Tell and Show: Writing With Words and Video

6 - 8
Lesson Plan Type
Estimated Time
Nine 45- to 60-minute sessions
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Students will enhance their multimedia literacy and expand their understanding of text in this hands-on unit. First, students watch and study digital videos and their transcripts to explore the differences between written and spoken text. As they think critically about the videos, students will discover how text and images can work together to convey information. Once students are comfortable with the ways in which images and words can support and enhance each other, they will apply what they've learned by writing essays and turning those essays into captions for a teacher-created video. At the end of the unit, students will have a documentary film that they have written and designed.


Featured Resources

From Theory to Practice

  • Writing includes the ability to author multimedia including audio, video, hypermedia, and hypertext.

  • New technologies are continually being developed to support communication. Students can be encouraged to use media and new technologies flexibly to compose and communicate their ideas.

  • Ideas can be communicated through traditional texts, through the audio portion of videos, as well as through the captions accompanying videos. Both the audio and captions that accompany a video begin as traditional texts. The power of the audio and/or captioned message is enhanced by visual images that fill out or complement the text rather than simply reiterating it.
  • The electronic world is transforming the ways in which traditional forms of alphabetic literacy (reading and writing) are used to communicate.

  • Project-based activities in an electronic environment can ground concepts contextually in authentic learning tasks while establishing meaningful communication and social interactions.

  • Teachers need to demonstrate awareness of everyday literacy practices that are important to students by including technology in their literacy teaching.


Common Core Standards

This resource has been aligned to the Common Core State Standards for states in which they have been adopted. If a state does not appear in the drop-down, CCSS alignments are forthcoming.

State Standards

This lesson has been aligned to standards in the following states. If a state does not appear in the drop-down, standard alignments are not currently available for that state.

NCTE/IRA National Standards for the English Language Arts

  • 4. Students adjust their use of spoken, written, and visual language (e.g., conventions, style, vocabulary) to communicate effectively with a variety of audiences and for different purposes.
  • 5. Students employ a wide range of strategies as they write and use different writing process elements appropriately to communicate with different audiences for a variety of purposes.
  • 6. Students apply knowledge of language structure, language conventions (e.g., spelling and punctuation), media techniques, figurative language, and genre to create, critique, and discuss print and nonprint texts.
  • 8. Students use a variety of technological and information resources (e.g., libraries, databases, computer networks, video) to gather and synthesize information and to create and communicate knowledge.
  • 12. Students use spoken, written, and visual language to accomplish their own purposes (e.g., for learning, enjoyment, persuasion, and the exchange of information).

Materials and Technology

  • Digital video camera

  • Computers with Internet access

  • Recordable DVDs

  • LCD projector (optional)




1. If you do not have classroom computers with Internet access, reserve nine sessions in your school's computer lab. Note that for Session 1, you need only one computer with Internet access; for the other sessions, each student needs a computer to work on.

2. Review the Instruction and Activities. Sessions 1 and 2 are preparatory and are intended to help students understand the concept of captioning and how to write captions for videos. The rest of the lesson plan has students working on a project to create a video about middle school.

3. Visit NCAM Authoring With Video and read the Project Home and Teacher Resources pages. This site gives an overview of MAGpie, free captioning software for video clips, which you will use during this lesson. You can also view a sample video clip that was made using this software.

4. Download the MAGpie software onto the computers students will be using. The download is free, but is a complex four-step process. You may want to get help from your school's media specialist. Links to instructions can be found on the download page.

5. Download and review the Authoring With Video Student Manual. Follow the instructions to create your own sample video so you are familiar with the process and able to help your students. There is a sample video you can use to create captions available on the MAGpie Teacher Resources page. Make a copy of the manual for each student in your class.

6. Create a free account for yourself on Teachers' Domain. Once you have an account, enter the word unhinged into the search box and view the first two minutes of the video clip with this title that appears in the results. If possible, arrange to show this video to students using an LCD projector during Session 1. If not, have students view it on individual computers in the lab. Be sure that the captions and sound are off when your students first watch the video.

7. Visit and familiarize yourself with the Comparison and Contrast Guide and the Interactive Venn Diagram (or the Alike or Different? Venn Diagram if you prefer to use a printout instead). Bookmark these resources on the computers students will be using.

8. Make one copy of Unhinged Comparison: Images to Text and the Student Writing Checklist for each student in your class. You may also choose to copy Visual Footage and Text for your students to use during Session 1.

9. Students will need a video for which to use their essays as captions. Arrange to use a digital video camera to create this video. You can use either Windows Movie Maker or iMovie to edit and produce your video. For more information about using this software, see iMovie HD Support, the Windows Movie Maker Instruction Sheet or Create Home Movies Effortlessly With Windows Movie Maker 2. If you use Movie Maker to create your video, you should save the file in the AVI format.

