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An Introduction to Screen Language

An Introduction to Screen Language

When talking about screen language it can sometimes feel like it really is foreign to many of us and a language we just can't speak or understand! But, as with all languages, it is simply a matter of taking baby steps into learning some simpler "phrases" and then gradually developing our knowledge and understanding.

Screen Language is made up of four key areas:

  • mise-en-scène
  • camerawork
  • editing
  • sound

To help you learn these languages, we have created individual resources on each key area. These have been designed to be used as a learning tool for teachers, but also to be used in the classroom with pupils.  They contain explanations of what different techniques are, how they are used and their effects, alongside classroom activities to consolidate learning. 


Mise-en-scène is a great starting point because we already speak a lot of this language fluently - even if we don't realise it! This fancy term simply refers to colour, costume, set, props, lighting and actor position. If you've ever looked at a character in a film carrying books and wearing glasses, braces and a bow tie and thought, "They look like a bit of a nerd" - then you're analysing mise-en-scène! You'll find this resource here.


Sound is placed at the end of the four key areas as it is an aural skill rather than a visual one, but it's an easier area of language than others, so we would recommend tackling this as the second area. This resource will take you through the three different kinds of sound found on screen and has some of the most fun practical activities! You'll find this resource here.


Camerawork is often seen as the stickiest of wickets when studying a screen text - mostly because there are so many shots and angles and movements to become familiar with! This resource aims to break camerawork down into a manageable set of guides, resources and activities and you'll find it here.

There's also a worksheet on basic camerawork that can be used for younger pupils or as an on-hand guide.


Editing is last on the list simply because it's the hardest of all the screen languages to learn! It takes a keen eye to spot many of the cuts and transitions, and a sharp brain to figure out exactly why they've been used. This resource is more intended for pupils from S3 and up (young pupils can absolutely speak screen language without knowing much - or anything - about editing) and outlines the role editing takes within the screen narrative and with camerawork. You'll find it here.