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'mermaid' from Dust Echoes

Essay by   •  February 6, 2013  •  Research Paper  •  4,744 Words (19 Pages)  •  1,397 Views

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Why have I chosen this text for Stage 4?

'Mermaid' is a visual narrative and provides me with a unique opportunity to engage Stage 4 students in authentic learning tasks that connect students with the power of the visual language. Through its visual language 'Mermaid' story discusses rich themes of belonging and the connection between man, family and country, which invites students to make connections with themselves, their peers and a broader context outside the classroom. Bearing in mind that some students will not have achieved all Stage 3 outcomes the interactive nature of Dust Echoes will engage students of all levels while simultaneously providing me with a guide to the level of the students' skills in visual literacy. It is critical in order to advance my students learning that I never assume my students are at a certain level. The interactive nature of the text makes it an excellent platform for differentiating learning tasks that will appeal to students of different learning preferences and abilities. The multimodality of this text allows me to access various entry points when introducing this text as "the interactive elements engage students further as they allow for individual or a group exploration through different scenarios" (Gold, E, p.139). For example if a student desires they may read the narrative that goes with the visual story of 'Mermaid', they may want to access the vocabulary to describe the different skin group (moieties), animal, plant, song and dance of the groups in Arnhem Land or they may purely wish to watch the movie which is devoid of any written text. I belief too, that the most powerful thing a teacher can do is to make available as many opportunities as possible for the student to interact with the text (Bowman et al, 2002) and the structure and form of Dust Echoes allows me to do this.

Analysis of how language has been used in the text:

'Mermaid' story is a wordless text and thus one must look at the language of the visual text in order to understand how language is used in the text. The visual elements on screen are fused with the movie's use of music is imperative when exploring indigenous culture as the theme of song is a means of communication between people and the environment. The music marries traditional indigenous elements such as didgeridoo, clapsticks and songs sung by the Song man with the interplay of modern melodies and rythms. The effect of this is that it communicates the importance of song to the Indigenous way of life however it also uses modern music and melodies in conventional ways to build suspense and convey emotion of the characters. The experience of music is very evocative in the wordless 'Mermaid' story because it is a means with which we as the responder gain insight into the emotional state of the characters and the atmosphere of the scene. An example of music conveying emotion and setting tone and mood is when the man wanders from his family because he feels unappreciated and unloved. When the man is playing with his son and being watched by his wife and daughters the music seems happier and the beat is faster however when the man wanders away from his camp the music slows and the melody becomes heavier which reflects the mans loneliness and forebodes the sadness to come.

The viewer is an active participant in 'Mermaid' story as they are framed to follow the Song man on his journey into the cave with the mermaids and away from his family. A variety of film techniques and visual language are used to relate the Song man's journey to the viewer. For example in many scenes of the story the audience is positioned to be looking at the songman from a cave in the distance and one can see the black edge of a dark cave at the edge of the frame. It is through these series of long shots that the man's feelings of loss and isolation are visually communicated. The long shots also act metaphorically to convey the distance the man has travelled from his home. At the end of the video we for the first time see a close up of the man with the mermaids, almost ghost like, swimming around his head. This close up shot allows one to feel more intimate with the man which is how the responder feels personally as they know the experience the man has had. The mermaids 'swimming' around the man's head in this shot underpins the notion that experiences remain with us in our subconscious or conscious and shape who we are and forever remain with us.

In one scene when the man is in the underground cave with the mermaid the low angle shot esteems the man, raising his status which symbolizes his inner emotions as he know feels valued and loved by the mermaids, the opposite of how he felt with his family. This low angle shot is immediately juxtaposed with a medium shot of the man in a cave who can see his family missing him greatly. The longing that the family members feel is exemplified through the salience created by their outstretched hands, as if begging for the man to return and almost connecting to him through the 'path' of their arms. The juxtaposition of images between the man being elated and then miserable highlights the importance of place and belonging and ties to ones family that is undeniable and cannot be thwarted, even by beautiful and enchanting Mermaids.

Strategies I would use to analyse the language of this extract in the classroom:

The metalanguage of visual literacy that I want students to have an understanding of will have to be carefully and skillfully imbedded in the lesson content. I will explore with them the vocabulary on the website and I will provide them with a sheet of visual language techniques, forms and structures that we will be identifying in this lesson. For example, high angle shot and its effects compared to a low angle shot and its effect, salience, color mood and tone. I will have examples of what certain tunes and melodies may suggest. I will model and heavily scaffold the activity of analyising the visual images which I have already identified, I will ask children to build on these ideas and identify other examples as we are playing the movie.

Through my pedagogic approach with 'Mermaid' story in the classroom I will make I build on students visual literacy skills and engage them in this higher order thinking process by assigning tasks that demand higher order thinking through analysis. I will ask the students to think about the way music is used in movies they have seen recently and ask them to give examples.

As an assessment task I will ask students to create their own digital storyboard using Photostory 3 (to be developed over multiple lessons).

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