Student Objectives

Students will

  • Explore how text and images can work together to convey information by looking at and discussing videos both with and without their audio narration

  • Apply what they learn about video narration by creating their own captions for a video

  • Develop critical thinking skills by reflecting on their personal experience in transition from elementary school to middle school and by identifying the major issues in this transition to share with rising middle school students

  • Engage in all elements of the writing process from brainstorming, to outlining, to writing and revising given readers' responses

Session 1: Looking at Images and Text

1. Have students view the first 37 seconds of the clip Unhinged (until the girl chews on the apple) without listening to the audio or viewing the captions (see Teachers' Domain and Preparation, Step 6).

2. Ask students what they think the film might be about and why they think that. Record their answers on the board. Based on what they have seen, students will likely suggest that the film is about eating healthy foods. If students do not bring up the boy eating soup with a fork, ask what they think was going on in that segment.

3. View Unhinged again but this time with audio and/or captions turned on. Ask students what they think the video is about now that they have heard or read the narration. Talk about how their perspective changed after this second viewing.

4. Distribute copies of Unhinged Comparison: Images to Text. After reading the description of the images and the transcript, view Unhinged again with captions and audio. Tell students to look at how the actual text (the captions and audio) does not describe what they are viewing. Questions for discussion include:

  • What happens if they view the film without the narration? Do they understand what the film is about?

  • Why do they think the images are so different from what the narration says?

  • What is the point of the images? What is the point of the text?
5. Once you are sure students understand the relationship between the images and the text (i.e., the images are intended to enhance or illustrate the text without reiterating it; the text is intended to introduce what the video clip is actually about, which is the mechanics of snake's jaws) listen to the entire Unhinged film without watching the visuals. Explain to students that what they hear is a script or essay, which was written before the film was made. Have students listen to the narration and then discuss how the text was written. It could be read as an informative essay.

6. View Unhinged one more time, using the video, audio, and captions. Discuss the relationship of the text and the visuals. You may want to refer to Visual Footage and Text; if not, be sure that the points on that sheet come out in the discussion.

Note: If you think that your students would benefit from further practice viewing a video and exploring its narration separately, show them NOVA News Minute: Sinking City of Venice (click on the link on the right-hand side of the page) without the audio and then distribute a transcript for discussion.

Session 2: Practice With Captions

Students will use the MAGpie software to create captions for a self-created video later in the lesson. If you want them to practice using the software, have them use it to create captions for From Seed to Flower, one of the sample videos available on the NCAM Authoring With Video website. The video is available for viewing by scrolling down the following website:  https://www.edutopia.org/article/student-created-videos-classroom and for download at the MAGpie Teacher Resources page.

1. Have students use a word processing program to write about what plants need in order to grow. The text should be about 10 sentences long, since the video footage is short (approximately 67 seconds). If necessary, offer students time to do a little research before they write. Encourage them to craft their text carefully and make sure that they save their documents as Text Only files.

2. Following the instructions in the Authoring With Video Student Manual, have students download the From Seed to Flower video. They should then import their text into the MAGpie software and create captions for the video. When setting the caption timing codes, make sure that each sentence remains on the screen for about 10 seconds to enable easy reading of the entire sentence. Assist students as necessary until everyone has successfully added captions to the video, bearing in mind that the goal of this session is to have students learn to use the software.

3. After students have created their captioned movie, have them view each other's work much as you do in a writer's workshop, revision session, or Director's Chair.

Session 3: Prewriting

1. Refer to the guidelines for effective captions that you and students discussed during Session 1. Explain that they will be writing an essay that compares and contrasts three aspects of middle school to those same aspects in elementary school. The goal of their essay is to help elementary school students make the transition from one school to the next. The text they write will be shown as captions on a movie that you will make and share with them. These captions will appear on the screen and will also be available as a transcript.

2. Discuss the film that you will make. Explain that the video will highlight the three most significant differences between middle and elementary school. The next step is to identify the differences between the two school settings and agree upon the three differences that will be shown in the video.

3. Ask students to create their own individual Venn Diagrams by brainstorming a list of distinct differences between middle school and elementary school on the outer circles of the diagram and then those areas that may be similar listed in the intersecting circle. Have students use the interactive Venn Diagram or the Alike or Different? Venn Diagram.

4. Encourage students to discuss distinct things that may differ in a middle school environment from an elementary school. Remind students that in addition to writing about these differences, they will be showing the middle school side of the issue in the video to be made. In considering the differences they should think about the ones that can be shown in a movie. Suggest that students consider:

  • Middle school classes, routines, rules, or activities that surprised them or were very different from what they had been accustomed to in elementary school.

  • Ways in which middle school made them feel more mature, responsible, or independent.

  • The social and academic consequences of being the youngest students in the middle school as opposed to being the oldest students in the elementary school.
5. Suggest that students become observers of middle school until Session 4. Ask them to use their eyes like video cameras. They should begin to consider what would make good visual footage exemplifying what was discussed in class during this session.

Note: Collect the Venn diagrams at the end of this session and offer feedback to students in preparation for the discussion in the next session.

Session 4 and 5: Writing and Video

1. Review the Comparison and Contrast Guide with students, paying attention to the Point-by-Point description in the Organizing a Paper section.

