Thursday, March 19, 2015

Behind the Scenes of a Green Screen!

Recently in class, we completed our Virginia Studies unit on Virginia's role in the Reconstruction era. As part of each unit, I like to give the students a project to complete. Past projects have included map activities, Jeopardy games, dioramas, and student-written skits. Skits have always been a favorite choice. I decided to take it to the next level... by filming them in front of a GREEN SCREEN! This added a whole new layer to their project. Let's walk through the project, shall we?

You can see the timeline up on the SmartBoard
First, the students were randomly assigned into groups. I use a really cool app called "Team Shake" to make their groups. It allows me to create even groups, so not all the high achieving students are in one group, and vice versa. Sometimes I have to "shake" it a few times to iron out the wrinkles (students who don't get along or get along too well!) I sorted them into five groups to correspond with the five topics: Reconstruction Problems, Freedman's Bureau/Sharecropping, Segregation in Schools, Segregation in Voting, and Reconstruction Expansion. I randomly selected what order the groups. We set up a timeline to complete the skit in a reasonable time frame and kept revisiting it during the duration of the project.

Working on Google Drive and Classroom
Next, they were given a graphic organizer to help guide their thinking. They needed to write down the important details about their topic, identify what props they would make, and what they wanted as their background. After getting this information down, they began writing a script together. After the handwritten version was done, they moved onto Google Classroom and Drive to complete their final copy.

On Google Classroom (which we use extensively,) I posted a separate Doc for each group to work on. Using their Chromebooks, the students were all able to "hop on" the Doc at one time and work together. They loved using the chat box feature to communicate and the entire Google Classroom feature. They begged me to allow them to work on it at home, which I happily agreed to!

Impromptu teachable moment on feelings
(but I  forgot to use my manners!)

Working at home did cause a minor problem. Because Google Classroom doesn't allow me to set specific sharing to certain students, each student could see all scripts. One student was out the day I said this, and had gone onto other scripts and edited them. I left her a message on her script, and discussed with her the next day. Hopefully, this issue won't arise again!

Building on props in foreground, behind is finding background

The next step in the skit process was for the students to select their green screen backgrounds. They found images on Google Image Search and pasted them into a shared Doc on Classroom. This allowed me to have all their chosen backgrounds in one place when I was editing later. One student became the "Copy/Paste Master" and continues to do so! They also had to build props for their skit. In the past, they would get super involved into the props without having a script ready. The class agreed the scripts had to be in my hand before they could begin on props. This has worked like a charm.


After all of this, the students began to rehearse. I challenged them to memorize their lines, which I have never done before with any group. They rose to the challenge and did admirably. Each group was given a certain amount of time to practice in front of the green screen. This helped them with positioning themselves and props, because usually they can move around the entire room.

Finally, it was performance day! Ironically, this coincided with St. Patrick's Day. Green clothing on green screen.... not my finest moment in planning! We threw jackets on students who forgot to wear a different color. BOOM! Problem solved. I used a combination of a video camera and an iPad app called "Green Screen by Do Ink" to film. I used the video camera to get the raw footage and the app to gauge how the green screen effect would work. You can use the app for the entire process, but I like to have more control than the app offers.

I edited the videos that night with Movie Studio Platinum, simply eliminating the green screen and putting in the students' backgrounds. I published it on my YouTube channel and shared the link with my Voxer and Twitter PLNs, all families in the classroom, and all staff at my school. The students have received Tweets, Voxes, comments, and emails with great supporting comments. I encourage you to check it out and leave some feedback for them!

Some takeaways from this experience:

  • It was highly motivating. Students actually opted to work through recess most days! Integrating more tech into this (Google Classroom and green screen) helped to heighten the fun.
  • Students need a lot of work and practice on their oral delivery. I plan to do this project for our next unit on civil rights leaders, and will offer mini lessons on public speaking.
  • In my email to staff, I offered to help other teachers with green screen. One teacher has already asked me to help her in her class. I was thrilled to help, because my eventual career goal is to be a technology coach!
  • This entire project took 1 calendar week from assigning groups to performance. They were given about 45 minutes a day, with an option to extend it into recess for an additional 25 minutes. I felt this was a good amount of time: not too long and not too short. 
  • This allowed for a ton of cross curricular domains and skills: history, reading/research, writing, technology skills, collaboration, performance arts, and many others. 
As a closing, here is the final video! Enjoy! See you next time.


  1. Fabulous blog! My next endeavor is the green screen. I'm completely new to this and am eager to learn. I appreciate your insights and using our iPads we'll make it happen! Great to learn with you, keep blogging!

    1. Thanks for reading! Green screen is an incredible experience; tons of cross curricular ties. Don't hesitate to contact me if you need guidance!

    2. I so appreciate this blog. I am doing my first green screening with my technology club. I am actually doing all the steps just as you are. I am just glad another person has done them as well. I'm kinda doing this on my own and learning with the students. I purchased my own iPad so I we could do this. Great to be learning with you and seeing that others are learning as well. Happy blogging. Can't wait to read more abut what you are doing.

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