Award Winner: Jennifer Hall
Winner Cohort: 2013
Project Title: Lights, Camera, Action!
Student Reach as of 2018: 1,600 and counting
Jennifer Hall, a 2013 Teach On Project grant recipient,
takes learning out of classrooms and into the hands of her students through her
Shakespeare unit, “Lights, Camera, Action”. A project initially born within a single
classroom now reaches well beyond its roots impacting hundreds of students every
Hall’s story began at Brown Middle School, within Atlanta Public Schools, where she
taught middle school Language Arts. A key time during the academic year for her
sixth, seventh and eight grade students was when they dove into the study of classic
literature during a unit titled “Salute to Shakespeare”. The unit focused on reading and analyzing three Shakespeare plays: Macbeth (6th grade), Othello (7th grade), and Hamlet (8th grade). After studying the text, her students rewrote the play in a modern setting, and cast and produced their play using classmates as director, camera operators, actors and crew. Hall’s inspiration behind incorporating film production was to allow her students “to read, analyze, adapt, and foster their creativity and understanding.” These skills, Hall felt, could not be achieved by simply giving a test on Shakespeare. By filming their own projects, she knew that students would have an increase in self-esteem while developing stronger collaboration skills.
But great ideas don't always come with great resources. Initially, Hall filmed her
student’s plays with a Kodak point and shoot camera and a homemade green screen. The student’s Shakespearean films were limited in their creativity and complexity, something easily noticed by a technologically advance generation of students. In an effort to increase the students’ engagement in the process, along with academic achievement and college readiness skills, Hall sought funding for a complete set of up
to date production equipment from the Teach On Project (TOP).
With the project stipend of the TOP grant, Hall had the opportunity to make much needed improvements to her long-standing project. Hall recounts:
"I had one student, Myka, who gave me the highest compliment I ever received from a student. She told me that she was impressed that each year I had tried to make things better. I was always trying to improve. With her and all my other kiddos in mind, I sought the (TOP) award as an opportunity to improve our Shakespeare Film Project."
The Teach On Project outfitted Hall’s project with professional cameras and Adobe Studio software to allow students to turn their scripts into well-rounded films that demonstrate their understanding of Shakespeare and film production. At the end of each semester, Hall held a Shakespeare Film Fest where students completed an evaluation for each film, critiqued the storyline, video quality, acting and editing. Hall commented that the Film Fest gave her students the opportunity to be critical viewers – better evaluators armed with knowledge and understanding.
Today, Hall works as an Education Technology Specialist for the Atlanta Public Schools System. Though she is no longer in the classroom, her project lives on bigger and better than ever. In her new role, Hall is able to replicate the “Lights, Camera, Action!” project in multiple locations. She takes her ideas, passion and equipment to six middle schools where she facilitates the students’ films and production in 20 different classrooms. Additionally, she has made her unit planning resources openly available to any interested educator. With passion and persistence, Hall has a goal to include every middle school in the Atlanta Public Schools.
(To read Jennifer's reflections on this project, please click here. )