Paw Paw students win movie award
Paw Paw High School students in English teacher Melissa Salvatore’s ninth grade class were so awed by Edgar Allan Poe’s gruesome tale The Cask of Amontillado that they made it into a movie.
Students rewrote the story into a script and added new scenes. They produced a trailer and short movie of the tale. Class members directed, filmed, acted in the movie, coordinated costumes and props and designed sets. Their project received an award in the 2011 Verizon Foundation Thinkfinity 21st Century Contest.
Salvatore’s seventh grade class also won an award for their project surrounding a classroom debate on flatulence. Paw Paw classes won two out of the 10 contest awards that were issued statewide this year for 21st Century learning.
The teens turned the boiler room in the school basement into catacombs, where the character Montresor buries Fortunado alive in the wine cellar in the tale.
Students learned that Italy has a carnival season, much like the Mardi Gras, which is why Fortunado was dressed like a jester, Salvatore said.
Family and consumer science teacher Nicole Ackerman taught her class about grape tasting, vineyards and grapes in preparation for the wine-tasting scene the kids added where Fortunado insults Montresor. Grape juice was used instead of wine.
They also gave Fortunado a wife and a scene where he flirted with another woman and had him say he had superior genes to explain Montresor’s reasons for burying him alive.
The writers tried to make the words in the script ones that kids would understand since the language was from another time, said director Jade Kerns, who also played a servant.
Students found a way to work through problems and also had to memorize a lot of lines of script, Salvatore said.
What they learned
Brianna Maguire, who had the lead role of Montresor and was a scriptwriter, said there was a lot more work involved in making a film than one would think.
“It was really cool to see it all come together,” Maguire said.
“It helped us get along better and helped us work together better,” said Brook Shell, who played one of Montresor’s servants.
Shell liked that it was more of a hands-on project and that there was definitely a lot of work involved in making the movie. Communication and problem-solving were important.
Kevin Groah, producer and overall project boss, said the movie-making “gave us something we actually wanted to do.” Groah spent a lot of time editing the movie over Thanksgiving break. He had made a movie before and is interested in possibly pursuing movie production in college.
Set designer Andrea Rodriguez thought their project helped them understand the story better.
Co-scriptwriter Whitney Grady said their movie helped her overcome her fear of writing and helped her to express herself more.
Set designer Belle Harrold said they learned that some people have certain talents. They also learned to get along with each other.
Levi Bullett, who played Fortunado, said his favorite part was the grape juice tasting scene.
“I learned about Edgar Allan Poe and how he was nuts,” Bullett said.
A great experience
The teens agreed that making the movie was a great experience. They are now reading The Hunger Games in class and would like to make a movie of that in the future.
The students’ 1:44-minute “Cask of Amontillado” trailer and 11:25-minute film can be found on YouTube. The movie ends with some of their favorite film-making bloopers.
Seventh grade award
Salvatore’s seventh grade English class won for their project “Turning Flatulence into a Teachable Moment.”
Salvatore was trying to teach students about proposition and support (making statements of opinion and supporting them with facts), but some boys were passing gas and laughing about it while the girls groaned and complained.
The boys said it was a natural body function and it would be harmful for them not to do so. The girls argued otherwise. The situation was totally disrupting the class.
Salvatore decided to have each faction research their arguments in separate computer labs and present their case before a panel of three judges and three middle school and high school classes.
The teachers surprisingly sided with the boys, who they felt made a stronger case with their facts. The girls won the popular vote of the students that observed the debate.
Each winning project was awarded a $2,000 grant. The 2011 Thinkfinity contest winners’ page should be posted on the West Virginia Department of Education website under The Office of Instructional Technology’s classroom resources.