Facilitating strong student-to-student and student-to-instructor communication creates the foundation of a good classroom experience. Open lines of communication allow students to develop and hone their speaking and listening skills while reflecting upon and respecting the ideas of others. When this teaching method is directed by specific learning goals, such as the analysis of screened productions (movies), students learn to think dynamically and analyze a given topic from a differing point of view. Few activities spark a student’s interest in an issue like a quality film.
The following three activities illustrate ways to promote lively and enlightening discussions when showing a movie in the classroom:
1) Pre-Film Introduction
Before the film begins, establish a foundation by framing the topic and relating it to the current lesson. Encourage students to share opinions and voice expectations prior to showing the movie. Provide students with any facts or background that they will need to appreciate the film. Also, it is highly recommended that you hand out a “movie worksheet” so that the students will have an additional reason to follow along closely with the film. Each question in the worksheet should relate to the overall lesson plan rather than simply asking students questions about what happened in the story. Review the questions on the worksheet with the class. Tell students that they will be able to make notes on the worksheet at breaks in showing the film and that they should not make entries in the worksheet while the film is running.
2) Mid-Film Breaks
Choose key scenes at which to pause the film. Allow students to make notes on their movie worksheet and, if appropriate, lead a discussion session about what is being shown on-screen.
3) Post-Film Discussion
Immediately upon completion of the movie, lead the class in a discussion about the movie related to the curriculum goals for the class. You can focus on questions from the movie worksheet. Allow students to express their opinions on the topics covered in the film.
In conclusion, movies possess a strong visual appeal that can lead to a deeper understanding of a given topic. The vast majority of students today respond with much greater enthusiasm to screened productions than to written texts. Student enthusiasm translates into spirited discussions that can help students focus on the curriculum, voice their opinions, and respectfully examine the opinions of others. While analysis of written work remains at the core of all ELA classes, these traditional activities can be supplemented by showing a few carefully selected films per semester. Engaging students in pre-film, mid-film and post-film discussion will enhance the benefits that can be derived from using a film in class.