I love being amazed and in awe of awesome and engaging lessons that I see teachers use in their classroom. This week, a former colleague, Frank Fitzpatrick (Mr. Fitz), posted about a lesson where he taught his students about silent movies through a novel. His students were reading The Invention of Hugo Cabert. This book uses amazing imagery to tell the story. The imagery and illustrations are used to tell the story as a silent movie in book form. It tells the story of Hugo, an orphan, who lives in the walls of a Paris train station. When Hugo gets caught stealing a toy mechanical mouse to use in his attempt to repair a mysterious machine he’s trying to fix, everything starts to get a little bit messier. The owner of the toy shop who catches him is named Georges Méliès – who is also a real-life pioneer of silent film making. These little, real-life nuggets of information are intertwined throughout the entire book by Brian Selznick. Mr. Selznick references multiple silent movies and films and credits them all at the end of the book.
The aforementioned Mr. Fitz could have easily read this book with his students, referenced some of the things talked about, and moved on to the next novel study. What really got me jazzed about this lesson is Mr. Fitz took the real-life teaching moments from the book and taught his students about Silent Movies. All of our students love watching movies, but learning the roots of something they love really set the hook! Mr. Fitz even got so far into the fun that he taught them about Buster Keaton, another comedic silent-film pioneer, and Mr. Fitz’s students used his “gag” style elements in their own movie making! I had to share this awesome video about Buster that Mr. Fitz had found and used with his students! Watching this mini-documentary about him and seeing his students’ work connected perfectly!
Not only did Mr. Fitz get into real world teaching and learning to go along with the novel, but he took it to the next level! Here’s my favorite quote from Mr. Fitz’s, “The Chase” blog post: “I always try to end the novels we read with a creative challenge. For Hugo, I challenged my students to create a silent movie that told a story in the style of the movies that we watched and the book we read.”
This is what education is all about! Create the hook, engage them in their learning, and let them fly!! Check out this awesome Buster Keaton inspired work from his students!
Want to try this with your students? Check out my man, Jim Covais’ blog post today that has a video organizer you can download and use with your students to help organize their thoughts and plans for different scenes!