I am a Primary Teacher in Christchurch, NZ, who is passionate about developing e-learning in school. Here is my blog to record my findings and thoughts.

Story Telling, Disney Robin Hood - a Key Text

After reading through some tweets this morning on minecraft in the classroom and game based learning I remembered a conversation I had with a colleague and friend about my own daughters' fascination with the classic Disney film 'Robin Hood'a film using animals to depict the famous characters from the legend. My girls love their films but this one struck a chord and for a time period of three to four weeks they were obsessed with it, constantly wanting to watch the recording over any other television. During this time my eldest (5 years old) started to ask questions about the film during the day at random times, obviously the film was on her mind. What's an outlaw?  What's a pardon? Why do people have to pay taxes? When were bow and arrows invented? Why does the king want to capture Robin Hood? Why is the King the bad guy? 

Now some of these questions were easier to answer than others, as I started explaining what a tax system was I found myself having to digress into areas of society, politics, government, fiscal policy, the welfare state... another tricky one was the idea of a 'pardon' As I fumbled through an attempt to succinctly explain these concepts I started to think how this 'text' had stimulated complex areas of discussion. In the classroom there is a constant search for the key text to provide the start or hook or emotional stimulus across the curriculum. This cartoon is no different. The success of this film is essentially the story, a fantastic traditional story passed down through the years capturing classic themes that are enduring, fantasy, aspirational and exciting and relevant to all. But within the story are the historical, social and economic concepts of a past society. Despite this being a legend, there was a King John, a King Richard, outlaws and pardons. There was a tax system, there were peasants, royalty, arrows, poachers. All of which are important aspects of history and comparing them to today's systems is the essence of learning about history.

When talking to my friend we agreed that this is an example of key text, even though it's just a Disney cartoon. A few years ago our syndicate did an inquiry into 'systems' involving a creation of whole worlds which would need to include a monetary system, a transport system, a government/ruling system etc... To help us with this we watched clips of the Bee Movie. The cartoon ticked all the boxes we were looking for and supported students to consider the implications of inventing their own world. A society run by the bees reliant on workers, transport, means of production all this along with a story line of one bee questioning the Status quo and trying to break out of the system.

The idea of using cartoons/films is not new, but questions generated by my daughter refocused me on the power of the key text to provoke thinking and discussions about important concepts and that this can be a multi media experience. Also that story telling is the way we connect to the world around us.

What if the experience of my daughter was replayed in the classroom, what if student wonderings flowed from the watching a key text? I teach 11 year old students so they would carry some more prior knowledge but I bet they would dive into such an inquiry about how a government ran a country, how to ensure social equality  how to solve problems of fairness, of rights and responsibility. Their prior knowledge would be tested, their misconceptions would be able to played out. Of course books do the same and continue to do so in my classroom, I also have films and cartoons, and video games and personal stories to use. You can't beat a good story, and you can find them in all sorts of places! 

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