Mar 22

Teaching Tip: Use Movies the Right Way

Some children today seem to have a very tough time visualizing the story in their mind.  I do not know if that is because so many of them have since a very young age have had a television/computer screen do it for them or if as a society we are losing our imagination, but if I want to make sure no child is left behind I better have some sort of visual aid.  No matter how well I explain it myself or the way the author wrote about the material in the reading passage there is always at least one student in the room that will be like “oh I get it now” after seeing the visual aid.

Now of course, one of the best visual aids a teacher has in their tool belt is the movie.  Hollywood does a tremendous job making them that is why it is a multi-billion dollar industry every year.  Now there are some obvious problems in using movies so that is why you need to use movies the right way.  The wrong way is just putting it in because your class just finished the book, talked about that historical event, or has been doing a good job and you want a break.  If it was the late 90s I could see a teacher losing 3 or 4 class days and it not being that big of a deal, but in today’s high stakes high cost world of public education 4 extra days of preparation could make or break a school year or even a school.  It is sad that it was ok for teachers before high stakes testing to waste schools days, but I will admit it when I was student I used to love those days.  Now as a teacher there is no way I could “afford” to lose that many school days when I already give up 20+ school days to all the state mandated tests they take throughout the school year.

So what is the right way to show a movie in a class in this modern educational age?  First of all you do not show the whole thing unless it is absolutely necessary and you think it will improve test scores.  I never show whole movies in my class, the students boo and hiss well maybe in their minds, but I know they do not like it.  I show any pertinent clips that will further the discussion.  For example, when talking about the difference between Patriots and Loyalists during the lead up to the American Revolution I have my students debate each side.  To get them to see what I am looking for and the decorum I want them to show each other I use one of the opening scenes from the movie the Patriot…no not the bloody fighting scenes my students see enough of that on TV and video games I am sure they have that down… but the scene in the South Carolina Legislature where they are discussing if they want to declare independence.  It is a short clip at just a few minutes, but the students get the point, they also see that not everybody was a patriot, that both sides make valid arguments, and hear huzzah for the first time in their lives.

You do not have to show a whole movie to make your students enjoy your class.  A little clip if used in the right context can go a long way.

Simple Steps to using movies the right way

  1. Have the movie queued and equipment ready to go
  2. Know when and where the scene is you want them to see
  3. Make sure the students are watching and listening by pausing the clip and asking questions
  4. Have the students fill something out…graphic organizer, worksheet, etc…
  5. At the end ask the students on why you they think you wanted them to see it

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