The Classroom is a short animation produced in 2010 by GCSE Mandarin students (Year 11) at St Chad’s Catholic & Church of England High School, Runcorn, as part of the formal education programme “Projector Community Languages” of Cornerhouse, centre for contemporary visual art and film and educational charity in the UK. With this production, Cornerhouse aimed to enable young people to learn Mandarin in a fun, interactive and engaging way, increase their understanding of Mandarin and Chinese culture through the use of film and practical creative workshops, and to encourage teachers to deliver more creative language sessions at school.
The students attended a GCSE Mandarin study session of the film Wo de fu qin mu qin / The Road Home directed by Zhang Yimou and learned more about the film director and the context of contemporary Chinese cinema. After watching the subtitled film and exploring its topics such as daily routine, personal relationships, village life, customs and traditions and the Cultural Revolution, they created The Classroom with a professional filmmaker and language tutor. They re-created their favourite scenes from the film by creating plasticine characters, film sets, and using their Mandarin language skills to bring their film to life. This film be used as learning tool both in the classroom and at home.
Using film as a vehicle for creativity, they had access to state of the art equipment and professional staff, where learning took place in an informal and open environment. The young people who attended the Mandarin study session and who then created this film said that as a result of watching the film they had a better understanding of other people’s culture and languages, that they would like to see more sub-titled film and were more interested in learning languages since watching the film.
Cornerhouse decided to introduce a creative strand to Projector to enable young people to develop their own creative responses to the films they see because it encourages greater practical involvement, and increased critical thinking about the characters and language. Working with professional filmmakers, young people also have the opportunity to learn about practical and creative processes they may not otherwise have the opportunity to experience. This creative element to Projector proved to be a great success and as a result Cornerhouse is currently developing a teacher’s toolkit to enable teachers to deliver their own creative sessions in the classroom, which will be added to their online student-created films and study materials (all freely available). Created by young people, they are engaging resources for other young people learning languages.
A more detailed English description of the project is available in the Showcase on the MEDEA Awards website: http://www.medea-awards.com/showcase/the-classroom