A+ Educators: Ms. Frank

Behind every student is an educator who inspires. 826LA is honored to work with such amazing teachers and educators. 

It wasn’t until this year that I saw the 826LA’s Screenwriting Workshop, and thought it’d be a great fit for my students. I work at Lawndale High School, where I’m really fortunate to coordinate and teach in a small learning community called the Academy of Media Arts (AMA). We run an academy for students interested in discovering storytelling through the digital video or digital animation mediums. Students choose their project-based elective pathway and take college-prep core classes to prepare for post-secondary options. In addition to teaching English, I do the introduction class to the digital video pathway called Dramatic Production. The class is essentially a storytelling, performance, critique, and confidence building class. Students learn story structure to create original characters and stories, they write monologues and scripts, practice giving and receiving feedback, collaborate, then rehearse and perform on stage. The idea is to help students develop their creative and social skills to expand their voices. Sometimes this makes them really frustrated, there’s a lot of trial and error involved, and a far bit of failure before honing their process. Then once it feels comfortable we mix it up again.

We visited 826LA while we were still finishing up a character monologue unit, but I wanted the students to become familiar with script writing prior to introducing the comedy script writing.

What I found super beneficial was the structured lesson because it reinforced practices we follow in the classroom. The staff set the norms and guidelines for behavior, the mini-lesson helped students understand the key components of a script, then they identified these things in Jurassic Park film clips, and the volunteers worked with students to brainstorm story ideas. In their small groups, the volunteers listened and responded to students; they heard what they said, cared about it, and assisted students in making it into a bound script.

Due to time constraints they wrote an introduction scene, the climax, and the ending in Celtx. I was excited because this is the same free, scriptwriting software we use in our computer labs. When we began script writing in class, students already had prior knowledge about how to negotiate the creative process and were familiar with script formatting. We’ve continued to use the writing skills from the field trip in longer pieces. Right now, students are working on scripts that follow Joseph Campbell’s hero’s journey plot structure. They’re integrating more complex relationships between the character archetypes while complicating the conflicts.

Academy of Media Arts Students at 826LA 
 The thing I really appreciated about the Field Trip experience was how confident the students felt afterwards. I know this sounds counterintuitive, but having other adults reiterate best practices, in this case — the value of storytelling and the powerful impact it can have — really resonated with the teenagers. They are the future American storytellers. I’m thrilled that my class was able to share a bit of themselves with the literary community.

Going to 826LA is like meeting someone who tells you something really interesting that you can’t stop thinking about.

And since you can’t stop thinking about it, you’re compelled to share and discuss it with others. I’ve basically told every teacher friend with an 826 location in their city to take their students. The Field Trip supported me in inspiring my students to write; if this can spread further, I think amazing things will happen.

If you are a prospective volunteer and you would like to join in on the fun we have here in the 826LA writing lab, please read about our volunteering opportunities here.

If you are already one of our wonderful volunteers, and would like to see what Field Trips to 826LA are all about, email Kenny (at our Echo Park location) or email Mike (at our Mar Vista location) and read more about our Field Trip Program here.

If you are a LAUSD teacher and would like to bring your students in for a Field Trip and an unforgettable writing experience like this, you can find more information about our lessons here.

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