Ponyo – I’m as happy as can be

It’s been a long time since I posted on this blog – a reflection of my increased/hectic workload over the past weeks. In addition to this I have been without internet access for the whole first weekend of my half-term break.

Anyway, today I went to see one of the most charming films I have ever seen – Ponyo. It was written/animated/directed by the incredible Hayao Miyazaki, who created masterpieces such as My Neighbour Totoro and Howl’s Moving Castle – films which I have used in the classroom before with great effect. Words can’t really describe Ponyo, but I did think this snippet of a review from the NY Times which came close:

The two were separated — as fated characters invariably are — but she’s found him. Now, as she races along the surface of huge peaking waves she has summoned up by the force of her power, Ponyo is expressing not only her bliss, but also ours [Source]

It really is an absolute marvel and pleasure to watch – it had much more impact than seeing Avatar in IMAX 3D. Go and see it now!

Opening eyes…

Every so often you come across something new. It opens your eyes to a culture or world that you have little experience or understanding of. At the same time  it can fit with issues you have been thinking about and open your mind to new possibilities. Sounds very dramatic… I will explain.

My Sky+HD box has a service called Sky Anytime which automatically records what it describes as unmissable TV to watch anytime that I desire. While browsing the selection I came across a film called The Full Monteverdi which uses Renaissance vocal music to create a contemporary drama.  The film is sung throughout and the only other audio that can be heard is background noise from the setting (a restaurant). It’s an exceptionally powerful piece of film which is very moving to watch. I found a short segment of the production on YouTube and have included it at the top of this post. I didn’t have the privilege of subtitles when watching but I really don’t think they are needed as the the meaning is fundamentally created through the modes of gesture and sound (not necessarily language). It’s a really interesting text and I would really love to use it (or something similar) with upper KS2 when considering the  affordancesof different modes within a meaning making system.

This film opened my eyes to a whole new world of music and film… it makes me wonder what else is out there and what I am missing out on.

The Full Monteverdi

Finding a cliff by the sea

Thank you to everybody who sent really great feedback about the Brer Rabbit critical literacy project I really appreciate it. I’ve also heard that it was being talked about at the Decatur Book Festival after The Wren’s Nest (the birth place museum of Joel Chandler Harris in the USA) picked up on the project. All of this really helps raise the awareness of critical literacy with real-world texts.

As soon as the Brer Rabbit project was over I started to think about other big projects that I could build into our curriculum.  This blog post brings together some of my threads of thought for the new project.

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High School Grumble 2

OK, so I caved. I watched High School Musical 3 and enjoyed it. After my previous blog post where I grumbled about the franchise escalating out of control, I felt I should watch the latest film. I was really pleasantly surprised. The finale of the series (above) is very touching and signifies the end of the cast’s association with the films. Disney were appearing to be ending on a high and went up in my estimations. Then I found this and started to grumble again. Children need to learn that things don’t last forever and that all good things must come to an end. I think Disney need to learn this too.

In the meantime I am looking forward to watching Studio Ghibli’s latest animation Ponyo, which looks original and breathtaking.

Changing formats…

I’m really pleased with how this blog has turned out and I definitely think that moving it away from the main MLI site gives it a unique identity and more scope so that I don’t always have to talk about literacy theory. I also think it looks more like a blog now!

I have taken the opportunity over the past few days to relax and catch a breath. I wrote previously about watching a few films over the holidays so that I’m not neglecting my own literacy practices. So last night I signed up for a 3 month free trial for an online DVD rental service, which also includes Blu-Ray.

It’s typical that when a format like DVD starts to become standard, and you build up a huge library of titles, that a new format is released. Having got a 40" Full HD LCD Television I felt the need to invest in Blu-Ray last December. I now have over 20 blu-ray titles. The quality is generally amazing with newer titles like The Dark Knight. However with older films such as Earth Vs. The Flying Saucers the quality really isn’t that much better than DVD. So are we changing format for changing sake? Some say that DVD and Blu-Ray will co-exist. Maybe this format change is different and more of a format supplement (Blu-Rays are discs afterall). However one thing is for certain -Blu-Ray is here to stay.

UKLA International Conference 2009

I will be presenting at the UKLA International Conference in July, held at Greenwich University. I will be speaking as part of a symposium with Lynda Graham, Angela Colvert and Jackie Marsh about teachers and children shaping digital worlds. Here’s my abstract:

Multiliteracies and meaningful learning contexts in the primary classroom

Martin Waller
Primary School Teacher
Lead Researcher for the Multiliteracies Learning Initiative

Digital technologies provide a range of modes of meaning, which allow learners to communicate and share information in a range of diverse ways for different purposes and audiences. During this presentation I will report findings from ongoing action research in my Year 2 classroom. Multiliteracies, multimodality and critical literacy are at the heart of our curriculum through projects centred on meaningful learning contexts with real-life purpose. Influences of popular culture are embedded in what we do through projects based on film, animation and other new literacy practices. During this presentation I will share work based on a Japanese anime where the children in my class created their own storybook world using digital technologies. The children subverted the original text to incorporate elements of western fairytales and produce their own ‘cross-cultural’ film text. I will also talk about the innovative structures I have developed to aid children in their multimodal analysis. In turn this has had deep effects on writing achievement as the children reshape, reconfigure and combine modes to make new meaning with real audience and purpose in mind.

 Hope to see some of you there!