Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Movies on my Mind

Movie day!  Students love to be entertained, and teachers love the chance to sit back and breathe a sigh of relief (or tackle that giant pile of grading).  No lectures to take notes on, just a passive viewing of a movie in a nice, dark, cool classroom, right?  I hope not.  I hope we can find simple ways to use movies in class as more than just entertainment.  Instead, movies can engage students and inspire thoughtful, critical thinking about current classroom topics.

Teachers have used movies and filmstrips in the classroom for many years.  At the most basic level, movies can serve as tools to support and reinforce concepts taught in class.  Science classes can watch science films, history classes can watch historical documentaries, and English classes can watch the film versions of books they read in class.  Movies can also serve as the backbone for emergency sub plans in place in case of unforeseen absences.  Some teachers stretch the use of movies even further by watching popular movies that share some link to the material they have taught in class.  For example, a biology class might watch Outbreak or Osmosis Jones, or a history class might watch Shindler’s List following units on related topics. 

In some classrooms, movies are used as a special treat for students, with no apparent link to the curriculum at all.  In this way, movies become more of a babysitter than an educational tool.  My daughter’s first grade class watches a movie every Friday while teachers scramble to catch up with their grading and planning.  I know this is a much needed work time for teachers, but I can’t help but feel that some important learning time is being sacrificed. 

No matter what kind of movie you are showing in class, most students find movie days to be a nice change of pace from the daily grind.  Joann’s Picks this week bring a fun twist to using movies in the classroom by introducing ways to use the movies kids WANT to watch to strengthen their understanding of topics they are learning in class.  As teachers, we can come up with creative ways to link popular kids’ movies to the important topics we are teaching.  With some planning, we can promote active participation and creative thinking on movie days, and we can feel good that our students are getting the most out of their school day. 

If you have a popular movie in mind, contemplate the math, science, English, and history concepts you can tie to it.  Create your own connections and assignments, or search the Gateway to see if someone has already begun the process for you!  I searched for examples of creative uses for movies in the classroom.  I hope this short list can help you find ways to incorporate popular films in your classes.  If you have ideas you have used in the past, please share on our blog, Facebook, or Twitter pages.

Movie possibilities are abundant for history teachers.  The History in Film series of lesson plans takes a traditional approach to using movies in the classroom.  Each film on the site includes an outline, timeline of events, and homework questions related to the movie.

ReadWriteThink has lots of activities that connect popular movies to concepts in the language arts classroom.  Decoding The Matrix: Exploring Dystopian Characteristics through Film uses The Matrix to help high school students compare and contrast different types of societies.  Exploring Satire with Shrek is a fun way to use the children’s film to study satire.  Cover to Cover: Comparing Books to Movies is a great tool for language arts students to analyze and compare books and he movies that are based on them. 

The movie Contact can help start conversations about how technology interacts with scientific knowledge.  This lesson plan shows how you can use this movie in your classroom. 

P.E. Central has created a set of activities that can be used along with popular movies to encourage physical activity.  These are some original ways to use movies in the P.E. classroom.

One very creative connection between Hollywood and the classroom comes from the University of Southern Mississippi.  In Macroplex Cinema: Polymers Go Hollywood, students learn about the science of polymers and do simple experiments demonstrating how polymers are used in special effects.

This list shows the variety of resources available to help you include movies in your classroom.  We look forward to learning about ways you have used movies with your students.

~Peggy's Corner - 6/24/2011~

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