let them remix videos

I like to think of myself as an early adopter, not of gadgets, but of online applications. I’ll try out just about anything, but I’ll only return if it’s easy to use, solves a problem, is functional on a frequent basis, is cheap, or is just lots of fun. Animoto is an online application which creates studio-quality videos from still photos, and it is definitely all-of-the-above.

The problem this application solves is helping teenagers ‘get’ poetry. The language of many old poems is accessible only to the ardently committed, and we’re talking about seventeen-year-olds. Even some college students will take the easy way out, sitting back and waiting for you to tell them what it means.

Here’s a lesson plan. Assign several poems by the same poet, pair off your students, and give each pair a separate poem. Then tell them to create a video that expresses the major themes of the poem. Sounds interesting, but too technologically challenging and time consuming? Not at all. It’s a snap, and I’ll show you how.

First, a poem:

from, Tintern Abbey

by William Wordsworth

Five years have passed; five summers, with the length
Of five long winters! and again I hear
These waters, rolling from their mountain-springs
With a soft inland murmur.Once again
Do I behold these steep and lofty cliffs,
That on a wild secluded scene impress
Thoughts of more deep seclusion; and connect
The landscape with the quiet of the sky.
The day is come when I again repose
Here, under this dark sycamore, and view
These plots of cottage-ground, these orchard-tufts,
Which at this season, with their unripe fruits,
Are clad in one green hue, and lose themselves
‘Mid groves and copses. Once again I see
These hedgerows, hardly hedgerows, little lines
Of sportive wood run wild; these pastoral farms,
Green to the very door; and wreaths of smoke
Sent up, in silence, from among the trees!
With some uncertain notice, as might seem
Of vagrant dwellers in the houseless woods,
Or of some Hermit’s cave, where by his fire
The Hermit sits alone.

Wordsworth can be counted on to provide visuals that emphasize his theme of worship in natural surrounds. Have your students highlight or embolden illustrative words and terms, then set them loose online to find photos with which to capture the poem’s meaning. Save the photos (they’ll need 10-15), then upload them to Animoto, select accompanying music, then sit back while the Animoto video-making engine does its thing.

Did I mention cheap? Animoto allows you to make videos up to 30 seconds in length for free. For $3, you can create a video of any length.

My Tintern Abbey video is ready. See for yourself . . .

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