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Short Story Adaptations

Creating a short film used to be a long and difficult process, so I gave up on it. But then it became much easier to shoot and edit video. There are now so many ways to express an emotion, an idea, or tell a story. After I taught the electives Filmmaking and Film Appreciation, I realized I could easily assign a quick project in my literature classes.

In addition to video essays, I also assign adaptations, where students take the basics of the plot and characters and invent a new story line set in contemporary society. What would the characters and events in a novel look like if they took place in a high school today? How would the character speak, and what would they wear? These are the questions I asked my students after reading a few short stories from Dubliners, by James Joyce.

In “An Encounter”, a few children get bored in class, pass around copies of a comic, and then decide to cut school. In “Eveline”, a nineteen-year-old has to decide between traveling the world with a sailor or staying home to fulfill her deceased mother’s promise to help her abusive father take care of her younger brothers. “Araby” is a story about the intensity of young love and “Little Cloud” is about two former classmates, one a single, traveling journalist and the other a husband and father. It’s easy to imagine these characters in the twenty-first century. Students will often incorporate social media, texting, sports, work, family, popularity, peer pressure, and college into their new plotlines. They often include satirical portraits of modern life and over-the-top depictions of teenage relationships.

When we ask students to analyze literature, we also want them to use their understanding of the story to enhance their understanding of their own life and society. What better way than to ask them to imitate the style of the greatest writers using technology. This fun group project introduces students to the many ways they can tell a story.

If you want to learn more, in my online course, I go into more detail about filmmaking.

Teacher's Workshop, professional development for secondary ELA teachers

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