I tend to show only short clips or selected passages from movies matching the novels or plays we're reading. I might also show several versions of one scene to demonstrate how a director's point of view affects the production. Rarely do I use class time to show an entire movie, but I know some of my colleagues do. What are your movie-watching practices in the classroom?
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I use movies in different ways in my classroom. For difficult texts, especially with foreign settings, I will show the film in pieces as we read. This gives students an opportunity to see the setting and characters and reinforces the plot. I do this with Dickens and Shakespeare. You can also analyze a movie as a unique piece of literary criticism, asking students to consider why directors and characters made the choices they made and dissecting revisions in the script. Sometimes I even just show a movie as a treat, because it is so enjoyable to watch a good film version of a book.
I teach in NJ, and "Viewing" is actually one of our five standards in the Language Arts curriculum. If I do show an entire movie, I generally do it piece by piece (show one act at a time as we read Shakespeare, for instance). As clairewait does, I show Swing Kids after we read Night, and the kids write an essay comparing themes that are common to both. Simiarly, I use the A&E documentary about the Scottsboro Trials after we read the trial of Tom Robinson in Mockingbird.
I show lots of clips whenever I can find related clips. For example, I managed to salvage a few pieces of the latest Beowulf movie that were relevant to what we were reading. The students were excited to be watching a recent action movie and we were able to discuss what was accurate and what was not. I always use movies of stage productions when teaching Shakespeare. We read an act and then watch the video...it makes it so much easier for them to understand.
Movie clips can also give historical context to a piece of nonfiction or historical fiction. For example, before reading one of Tim OBrien's short stories, I showed a clip from We Were Soldiers that showed them going in on the helicopters and going into battle. I only showed maybe 5 minutes, but my kids were hooked and ready to read the story.
When I do show movies, the kids are usually very quick to notice the differences between the movie and the book, so even when I show something that is not completely accurate, I know they're still getting something out of it.
I use television shows as well. For example, I use the Simpsons to show satire, which is always fun.
I also use lots of movie speeches when teaching persuasion and ethos/logos/pathos.
Some great ideas about how to use movies and clips in the classroom. I agree that students tend to space out during extended viewing, but I find that showing at least part of a movie can help. This is especially true when teaching a work that has difficult or archaic language. When teaching Great Expectations by Charles Dickens, I found that my students were hung up on the difficulty of the language and couldn't get past it to grasp the book's themes. However, by showing parts of the BBC miniseries version of it, the students could finally "hear" the language and were able to really get into the book.
Movies are used almost as a form of reward in my classroom. When we reach the end of a novel around Christmas break, those last few days before vacation are consumed by watching its companion film (To Kill A Mockingbird, The Outsiders, The Yearling, etc.). As we're all aware, kids are pretty much "checked out" mentally by that point in the year anyway, and comparing and contrasting the movie with the book makes for a nice "soft landing" after our midterm or final exams. The students look forward to it, and remain engaged in the text so that they may then reap the reward of watching its movie.
Our district has passed new legislation designed to limit the showing of full length movies in class. I think that it has been abused so much by some teachers or received bad press that the board passed the legislation. This means that new and innovative ways to show sections of films are needed. I like being able to use a scene from a film and then generate discussion about it and the themes present. This discussion can be written, spoken, electronic, or even texted through the use of a site called backchannel.com. In being able to get student input on a small section of film, no more than ten minutes, I think discussion gets enhanced, the use of the medium is appropriate, and I can get around the district policy that really limits the use and viewing of full length films.
I show particular scenes from the Robert Redford version of Gatsby while reading the novel. Fitzgerald does not transfer well to the screen generally, but the scenic visuals in the movie are wonderful and do help students "get" the Long Island setting and the 1920s era.
Years ago I had access to a 5-part PBS presentation of The Scarlet Letter. The production was so excellent and so faithful to the novel (word-for-word dialog and voice overs), I showed it in its entirety over several days, working in activities along the way with excellent results.
I always took time to watch To Kill a Mockingbird in its entirety, and always got the same reaction: great movie, better book! This led to some excellent discussions about what Harper Lee could and did do in her novel that even the best movie could not create. Students often looked at novels a little differently after that eye opener.
Movies certainly cannot and must not take the place of reading in a classroom, but they can certainly enhance it when chosen carefully and used effectively.
As we have a media requirement for examination I am required to teach film studies which I really enjoy. The students need to be clear on the fact that they are studying a film rather than just watching it. I therefore use a lot of Youtube clips of trailers and of documentary material as part of my English teaching but always with the question 'Why are we watching this?'. Young students are perfectly adept at watching short extracts and can be trained to watch a full film without yawning - however I never run a full film through in one go. We have a maximum of 20 mins viewing time then discussion.
I have also found that using a movie to supplement a text (my current choices for juniors are Millions and Bridge to Terabithia, and I use Of Mice and Men and The Color Purple with seniors) very well received and if done well the students still like the book best!
I recently started using movies/films as a pre-reading strategy. I've read some research on literacy and critical reading which suggests that readers need a foundation upon which to build their encounters with new stories. I teach a group of low-level readers, so they don't have a strong foundation. I've found that showing a movie before students do the reading helps them visualize the text when they actually get to the story. And they don't complain that the movie has ruined any "surprises" in the story--they much more appreciate being able to understand the story.
As a 4th Grade teacher, I use movies quite often to supplement my History. As a teaching tool, movies are indispensable; the students love them and pay attention and they reinforce some of the facts that I've taught them or give a different perspective. We watch documentaries, historical fiction, and sometimes animated movies. And, I don't limit them to just history either! I even use them for my Language Arts.
My students are at an age right now where they love their movies, whether watching at home and in class. I have their undivided attention! Great tools!
There are two movies that I try to show when I'm teaching 10th and 11th grades.
10th - Swing Kids: I've never had a class that didn't stay focused and interested on this movie all the way through. I love that it presents a different perspective on the holocaust. I try to show it at the end of teaching Night.
11th - Dead Poet's Society: again, they love this one all the way through. I use it to wrap up my poetry unit - I choose poems from the movie to teach in class - but this film has so many great life themes that create really cool discussions, that often the poetry isn't the highlight at the end.
Film clips are great, but I also show full-length movies as supplements to the novels we read. To Kill a Mockingbird and The Outsiders are two which I have shown over the years, and there is always plenty of discussion about missing or altered scenes and changes made by the director. Short films covering classic short stories are also good: Bernice Bobs Her Hair and An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge are two others which I have shown repeatedly through the years.
For me as a history teacher, I show a lot of documentaries in my class. No way can I do more than ten ort fifteen minutes of any documentary. Usually, as they watch they are asked to find specific pieces of information in the video. Sometimes I will show movies in their entirety. I show an edited version onf the movie Glory and the movie Brother Future. These two movies hold the students' attention and I feel they need to seen in their entirety.
Being able to interpret media is one of the state standards for Tennessee, so we have to incorporate movie/video clips into our curriculum. What I try to do after we have read a play or novel is try to find a video on youtube. I'll ask the students how the video changed or enhanced their perception of the story. For instance, I found a strange modern version of A Doll's House in which Nora ends up killing Torvald. We critiqued that video and discussed how we'd stage the play differently.
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