The Classroom

MEDEA Finalist 2010

MEDEA Finalist 2010

The Classroom is a short animation produced in 2010 by GCSE Mandarin students (Year 11) at St Chad’s Catholic & Church of England High School, Runcorn, as part of the formal education programme “Projector Community Languages” of Cornerhouse, centre for contemporary visual art and film and educational charity in the UK. With this production, Cornerhouse aimed to enable young people to learn Mandarin in a fun, interactive and engaging way, increase their understanding of Mandarin and Chinese culture through the use of film and practical creative workshops, and to encourage teachers to deliver more creative language sessions at school.

The students attended a GCSE Mandarin study session of the film Wo de fu qin mu qin / The Road Home directed by Zhang Yimou and learned more about the film director and the context of contemporary Chinese cinema. After watching the subtitled film and exploring its topics such as daily routine, personal relationships, village life, customs and traditions and the Cultural Revolution, they created The Classroom with a professional filmmaker and language tutor. They re-created their favourite scenes from the film by creating plasticine characters, film sets, and using their Mandarin language skills to bring their film to life. This film be used as learning tool both in the classroom and at home.

The showcase video of The Classroom, interview with Rachel Hayward

Using film as a vehicle for creativity, they had access to state of the art equipment and professional staff, where learning took place in an informal and open environment. The young people who attended the Mandarin study session and who then created this film said that as a result of watching the film they had a better understanding of other people’s culture and languages, that they would like to see more sub-titled film and were more interested in learning languages since watching the film.

Cornerhouse decided to introduce a creative strand to Projector to enable young people to develop their own creative responses to the films they see because it encourages greater practical involvement, and increased critical thinking about the characters and language. Working with professional filmmakers, young people also have the opportunity to learn about practical and creative processes they may not otherwise have the opportunity to experience. This creative element to Projector proved to be a great success and as a result Cornerhouse is currently developing a teacher’s toolkit to enable teachers to deliver their own creative sessions in the classroom, which will be added to their online student-created films and study materials (all freely available). Created by young people, they are engaging resources for other young people learning languages.

What the judges said about this entry

The Classroom was described by the jury as taking a highly integrated and multidisciplinary approach integrating language learning, cultural studies, media studies and media production. The judges thought it was a really good idea to take a film in Mandarin as a starting point and to recreate a scene with an animation, which provides a natural way to boost the creative process. The claymation provides an excellent backdrop to the green screen and the stop-motion animations of the mandarin words are quite cool in the way in which they mirror a traditional calligrapher’s brush stroke directions and their metaphors are easily understood.

It is extremely well thought through from a pedagogical point of view, the aims are clear and it is very likely that not only do pupils use the experience of making this film to enhance their Mandarin skills but they also learn a lot about film at the same time. It is a good example of the comprehensive and well supported approach to learning taken by this highly innovative centre, with a structured pedagogically-sound study guide that really supports this entry and is available online for free, as is the video. This is a very good example of learners creating a video as a way for them to engage deeply with subject content.

About the creation of The Classroom

Rachel Hayward, Programme Manager at Cornerhouse, talks more about the background: “Cornerhouse is Greater Manchester’s international centre for contemporary visual art and film, which enjoys an international reputation for innovation and excellence. Consisting of three cinemas, three galleries, and two education spaces, Cornerhouse runs an ongoing programme of contemporary art exhibitions and presents the best in world film. Registered as an educational charity Cornerhouse aims to promote the advancement of education through the arts and runs a year-round programme of informal and formal education activities.

The formal education programme “Projector Community Languages” is aimed at students between 14 and 18 years in mainstream and supplementary school education. It was developed in response to the low status of both film and community languages in mainstream schools and the need to increase interest in language learning beyond GCSE level. Besides creative workshops, we also develop study resources for each film screened such as a range of language learning exercises that are available online for free and sessions to enable teachers to deliver their own film-related learning in the classroom.

Cornerhouse launched this project based on the success of our Projector programme for Modern Foreign Languages, which enables young people studying at GCSE, AS, and A2 level to increase their understanding of Spanish, French and German through film and associated study sessions, and also has a well-established informal education programme, LiveWire that enables young people to develop art, film and multi-media projects in the direction they want to take with support from artists and filmmakers to realise their vision. Films are useful tools for developing multiliteracies and multimodal analysis in the language classroom. The use of film with the support of structured materials (like the study guides created for specific films) can help students to develop all four communicative skills (speaking, reading, writing and listening). Audiovisual material enables them to develop a critical understanding, encouraging them to use language in a creative way.

We work very closely with Manchester Metropolitan University, the North West Consortium of Routes into Languages (COLT – Community and Lesser Taught Languages), and teachers to ensure the programme of study ties in to the scheme of work for the year and meets curriculum requirements. During the making of The Classroom, a language specialist also ensured the workshop was relevant to the National Curriculum and linked to the topic areas outlined in the language specifications (e.g. customs, everyday life and traditions), as well as expanding vocabulary and ensuring students communicated accurately and at a high standard.”

About Rachel Hayward

Rachel Hayward

Rachel Hayward

Rachel Hayward is Programme Manager at Cornerhouse, Manchester’s international centre for contemporary visual arts and film. Cornerhouse is an independent cross-arts venue with three cinema screens, three galleries, event spaces, café and bookshop.

Rachel is responsible for diverse areas of Cornerhouse programmes including: Engagement, monthly film programme; festivals; visual arts exhibitions and audience development. Rachel leads on Projector, Cornerhouse’s year-round programme of events for schools and colleges; ¡Viva! Spanish and Latin American Film Festival and is a member of the Chinese Film Forum UK, working to promote the screening of Chinese diaspora filmmaking in the UK.

Rachel also lectures on film, cinema history and cultural studies at colleges in Manchester.

Rachel represented The Classroom at the MEDEA Awards Ceremony and talked about it in further detail during a presentation at the Media & Learning Conference 2010 Brussels.

The Classroom's web page