Re-imagining The Lost Thing as a Digital Story

Beach (detail) 1999

Since Term 2, I have been researching and writing a teaching resource on the work of Shaun Tan (scheduled to be released on the NSW DoE site in 2022) with a working title of Re-imagining the World of Shaun Tan. This is essentially an update on our school’s current unit on symbolism.

While studying this unit, students appreciate Tan’s style, further develop their analytical skills and have several opportunities to respond imaginatively and reflectively.

Here is an overview of how students might respond to Tan’s The Lost Thing by creating a classic digital story. These suggested activities could take up to two weeks of lessons for a mixed ability Stage 4 (Years 7 or 8) English class.

There are two pages on Tan’s website – one for the book and one for the film (including the trailer). Another worthwhile resource was produced by ACMI (Australian Centre for Moving Images) to coincide with an exhibition of The Lost Thing: book to film .

Avoid watching the film or trailer until students have completed their story. There would be interesting opportunities to compare stories once the class views each story.

I define a classic digital story as one that has:

  • 250 words
  • 10-15 images, and
  • lasts no longer than 3 minutes.

Students begin by reading the book, and sharing their understanding in a think-pair-share or small group. This includes:

  • discussion and note taking about what they feel the story is about, including relevant themes
  • identifying up to three openings each that are significant in revealing key ideas
  • analysing the visual elements and text (language features) of these openings

As there are 16 openings and 931 words, students need to make judicious choices. The 250 words needed for the classic digital story could include both Tan’s and the students’ own.

  • create a storyboard of up to 17 frames – the 10 – 15 images plus title and source acknowledgement slides
  • consider choices about narration, dialogue, background music (if any), use of text on each slide, camera shot/composition
  • use images from the website or students may draw their own
  • spend a lesson or two viewing each digital story and encourage peer feedback, then watch either the trailer or DVD

Finally, students compose a 3D reflection on the process, including group dynamics in the creation of their digital story.

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