Teaching with Movies

With the Christmas holidays approaching and the cold nights by the fire, I was going through my DVD library at home and it got me thinking about the importance and usefulness of films in education. I do use films in my lessons as I find the footage and content can convey a message that can help a students understanding.

Back in January 2010 I wrote about this very issue on my blog and for Sec-Ed in April 2009.

I have always been using documentaries and footage from DVDs and videos in my lessons but I had not realised what films could offer. It got my mind racing on different aspects of films that could be shown to pupils within different subject areas. I soon realised that films could enhance and develop a pupils learning and encourage them to be life long learners.

Films can enhance a lesson and excite a young mind with their powerful and thought-provoking subject matter. My good friend from my Southampton University days, Dr. Pietari Kaapa of the  University of Helsinki, has stated that, ‘cinema as both a popular form of entertainment and a means of artistic and political expression, is a crucial area of classroom teaching. The pedagogical potential of film provides an immediate and invigorating addition to established lesson plans, while the history of the medium and its contextual socio-cultural relevance function as sources of study in their own right.’

As a Geography Teacher I have used a wide variety of different films to help show and back up key terminology or sometimes complex geographical features. The world today has created a generation of young people with very active minds. The days of a teacher in a classroom talking for 50 minutes are long gone and would not generate much enthusiasm from today’s young learners. Interaction and variety is what is needed to engage learners and film is one medium that can grip a young person’s attention. Film can enthuse and generate much debate and help a learner.

Pupils are requested to use and take part in different types of media within their learning from the National Curriculum. Films like music should be encouraged to be used within the classroom. My good friend and former flatmate, Nick Hargreaves, of Radipole Primary School in Weymouth, Dorset, believes that ