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Creating a Moving Image Essay

It is exciting to create a moving image essay, using clips and stills from the Languages on Screen collection (and other resources). These can be readily edited using a basic video editing package and output to be viewed in school or shown to parents.

This type of rich, cross-curricular activity can be carried out by the whole class, with different groups working on different sections of the same essay (as is typically done in primary schools), or with groups or individuals working on their own essays (which may be more appropriate at secondary level).

If you want your students to create moving image essays, here is some simple advice on how to organise the project.


Research the chosen subject in the usual way. However, make sure you download assets (films, pictures, radio broadcasts and sounds) in the highest resolution possible and store them in clearly marked folders on the computer.


Prepare a basic narrative that outlines which images you want to use, the types of things you want to say or discuss and the type of music you would like to use. It often helps to organise these essays in sequences so that they raise and answer specific questions about the topic just as students would do using paragraphs in a traditional essay.

Visual rough-cut

Lay out the clips and still images you want to use in the editing software along an approximate time line. Referring to the scale will tell you how many minutes long it is and how much narration and music you will need. For further details on basic editing techniques, see the associated article Edit in Moviemaker.


Most students will probably want to write and record narration to introduce, accompany and expand upon the clips and images they have chosen to use. However, be aware that you can also add titles, inter-titles and text overlays as you would with a PowerPoint presentation. The images and clips will give the viewer a great deal of information, so encourage the students to record narration that does more than simply describe the contents of the audio-visual material.

After the narration has been written, practice reading it out to ensure that it says everything you want it to say and that it is easy to read aloud. Practice any difficult words or phrases before recording. Record directly into the programme if possible or record on a DV camera, mobile phone or Dictaphone, import these media assets into the device, then add them to the timeline.

Once the narration and interview footage is in place, trim the moving image clips and put camera movements over the stills as appropriate. Add any appropriate special effects from the effects menu.

No narration

Certain types of essays (e.g. Art and Design) might proceed on an associational level using purely image and music or image and sound effects (e.g. wind, train, traffic noises, etc). To do this, simply import the sounds or music into the editing software and then edit the pictures to the music.

Adding sounds

Students can find many sounds, historical radio clips and sound effects on the Internet to download and add to their essays. They may also want to strip the sound from of one clip and add it to another. For further details on basic editing techniques, see the associated article Edit in Moviemaker.

Adding Music

Record and/or import the music into the editing software and drop it onto the timeline. Moving image essays can be cut in time with music to enhance meaning.

Reviewing and fine-tuning

Peer review is a powerful motivating force. Play the film to other members of the group or other groups and ask them to say what they do/do not understand and suggest improvements. Fine-tune the clips sequencing, lengths, cuts, transitions and sound levels until you are completely happy - or as near as you can be! Publish the finalised essay.