2. Tell students that they must now decide which three topics are the most important to help elementary students transition into the daily routines of middle school. Remind students that they will be writing an essay using the point-by-point format to explain the selected topics. Each essay will be displayed as captions in the video. The footage will give specific details not mentioned in the text. Alternatively, the film will show general scenes while each writer tells a personal story.

3. Divide the class into heterogeneous groups of five or six students. Mixing students by gender, academic tracking, athletic ability, and extracurricular interests will add to the individual perspectives raised in the discussion. The groups should discuss the topics to be covered in the film (referring to the Venn Diagrams they created during Session 3) as well as what footage might best exemplify each topic. Some students may have a personal story to share, may have an understanding of rules or regulations that they want to express, or may want to share strategies for adapting to the change.

4. Have students come together as a class and make a collaborative decision as to what the items for comparison should be in both the video and their essays. Their goal is to identify those things that they think will be most important to younger students and will give these students a true picture of what it is like to attend middle school.

5. Students should come to a consensus as to what order these topics (video images) should appear in the video. Because only one video will be made, everyone must address the points in the same order in their essays. The movement from points 1 to 3 could be in terms of what was easiest to hardest, what was surprising to that which was shocking or what made them feel most mature in coming to a new school. The class should decide on what effect they want the visual to have.

6. Have students work on their essays. You might start them out by referring again to the description of the Point-by-Point essay in the Comparison and Contrast Guide. Ask students to decide how they can make their essay consistent with the structure the class has decided upon. Questions for them to consider include:

  • Which setting (elementary or middle school) should they discuss first?

  • What transition strategies will make their texts more cohesive and interesting? For example, will their writing use a repeated question in transitioning from point to point (e.g., "Did you think elementary school was hard? Well in middle school...."), use a repeated phrase ("Middle school is exciting!"), or use sequence words ("The first major difference.... The second significant change....").

Homework (due at the beginning of Session 6): Students should finish a first draft of their essays.

Note: Before the start of Session 6, you should create a digital video that represents the various topics that were discussed in the agreed-upon order. The video should include footage of various aspects of middle school life and be no longer than 10 to 15 minutes. If you like, you may choose to have students assist you in the creation of the video (see Preparation, Step 8). The video should be ready by the beginning of Session 6. Students will need to have access to it on the computers they will be using.

Session 6: Revisions

1. Students should view the video you created; you may want them to view the video more than one time. This can be done as a class or independently.

2. Once students are familiar with the video, they should review and revise the first drafts of their essays with your input or with peers. Remind students that this will not be the final revision to their text, which will be completed after the text is imported into the video. At this point, students:

  • Should make sure that their texts are strong point-by-point essays. If necessary, they should refer back to the Comparison and Contrast Guide making sure that each point begins with one school setting and then moves to the other.

  • May decide that they want to elaborate on something they have written because the video provides a good backdrop for the point they want to make.

  • May want to delete something from their texts because the images in the video make the point more clearly.

  • Should check the transitions between topics in the essay. Are they parallel?
In addition, have students use their Student Writing Checklist to self-assess their piece.

Homework (due at the beginning of Session 7): Students should complete a final draft of their essay.

Session 7: Authoring With Video

1. Following the instructions in the Authoring With Video Student Manual, students should import their essays directly into MAGpie and use it to create captions for the video.

2. After students have their essay imported into the software, they should use the manual to help them time how the text will appear on screen within the video. At this point, students may need to make revisions. Explain that there are two general ways to make this happen: either they can leave the text as written and lengthen or shorten the amount of time that the text appears on screen or they can revise the text to add more detail or remove some information.

Session 8: Broadcasting

1. Have students watch each other's versions of the video and provide feedback. They should comment on their ability to read and follow the material presented in print, especially making note of the timing and how easy (or difficult) it was to follow the video and read the print on screen. Students should also note where classmates did a good job of having the text and visual complement each other so that one gave a general statement while the other gave specifics.

2. Hold a class discussion about the videos and the process it took to make them. Ask students if they felt they were able to omit information from their texts or if they had to add text and why. Conclude by asking students to discuss if they feel that the captioned videos provide a stronger message than the texts alone and why or why not this is the case.

Session 9

1. Following the instructions in the Authoring With Video Student Manual, students should review and export their final movie. They should also prepare a typed transcript that includes any changes they made to their essay as they turned it into captions.

2. Students can then burn copies of their movies onto DVDs to share with the elementary schools and make copies to bring home and share with their families. Copies can also be kept in the school library for others to view.


Get a microphone and have students make recordings of their narration. Use iMovie or Windows Movie Maker to add the narration to students' videos.

Student Assessment / Reflections


  • Review each student’s Venn diagram. Offer each student feedback as preparation for the small-group discussions in Session 4. Then observe the discussions. If groups have difficulty identifying issues or elaborating on why an issue is important to the transition, provide small-group or whole-class support.

  • Review each student’s first draft of the essay and offer feedback that is designed both to help him or her revise the essay for use with the film and simply to improve the arguments.

  • Have students use the Student Writing Checklist to assess their own writing.

  • Assess each student’s essay and captioned film using the Authoring With Video: Assessment Rubric.


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