Improving children’s narrative writing through film clubs

Description of the innovation

The intervention took the form of a structured programme of film-enriched literacy, based on the international film education programme le Cinéma cent ans de jeunesse (CCAJ). Every year this programme sets out a recursive curriculum of watching, making and discussing film, which participating teachers contend has powerful, but untested, impacts on children’s literacy achievements in relation to national curriculum expectations. Our intended innovation was to explicitly tailor the programme to cross over with the school literacy curriculum, specifically the requirements around written composition, and to work over seven months, from November to May, with a cohort of 38 pupils following an after-school programme based on CCAJ.

Our research question was: “What is the impact of attending an after school club delivering a film-based pedagogy for seven months on the narrative composition of Year 5 pupils?

The expectation was that at the end of the programme, the children participating in the intervention would be producing written work of a greater variety, with more sophisticated use of narrative forms, greater textual cohesiveness, and demonstrating a deeper understanding of audience and purpose, than that of their peers. It was hypothesised that adapting a film pedagogy to explicitly enable a transfer of narrative skills between film and writing would provide a concrete approach to helping pupils develop their understanding of structure and cohesion, audience and purpose, grammar and lexis, which will enable participating pupils to become more successful writers.

Summary of the evaluation

The five participating schools were all in the county of Lincolnshire. Each school set up an after-school group to follow the intervention; these were attended by a total of 38 Year 5 pupils across the five schools. For pragmatic reasons it was not possible to randomly allocate pupils to attend CCAJ so a matched comparison group based on gender, pupil premium status and Key Stage 1 (KS1) literacy attainment was formed. Thirty-two pupils from four schools completed the project and outcome data was analysed for a total of 23 intervention group and 23 matched comparison group pupils.

Between May and November three written assignments were given to the whole cohort, to try to determine whether those children participating in the programme demonstrated improvements in their writing. Potential change in writing attainment was assessed using the Year 5 End of Year Expectations – Writing – the national curriculum attainment measures for writing in Year 5. We also held five CPD sessions for teachers participating in the intervention between November and May, and each intervention group was visited by either the project co-ordinator, or one of two researchers, to follow the implementation of the project.

Summary of findings

Pupils who attended after-school CCAJ clubs made slightly more progress in writing than comparison group pupils, as assessed by Year 5 national curriculum writing attainment measures. The effect size based on raw post-test scores between the intervention and control groups was +0.06, and the effect size of progress between the two groups, rather than raw post-test scores, was +0.08. The assessor of the written assignments also observed that pupils who participated in CCAJ were more likely than the pupils in the comparison group to successfully manage the pace of their narrative writing, and orientate their writing towards a reader, and our qualitative researchers made a number of observations about the intervention pupils’ skills in story-telling through film – although these could not be compared with the control group, who didn’t follow a film-making programme.

Benefits were also evident in verbal feedback following screenings of the children’s work, from both peers and parents in the wider school community. The project highlighted what was possible in terms of young people’s film production and explicitly valued children’s creative work.

Lead school 

  • Legsby Primary School, Lincolnshire.

Main findings

  • Effect size between the intervention and control groups = +0.06.
  • Effect size of progress between the two groups = +0.08.

Download the protocol document