Recently, my third grader was required to watch installments of the 2006 film Cars in school over the course of three days. The students were required to jot notes in their journals during the film, in order to learn about characterization and to trace the characters’ emotional development throughout the film. Normally a big fan of Pixar films, she had never warmed to Cars, and was less than enthusiastic about the assignment. At the end of the week, however, she acknowledged that the assignment had been beneficial, and that she had a much better grasp of how characters could evolve in both film and books.
Using films in the classroom is nothing new. Popular feature films and especially documentaries have been used as teaching tools for decades. The practice has sometimes been frowned upon by some educators and parents, who have viewed it as a babysitting tool and nothing more. Yet the use of films in the classroom can reap substantial gains for students if used properly.
Watching films in class doesn’t have to be – and shouldn’t be – a passive activity. Through interactive discourse and exercises, students can discuss films they’ve viewed in class and thus learn to be active and thoughtful viewers. Some concepts are also more effectively illustrated through a visual medium rather than a printed one, such as historical trade routes and military battle plans. Using films and documentaries can be used in all classes, but are most prevalent in English, history, social studies, and ELL/EFL classes. Here they are often used to illustrate themes in social justice and media literacy, historical events and cultural practices, and elements of plot, setting, characterization, style, and point of view. Films can help to reinforce salient course concepts, and to introduce students to new ideas and topics that they otherwise might not have explored.
This week, I’ve selected three resources that all use popular Hollywood films in educational ways. Throughout the week I’ll also be featuring many more film-based lessons and activities on our Facebook and Twitter pages, so be sure to give them a look.
Will the Real Pocahontas Please Stand Up
Subjects: English Language Arts, History
Students participating in this activity will learn about Pocahontas, the Powhatan Indians, and the many stories about Pocahontas. They will gain experience in assessing the relative merits of presentations of Pocahontas's life, and try to decide who the "real" Pocahontas was. This resource is a product of the National First Ladies Library, a national archive that educates the world about the American First Ladies and other notable women in history.
Historic Route 66: Lesson Plans for Pixar’s Cars
Subjects: Geography, U.S. history, English Language Arts
The setting for the film “Cars” is Route 66, the historic highway that changed America. The national highway linked Chicago, IL with Los Angeles, CA. This lesson has students research and report on various locations on Route 66 and their historical significance. This lesson was produced by ClassBrain, a site that offers specially designed resources for K-12 students, teachers, and parents.
Exploring Satire with Shrek
The movie “Shrek”, which satirizes fairy tale traditions, serves as an introduction to the satirical techniques of exaggeration, incongruity, reversal, and parody. Students brainstorm fairy tale characteristics, identify the satirical techniques used to present them in the movie, then create their own satirical versions of fairy tales. This lesson is a product of ReadWriteThink, which presents free peer-reviewed resources in reading and language arts instruction. This lesson is aligned to NCTE/IRA content standards.
~Joann's Picks - 6/24/2011~