Literacy, Film and the Scottish Survey

Moving image texts, in the form of cinema, and later, television, have been with us for a long time. So much so that it is difficult to imagine a world without them. And moving image texts have been used in education since the middle of the last century. I still vaguely remember trooping in to our school dining hall in the mid-1960s to watch Peter Brook’s wonderful black and white adaptation of Lord of the Flies (not to be confused with the awful 1990 remake which has the English public school boys replaced with American marine cadets). In those days, however, and to a great extent today still, the film or the television programme in class was used to enhance or supplement the ‘real’ text ie the book, or simply as an alternative means of communicating the lesson – a substitute teacher. The idea that moving image texts were valid in themselves, and were worthy of study, was reserved to a few enthusiasts and placed in the box marked ‘Media Studies’.

Not any more. In a bold move, the Scottish Qualifications Authority (SQA), working on behalf of the Scottish Government, has been engaged over the past eighteen months in developing reading tasks based on moving image texts, for inclusion in the new-look Scottish Survey of Literacy and Numeracy. The SSLN replaces the old  Scottish Survey of Achievement and assumes a much more significant role in the post 5-14 landscape. A small, random sample of pupils from EVERY school in the country in P4, P7 and S2 will be assigned a series of short tasks, the results of which should provide a snapshot of literacy levels across the country. Crucially, however, the anonymous nature of the survey and the size of the sample (no more than twelve pupils per school in S2 and much fewer in primary) will make it impossible to compare schools or compile the much-vilified ‘league tables’ of old. The tasks will assess performance in literacy using a wide variety of texts, including moving image texts, as defined by Curriculum for Excellence:-

texts not only include those presented in traditional written or print form, but also orally, electronically or on film

The moving image tasks have been written by experienced and enthusiastic practitioners – thereby exposing another myth, that national assessments are written by SQA staff – and they have already been piloted  with great success. Feedback from pupils and teachers has been overwhelmingly positive. Having worked with the development team, the SQA granted me exclusive permission to publish a sample task which was developed for early trials but which will NOT be used in the actual survey. This Level 1 task (P4, age eight) is based on the short extract from the film ‘Babe’. As you will see from the task booklet, the ability to ‘read’ the extract depends on some awareness of the language and grammar of moving image, but does not require any kind of specialist vocabulary. Download the task booklet here.

Further Resources

For some excellent teaching materials and short films to use in the classroom check out the following websites:

Moving Image Education www.movingimageeducation.org

Film Education www.filmeducation.org

Scotland on Screen www.scotlandonscreen.co.uk

Languages on Screen www.languagesonscreen.org.uk

Open Culture www.openculture.com

Film Studies for Free www.filmstudiesforfree.blogspot.com

Movie Clips and Movie Scenes www.movieclips.com

Docscene – Scottish Documentary www.scottishdocinstitute.com

BBC Film Network www.bbc.co.uk/filmnetwork

BBC Learning Zone Scotland www.bbc.co.uk/scotland/learning/learningzone

National Film Board of Canada www.nfb.ca

Vimeo www.vimeo.com

Scottish Screen www.scottishscreen.com

British Film Institute www.bfi.org.uk

One thought on “Literacy, Film and the Scottish Survey

  1. Pingback: Visual Literacy – No Longer a Luxury « Bill Boyd – The Literacy Adviser

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