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‘Oscar Night’ comes to WACS

April 15, 2016
By David Prenatt ( , Westfield Republican

"And the winner is . . . . ."

The Oscar statues were lined up, the red carpet was rolled out in front of the VIP entrance, invited guests strolled down the Walk-Of-Fame, the outfits were stunning and the air was charged with anticipation. It was not quite Hollywood, but it was close as members of Ashley DeJohn's sixth grade class at Westfield Academy and Central School hosted the First Annual Movie Premiere Event last week.

Just like its Hollywood counterpart, the big question of the night was who would be awarded one of the "prestigious" awards as well the "People's Choice Award." It was hard to believe that the entire production was actually the final stage of an English assignment.

Article Photos

Photos by David Prenatt
Madeline Lancaster and Ryan Resnick hosted Event 1 of “Oscar Night” at Westfield Academy and Central School last week.

"Oscar Night," held on April 7 and 8 in the WACS auditorium, was an all-out extravaganza to honor DeJohn's pupils who, instead of writing book reports about the Newberry award novels which they had read and analyzed, created movie trailers using iPads and green-screen technology.

"I love it when the students have that feeling of ownership - when they can be hosts and award presenters, celebrities and security personnel," DeJohn said. "We pay very close attention to detail to make it come alive."

And it did come alive. WACS superintendent David Davison said he was amazed by the event. "It was truly an awesome event from start to finish. What a great experience for the students to have work exhibited in a public forum, gain public speaking experience and display their knowledge in a very creative way! It is great to see the students learning and having fun doing it. DeJohn has done a fantastic job with our students and I am sure they will remember this for a lifetime. "

Oscar Night was a product of many months. Students in DeJohn's class were each required to select a Newberry Award novel in the fall which would become the basis of his or her movie trailer. Each pupil utilized a movie trailer planner, selected a studio name, and decided how to best present their novel as if it were actually being made into a motion picture.

According to DeJohn, this project helped students learn essential story plot elements because they were required to identify the exposition or introduction, the rising action, the story climax, the falling action and the resolution of the story before creating their trailers. Students were required to demonstrate all five of these elements in their movie trailers, she said.

While the young "directors" received Oscar awards in many categories, each movie trailer was evaluated on attention to detail, how well the element of suspense was incorporated into the trailer, how closely related the contents of the iMovie trailer were to the Newberry novel the student had read, and the quality of the iPad skills demonstrated in the trailer.

DeJohn said that using iMovie to create book trailers taught her sixth grade students many comprehensive skills, including time management, organization, and public speaking. Pupils noted that they practiced specific things like cropping, video cutting, voice-overs, creating perspective and using a green screen.

Just like Hollywood, however, the pinnacle of the project was Oscar Night, which actually took two nights for DeJohn's class. Each director came forward for the category they had won, expressed their thanks to all who had helped them, and summarized the book they had read, after which the audience viewed the trailer on the big screen.

Not only did each "director" create their own trailer, but they also could act in each other's productions, and serve as backstage crew, award presenters, hosts, ushers, concession and souvenir duties.

The categories for awards were: Best Adapted Screenplay; Best Attention to Detail; Best Choreography; Best Cliffhanger; Best Comedic Performance; Best Costume Design; Best Incorporation of Dialogue; Best Inscription; Best Original Screenplay; Best Stunt Shot; Best Time Lapse; Best Use of Green Screen; Best Use of Perspective; Best Use of Props; Best Utilization of iPad Skills; Most Captivating Hook; Most Creative and Unique; Most Inspiring; Most Outgoing Scene; Most Realistic; Most Suspenseful.

Finally, it was time for the top awards. Most Outstanding Exposition went to Ethan Weingart for "Maniac Magee" (Event 1); and to Lauren Bills for "Giner Pye" (Event 2).

Best Climactic Event Went to Isabella Bratton for "One Crazy Summer" (Event 1); and to Sydney Switzer for "Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry" (Event 2).

Most Memorable Resolution went to Sheala Barresi for "The One and Only Ivan" (Event 1); and to Leah Tredo for "Doll Bones" (Event 2).

The coveted People's Choice Award, achieved by audience voting, went to Giles Bills for "My Side of the Mountain" (Event 1); and to Henry Mueller for "Call It Courage" (Event 2).

Honorable Mention Awards were as follows: Best Actor and Actress were Giles Bills & Delilah Guinnee (Event 1); and Joseph Smith & Joanna Seminatore (Event 2). Top Director went to Joy Kiswani (Event 1) and Madeline Lancaster (Event 2). And Trailer of the Year went to Aryanna Sworn for "Out of the Dust" (Event 1); and Henry Mueller for "Call It Courage" (Event 2).

Kiswani said the honor made her feel special but it was the whole project that she enjoyed the most. "I think it was amazing," she said. "I especially learned about detail paying attention to it a knowing how important it is."

Sworn said the whole experience was "phenomenal." The process made her focus on the book in order to come up with ideas for the scenes. "Taking the video and actually making the trailer was really nice," she said.

And Giles Bills said he was surprised at the outcome. "I felt for sure that Joy (Kiswanee) would going to win. The moment I way my movie selected, I was so happy," he said.

Asher Tefft said he enjoyed making his trailer, but enjoyed the backstage work more. "Just being in control of the whole process was great. You can be as creative as you want," he said.

DeJohn said she could not be happier with the work her students did. "Words are not enough to express how proud I am of each and every one of my aspiring directors as they presented and accepted their awards with such poise and elegance Their ability to enhance their public speaking skills, sense of time management, and attention to detail in the completion of a task, are real - world skills they also obtained from this project, which they will utilize throughout the duration of not only their educational career, but life at large."



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