I currently teach a Film & Media Studies class and my new principal is insisting there is no need to show movies in their entirety in this class. I would like to know what other film studies teachers do in their class. I do incorporate many, many clips but I also show about 10-15 significant films during the semester. I would appreciate your thoughts.
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As I just answered a question about Fahrenheit 451, this attitude by the principal echoes Beatty's lessons about how society in the book has demanded political correctness and the dumbing down of books. Beatty says that books declined to condensed versions and then to snippets because people would rather be entertained than gain knowledge.
I have my masters degree in media and film, and I believe it is important to show the entire movie so students understand how characters change, how themes play out, and how the director uses production values. Use clips to teach the terminology and production values, and use entire films for the higher thinking skills like evaluating, judging, and analysis. Some of our fondest memories are linked to film. Make those memories in your classroom. Kids will appreciate you for it.
My son enjoyed his film and media elective at the high school level and, as an educator, I can see why. The lesson plans that the teacher often proposed built upon the excitement and helped build the schema to enter the movie as a whole, but the actual viewing of the film occurred at the beginning of the lesson and then again the last day, which makes it a 2x quarter thing. There was not just one movie, but several. Students also were able to select their "homework" film and conduct scavenger hunts to bring to class.
If you go to khake.com or websites like A&E (Arts and Entertainment) there are curricular units that connect the films to common core curriculum and to other art standards. The site ReadWriteThink is also excellent in offering lesson plans for film and media teachers, with a noteworthy mention on a lesson which one of my son's teachers did titled "Writing a Movie".
In this lesson, the focus is to use a movie with more action than dialogue. The class starts by watching a 10 minute clip (or less time) of that type of movie. I had asked her to share the lesson plan with me and the movie that she used was E.T. The Extraterrestrial but she also used Forrest Gump recently.
The idea is for students to voice what they think is going on in the movie at that time. At the high school level, the students would post their thoughts into Padlet using their laptops or tablets, and their comments would pop up on the Smartboard as they all watched together. If you do not have a Smartboard, use a "parking lot" area with chart paper and let students get up and write their thoughts on sticky notes that they can go attach to the chart paper.
Summary and sequencing
The students should also describe how the action is developing sequentially. For example (since the clip is just 10 minutes) they can say:
The scene started when Elliot dropped the bicycle in the middle of the park after he saw the light in the sky. He then moved toward the light and started following it. He did not know what the light was until he looked sideways and saw the creature abandoned in the park. This is how the scene ends.
When the clip is over, the teacher would go over the observations and see which things stood out as well as which went missing from the eye. Using the same movie, the teacher will then cut the script into pieces, and have the kids do mini-interpretations of the script in front of the class as the movie plays.
Another activity is to have the kids create thoughts and impressions in the form of statements and then dramatize them as the scene plays in the background.
Alternatives to clips:
Why not have your students create a piece of art and make that their "backdrop scene", where they have to come up with a small script in which they explain their role within that backdrop. One of them can just use a program like Photoshop or Wixie to build a scene and make a script on it that can be interpreted on the microphone and added onto the scene. It could be played with music in the background and made into a complete scene. Then it can be compared to a scene in the movie.
Recreating a scene:
Why not just take a snippet from a movie, less than 5 minutes, and have the students recreate it in another moment and time. That scene from Titanic where Leonardo and Kate do the famous movement of freedom with their arms is a great way to re-create an iconic movie moment that everyone can recognize.
Change the technology:
Re-do a famous movie scene from an old movie changing the technology items shown in it. Re-do the script so it shows how much different the whole scene would have been if the technology had just been present. For example, a labyrinth from a 17th century French castle scene where people are insanely trying to find one another, pop up a cell phone or GPS device and make the scene funny.
There are many ways to engage children with other media that will eventually lead to the moment of watching a movie that integrates all of the elements together. Check out the links offered here and look into those awesome lesson plans.
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