Elementary students at St Patrick Elementary School in downtown Montreal produced their own video adaptation of one of their favourite books. Read about the production process and how it plays out in this Cycle Two classroom.

Even if the idea of video production is new to you, the integration of reading, writing, art, talk and group work will be very familiar to teachers in elementary classrooms.


  • Have students watch a film version of a book they have heard or read looking for examples of differences and similarities between the two versions. Two possibilities are The Polar Express by Chris Van Allsburg, and Sarah Plain and Tall by Patricia MacLachlin.

  • Pause the video at strategic points and have students discuss some of the differences and similarities between the book and the movie.

  • Have students record their comparisons in some way e.g. on a two column chart or Venn diagram. Use this information to have students consider why changes might have been made.

Materials Needed

  • Video adaptation of a familiar book

  • Digital camera(s)

  • Computer with editing program such as iMovie or Movie Maker

  • Art material for designing sets and creating characters.

Some possible differences might be :

  • characters are missing or different from in the book

  • you can see and hear the details in the movie whereas you have to visualize them in a book

  • not every scene is included

  • sometimes endings are changed

Tip: Students should be very familiar with the book they are going to adapt to video.


Students work in pairs or small groups to brainstorm scenes that need to be included in the film for the story to make sense. Limit the scenes to a manageable number for your particular students.

Group students into teams, each working on a different aspect of the production.

  • script writers

  • set design and creating characters

  • voice over of characters

  • camera crew

  • editors


Since students are working in teams it is possible for them to be working on different aspects of the production simultaneously.

Writing the Script

  • Talk with students about how a script differs from other kinds of written texts, and why this might be.

  • Students return to the book e.g. for information about the characters, specific dialogue, the ordering of events, etc. and use that to plan and write the script.

Creating Sets

  • Students make rough drafts of each of the sets using indications they notice in the book.

  • They share rough drafts with other students for feedback.

  • They design and paint the sets and create the characters.

Photographing the Scenes

  • Have the students take photographs of the different scenes from different angles and distances.

  • Download the photos to the computer.

Recording the Voiceover

  • Voices are recorded separately from taking the pictures of the scenes.

  • Make copies of the script and give students one of the scenes to rehearse before the audition.

  • Help the students dramatize their voice and make their character more believable.

  • Select the students who will provide the narration and voices of the different characters.

  • Students who will play the characters practice their parts with peers and get feedback.

  • Record the audio (this can be done on a video camera), in a quiet area.

Production process: Creating sets


  • Work with the small group of editors to put the pieces of the film together into a final video.

  • Teach the students how the editing program (iMovie or Movie Maker) works.

  • As they work on the editing, students:

  • add the recorded voice track to the program

  • select still images they think work best and decide on how to order them to follow the script

  • add sound effects and transitions between the still images

  • use the Ken Burns Effect if they are on an Apple or a similar pan and zoom feature on a PC (This gives a sense of motion to the still images and makes it seem more like a movie.)

  • It is important that students have the chance to reflect on what they have produced in order to consolidate their learning.

  • Celebrate the completion of the project in some way.

We put a big emphasis on collaboration and on students working together to solve problems. Our role was to keep the process flowing, to be aware of where the students are in the process and adjust our teaching to the situation. We also provided feedback on the scriptwriting. Talk was an extremely important part of this entire project and gave us the chance to have students step back at key moments to reflect on their work.

Janet Radoman


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