Silent movies

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Learn how to communicate emotions through body language, expression and movement

The aim of the following two lesson plans is to encourage children to consider body language as a means of communication, without the addition of speech. Gesture, mime and action are explored through different genres (in this case film styles) to convey storylines, moods and emotions.

Prior to beginning the warm-up activities (see Setting the scene, right), talk about silent movies with your class. Before the addition of sound to films, actors had to put over the story to the viewer using only facial expression and movement, which often had to be exaggerated.

Setting the scene

  • First, show the class the four ‘movie postcards’ on the A3 poster. Discuss what the four genres (styles) of film might be. (Early black and white slapstick comedy of the 1920s or 1930s; children’s early colour adventure from the 1960s; Indiana Jones-style colour adventure from around the 1970s to 1980s; Disney cartoon style, present day.) With lower KS2, you can discuss what the storyline of each might be, while older children can also decide the era of each genre.
  • Try three warm-up games to get used to absent or limited speech:
    • Ask the children to hold a conversation in pairs using only letter names (A to Z) or numbers (one to ten). They must convey all emotions and content with only these words. Pairs can try sharing a giggly secret, or one child could comfort another.
    • In pairs, children must come up with a setting and an emotion, and act out a scene. They must first use words (maximum of a line each) and then use no words. Ask the children what they need to do to put over the storyline when no speech is allowed, and how the two plays differ.
    • Give each pair a simple ‘film title’, such as ‘The Reunion’ or ‘Whoops!’, and challenge them to interpret the title by acting out a brief silent film.
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