Children have the right to

This is a post about a fine resource I came across and how we used it in class. It is the  UNICEF’s Cartoons for Children’s Rights series, a treasure chest of a animation spots based on the articles of the Convention of the Rights of the Child. The duration of each spot is less than a minute and all of them are non-verbal with captivating images full of visual information. They call for students to watch carefully, observe, and look for visual details that will help them describe, decode and understand the message of the each spot.

There are two such videos available on youtube: Cartoons on Children’s Rights 1 and Cartoons on Children’s Rights 2. In my case, I made a selection of spots from the first video and worked on them with mixed-ability A2-, sixth grade, primary school children (11-12 years old).

My aims were to have students

  • slow down and watch carefully each spot.
  • practise their speaking and communicative skills in the ensuing classroom discussion by responding to a set of questions, listening to each other’s ideas and building on them.
  • practise note-taking and paragraph writing.
  • express themselves creatively in verbal and non-verbal ways through drawing and sketching.
  • think about their rights, and learn that children around the world lack things they take for granted.
  • explore and discuss their ideas, and form their own opinions and values with no fear of right and wrong answers.

The procedure I followed with each animation spot was to

  • show the spot pausing it at the moment before the relevant right appeared verbally.
  • prompt a classroom discussion by asking questions.
  • write the ideas shared in class and key words on the board, while children kept notes.
  • ask them to guess what the right might be.
  • reveal the right.

Before starting, I told children that they would use their notes for their homework assignment which would be to produce short texts describing each animation spot, and writing about their thoughts, feelings and opinions. Lower level students could write sentences about each spot instead of a text. I told them that if they wanted to they could also make drawings about the spots.

We watched a total of nine animation spots and we needed three forty-minute teaching sessions.

Here are some of the spots we worked on and some ideas of how students responded to them through note-taking, writing and drawing:

  1. Children have the right to protection from child labour. Article 32. (0:00-0:50)
Italy (RAI Television). Created by Guido Manuli.

Italy (RAI Television). Created by Guido Manuli.

Questions to ask:

  • What were the children in the beginning of the spot doing?
  • Where were they?
  • How do you think they were feeling?
  • What was the child in the room doing?
  • How do you think he was feeling?

 

 

 

2. Children have the right to appropriate information. Article 17. (0:51-1:34)

the-right-to-appropriate-information

Finland. (EPIDEM). Created by Antonia Ringbom.

 

Questions to ask:

  • What is the child doing?
  • What kind of images/programmes is he watching?
  • Do you think this is good for the child? Why?
  • Is there an adult with the child?

3. Children have the right to express themselves. Article 13. (1:35-2:16)

USA (Nickelodeon). Directed by Bob Peterson. Designed by Byron Glaser and Sandra Higashi CGI, in association with Pixar and Zolo, Inc.

Questions to ask:

  • What is happening in the spot?
  • What do the figures in the spot look like?
  • What is the little figure doing?
  • Does the big figure like this? Why do you think so?
  • What do you think of the little figure?
  • How do you think the little figure feels?
  • Can you see any colours in the room?
  • What happens in the end?

 

4. Children have the right to protection in times of war. Article 38. (2:17-3:05)

the-right-to-protection-in-times-of-war-i

USA (Matinee Entertainment). Directed by Frank Saperstein.

Questions to ask:

  • What birds did you see in the beginning of the spot?
  • What were they carrying?
  • What else did you see in the sky?
  • What were they carrying?
  • Where did the babies land?/Where were they born?

 

 

This was a very interesting spot to work with because in the beginning the children started giggling and saying ‘Come on, we know storks don’t bring babies, we’re too old for this!’ I wanted to prompt their thinking towards the symbolism behind showing storks carrying babies so I asked:

“Ok, but why do you think the creator of this spot chose to show storks carrying babies? Why?”

Children’s wisdom came up with the answer: “Because both storks and airplanes fly, but one carries life while the other death”.

It was also interesting to see how children brought to class their experience from watching and listening at home about the war in Syria. Some of them knew about the underground playground created for children there so that they can have a place to play safely.

5. Children have the right to protection from trafficking and abduction. Article 35. (3:06-3:50)

Denmark (A Film ApS). Directed by Jørgen Lerdam.

Denmark (A Film ApS). Directed by Jørgen Lerdam.

Questions to ask:

  • What did you see in this spot?
  • What was the child in the spot doing?
  • What was he playing with?
  • Whose is the hand that takes the child?
  • Do you think this person has good intentions? What makes you say that?
  • What else did you see or notice in the spot?

 

6. Children have the right to protection from neglect. Article 19. (4:36-5:20)

the-right-to-protection-from-neglect

Taiwan (Wang Film Productions). Directed by Robin Wang. Created by Pongo Kero and Fish Wang.

Questions to ask:

  • What did you see in the beginning of the spot?
  • What is happening later?
  • What does the house look like?
  • How do you think the child feels?
  • Where is he hiding?
  • What does he look like?
  • What happens to the child later?

 

 

 

 

Children liked working on these spots. In the last session, I decided to take the activity a bit further so I asked them to bring along a photo of their own. The guidelines were as follows:

  • Think about the children’s rights that we watched, talked and wrote about.
  • Look closely around you, notice details in your room or your house.
  • Choose one or more rights and take a photo that you think is relevant to the right/s you chose.
  • No photographs of faces of people.
  • No selfies.
  • Jot down a few sentences about your photo. When writing think of the following questions:

-What is happening in your photo?

-Why did you choose to take this particular photo?

-What is the right you want to show here?

They responded enthusiastically and we had an extra class where the children presented and talked about their photos. I acted as a facilitator asking questions and keeping the conversation going. Some of them:

The right to expression

The right to protection in times of war

The right to protection from child labour

The right to appropriate information

What I found particularly effective while working on these spots was the way concepts like child labour, appropriate information, self-expression, trafficking, abduction, or neglect were received, recognized and remembered by the children when speaking or writing. This had to do exactly with the way the spots’ visuals aided memory, clarified and enhanced children’s learning. At the same time, the topic of these spots, timely and universal, spoke direcly to children’s personal experience, holistically and emotionally. Their personal schemata were activated to make diverse associations, compare and contrast, and reflect on their rights and other children’s rights. Finally, the enjoyment they showed about the photo task had to do with the fact that it gave them a feel of ownership over the activity. I’m still getting new photos in my e-mail.

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