music at it occurs. Children are sometime so excited by the exercise that they shout out as the cartoon run what they are noticing. When the cartoon ends, it is time to share what has been noticed and then to make it in relation with the other elements we already observe:
Example: at that moment when the music is rapid we see the rabbit running, or when the rabbit is hiding the music is really slow and low...
The idea is to make the children notice the relation between the images and the music, and eventually understand why a sad music will be strange at this happy moment...
There is one more element that we need our children to notice in the cartoon: the sound effects. So I will show them a last time the cartoon and ask them to focus on all those sounds: do we hear a door opening? step in the stairs? a knock on the door? a car braking?....
The children will this time focus on the sound effects and at the end of the cartoon put all their observation in common one last time.
This should be fun but it is demanding a great amount of energy and focus, particularly the first time. It will be wise to repeat this "observation of a cartoon" a few times with different cartoon of course. Cartoons have to be short, as they will be watch a few time. As they practice those exercises the children should become better and better at it and soon be extremely fast in noticing detail that may be the adult will not even noticed.
Those exercises are determinant in training awareness to the brain. most of the time children and adult as well do not noticed all those elements and the relations in between them and that is making them so easily influenced by what they are seeing, including commercials.
- The next step I will introduce involve some material, not much but a video camcorder and eventually some light, however light are totally optional and not necessary at that point. this should be fun and the teacher should be prepare for some excitation among those young student. They will now make some commercials! Oh well, I am not going to ask them to develop script and concept. But here is how I will proceed:
first I will ask them if they know what a commercial is? I am pretty sure that some of them will have some ideas and some can be surprising. at that point it is usually easy to focus on one example, lets say that one of them speak about a commercial about cereal, probably because he saw it and it was a fun one. I am going to ask him now to tell us what the story this commercial is telling? and how? what he remember most about it? ask him if he actually knows those cereal? if not, if he would like to know them and why?
The idea if by questioning the children, make them kind of understand or guess that commercial are made to create the desire to buy the product. In my experience, children do figure it out pretty quickly.
Then it is also important to make them realize the part of lies in commercial, it is easy for example if there is a cartoon character in the commercial, does cartoon character exist in real life?
no, certainly not. So why is it in the commercial? Well, because it is funny that way and it make the cereal more fun and we like to have fun so we want those cereal...
It is interesting if one kid or more mention commercial for junk food like chips for example, It is an occasion to make the children think a little about nutrition: Is eating chips good for your health? What main happen if you eat a lot of chips?...
At that step I will simply explain the purpose of commercial: make you buy their product. And also tell them that commercial lies all the time to make us buy their product. I like to make them realize that commercial crate needs and that they can make us feel hungry and how, or guilty and how.
Example: if on you are watching a show and each commercial show you pizzas, do you thing you may start to feel hungry and want some pizza?
Another example: thinking about a cleaning product, this one wash a lot better than this other one which leave some dirt on the laundry, so how the adult who is not using the "good" product will feel?
After all this chatting part, children will choose a product that the teacher or themselves will bring to class and they will do their commercial: something very simple,they will have their product in their hand and speak to the camera to convince people to buy it. Believe me, the result can be hilarious,
Depending of the class, this step can be done a few time with a little more complex commercial that would involve more than one kid on the screen.
Then the teacher will show the class their commercial and they will talk about it as freely as possible.
I think that this whole process will be a great program for kindergarten. Children are learning extremely fast and this will give them some essential tools to "read" and apprehend images around them.