Have you ever seen magic happen in a classroom? Not a trick or illusion, but kids experiencing a moment where each one of them is mesmerized by a wonderful event where they can’t deny learning but also impact their lives every day afterwards. These moments are few and far between, but when they happen, you know you’re witnessing something special. This is exactly what happened when The Douglas Show premiered.
Friday afternoon shortly after the school returned from our holiday vacation, the whole school stopped what they were doing, turned the television to our close circuit broadcasting channel, and watched in amazement as classmates and friends presented a realistic looking news show broadcast to the school. The show shared information ranging from current events to local sporting events to vocabulary to even cooking.
Students with wide eyes and gaping mouths watched with full attention because they were seeing their schoolmates do something they couldn’t imagine happening at an elementary school. Since that moment, The Douglas Show has been a source of pride, full of weekly lessons that are undeniable!
It is true that every student in the school is taken with The Douglas Show – the perfect way to bring a school together. Though, I have been most impressed by an unforeseen by product of this weekly production.
For our students, it’s routine to see a camera filming a segment or commercial in the hallway. Our students now see media development as a part of their education. Furthermore, they see how it’s crafted, because they have taken part in creating it. They experience developing a message for a mass audience. This is so amazingly important because today’s students spend over 45 hours a week with the mass media: listening, reading, surfing, watching, playing. Juxtaposed to that, our kids spend 30 hours in school and only 17 hours a week with their parents. The messages they receive from the mass media are overwhelming, and I know the most powerful way to make sure students have the ability to decipher, analyze, and contemplate these media messages is to teach them how they are constructed.
Considering how important it is for our students to understand modern media, I can’t help but feel that may be The Douglas Show’s main legacy; having students understand media, how to develop it, how to manipulate it, and, most importantly, how to understand it. This will be the greatest outcome that The Douglas Show brings our students!
We recently had a chance to talk with Principal Alex McNeese and Loren Kurylo, who along with many other tasks, produces The Douglas Show.
SVN: Loren, tell us about your background and how you decided to start teaching TV/Video production?
LK: Well, I actually am a Title I/At-Risk Literacy teacher, where I give additional help to students that are failing in terms of literacy. My principal wanted me to think outside the box and come up with a way to reach these kids, rather than the traditional way of pulling students out of classrooms and doing traditional literacy activities. I suggested that I use the Title I students to do a school news show, which would give them a different opportunity to write and read, while boosting their confidence. My principal was extremely supportive and turned the idea into something even bigger.
SVN: How did you obtain initial funding for your program? How do you fund the class now?
LK: This news show uses Title I funds because it is an activity for Title I students.
SVN: Did you have equipment available?
LK: Not really! I researched school news shows and then called B & H Video. I explained what I wanted to do and asked them to just order me what I would need. They were very helpful and quickly got me a quote.
SVN: How many kids are in the TV/Video Production classes? How is it broken down? Is it a multi-year program?
LK: There are about 32 students that are consistently in the show throughout the year. Individual classes sometimes do commercials to be added to the show, and there have been a few special guests. This is the first year we’ve had it, so we’re hoping to continue the show each year and continue to use Title I students. The students may change each year according to which students need the most help.
SVN: Can you tell us a little more about the sessions: How long are the classes? How many students? What types of projects?
LK: I meet with students 2 to 3 days a week for 20 to 30 minutes. Oftentimes, if it’s a lengthy segment I’ll work with them an extra day or two to get the material written, practiced, and filmed in time.
SVN: How many kids to do the morning news broadcast? Do you also do a weekly broadcast? Special events coverage?
LK: We do a little more than just news on The Douglas Show. The show plays every Friday. We have several segments that make up the show and they can vary each week. We normally have 2 students for the news anchors, one student doing “The Weather Report”, one or two students doing “Sensational Sports” (depending on grade level—1st graders often need two students to split up all the reading and speaking), one or two students doing “Cool Cooking”, one student doing “Poem of the Day”, one, two, or three students doing separate “My Favorite Book” segments, one student doing “Wonderful Words”, and there are often more “special” segments that come up, like interviews, commercials, special announcements, etc.
SVN: What jobs do the kids do? Do the kids rotate through on-air talent and crew positions or are they “hired” for a specific task?
LK: Since what we’re doing isn’t really a video production class, the students are just the stars of the show and I do the production work. Next year we will start to bring the kids a little more into the production. I normally give students a choice between a few open positions each week. They only do each position once. For example, if they’ve already done “Sensational Sports”, they can’t do it again in order to be able to do each segment by the end of the year.
SVN: Do students audition for on-air positions?
LK: The students do not audition. The purpose of our show is to get our lowest students writing, reading, and speaking in an exciting way. These students now love to write and read for the show. Every student that receives Title I services gets to be in it.
SVN: Do they write the content?
LK: Absolutely. The students write all the content of the show. I usually tell them what type of announcements to make, how to make the food, what’s happening in sports, and they put it into their own words and decide how to present that information. We usually work together on writing the script the first day, then edit the script while talking about punctuation, word choice, and so on, and then they practice reading the piece with fluency. The final day we film it and I edit it before Friday (the day the show airs).
SVN: How long does the show run?
LK: A typical show is anywhere from 7 to 15 minutes long.
SVN: Do you submit programming to independent contest such as those sponsored by StudicaSkills and SchoolTube TV?
LK: We just submitted one of our shows to School Tube, thanks to this interview question! Thanks!
SVN: Can your broadcast be viewed outside the school? District-wide? Local cable access? On your school/district web-site?
LK: Our shows play on our local cable channel so that the students’ families and friends can watch at home. The kids are stars!
SVN: Do you have an equipment list you can share with our readers?
Sure! Right now I am using:
· Mac’s imovie ’09 to edit and create the shows
· Canon GL2 video camera
· Bogen Tripod
· Impact 10x24’ background green screen
· Impact Background Support System (to hold up the green screen)
· Pony clamps (to clamp the material to the poles in the background support system—must be tight and wrinkle-free)
· Impact lighting kit
· Datavideo DVK-100 Chromakey
· RCA DVD player (We use virtual studios and other pictures to display on the green screen)
· Sony GVH-D700 HDV video Walkman (for recording and playback)
· Panasonic DV 63min tapes
· Memorex DVD+R DVDs
· Memorex CD-RW CDs
SVN: Have any quick start tips!
LK: Don’t be afraid to start without having a lot of equipment. You can start small and build from there. You can always improvise and it’s fun to watch your productions improve each time. Write out a storyboard of how you want your production to go before you start filming—it will give you a clear picture of how it will be organized. Finally, stay positive and make sure you support your students and are there to calm their nerves when they feel nervous on-air. Good luck!