There are some excellent movies for kids out there, but when it comes to just showing a movie, I’ve often felt reluctant. After all, I’m supposed to be delivering rigorous instruction, right? All my lesson plans must closely align with my standards, correct? And, of course, there’s always the dreaded thought . . . What if an administrator happens to stop in?
But if you’re like me, you might really want to share an awesome movie with your students that isn’t necessarily part of a unit. You know they’ll be moved by it and you want them to learn from it. This post will explain 6 ways students benefit when you show a movie in class. Read on and you’ll feel perfectly justified to pop in that DVD tomorrow!
Students Need Cultural Awareness –
Movies help students learn about different ways of life, including different time periods, customs, and circumstances. For example, I love showing the movie Heidi around the holidays. In the film, set in the beautiful Swiss Alps, an orphan girl must experience a whole new way of living under the care of her hermit grandfather. Then, when she is abducted by a self-serving aunt, she must adjust to much different customs thrust into a life with rich, high-class relatives. By the way, have you noticed that there are fewer and fewer allusions you can use with your students these days? That’s because they lack exposure to many of the classics. I recently took a survey and the majority of my students have not seen The Wizard of Oz ! That means they won’t understand an allusion to a “cowardly lion” or “Wicked Witch of the West.” I find that unacceptable. Movies are a wonderful way of delivering cultural information that can add to a rich, life-long knowledge base.
Movies Help to Teach Theme –
Theme (messages about life) can be explored by teaching with a film, not just a text. For the most part, students can have a hard time determining themes in literature, so what better way to get them engaged in theme discussions than using a great movie? From a Disney classic to a gripping sports story or a coming-of-age title, a theme discussion awaits! Think The Sandlot, Stand By Me, or Glory Road. Ask students, What did the main character learn from his or her experiences? From there, What could the author or filmmaker’s message be for our own lives?
Viewing Itself is a Skill –
Just before the Common Core, in our state the standards included reading, writing, speaking, listening, and viewing ! Viewing requires careful attention. Sometimes, if you look away for a matter of seconds, you miss something important. In a movie, it could be an expression on a character’s face or a look from one character to another that requires us to draw an important inference. Often, students need to be directed by us to examine the background, check out the camera angle, think about the effect of the lighting, the close-ups, etc. Viewing requires concentration and yes, stamina.
Students Can Practice Multiple ELA Skills with Movies –
Just about every movie’s plot follows the structure we teach for stories and novels, so why not have students analyze the film’s literary devices? After we view the first third of the movie, I pause it and pass out my Movie Guide for ANY Movie. It’s a 2-sided eye-catching response page where students analyze characterization, plot elements, types of conflict, tone, mood, and theme. Because I proclaim it to be “Movie Day,” students are instantly more motivated to engage in these relevant practice activities. We stop at two points in the movie and again at the end. Students enjoy short partner discussions while writing their responses, but the guide can also be completed independently.
These pages are in the Movie Guide resource:
Viewing is a Form of Differentiation –
Some students just need the opportunity to experience “story” in different formats. English instruction should not have to be limited to printed text only. If it is our goal to meet the individual needs of all learners, we should be presenting “story,” either fictional or memoir, by tapping into the viewing opportunities great movies offer. Remember a time when so much attention was given to learning styles? Are you a kinesthetic learner? A visual learner? ETC.? Well, then let’s acknowledge that a great number of our students recognize themselves as visual learners (as do many of us). Voila! Another sound reason why we can and should be using movies as an educational tool.
Movies Help to Integrate Curriculum –
Students are always excited when they are given opportunities to make cross-curricular connections. I LOVE being able to integrate topics from other subject areas, and for this, movies can be just the ticket! There are so many awesome films that support science, social studies, math, and even art! One of my favorites has to be Johnny Tremaine, perfect for my 7th graders during their Revolutionary War study. Have you heard of the title Stand and Deliver? My 8th graders are absolutely mesmerized watching this one! The movie chronicles the true story of a group of students in a low-performing high school accused of cheating on a high-stakes math examination. There’s great drama, determination, and heart, all in the setting of math class.
I hope these 6 reasons have you feeling confident about showing great films in class. Well, what are you waiting for? Pick out a few DVDs you’ve been wanting to share with your students. There will be plenty of smiles, engagement, and thankfully, . . . learning!
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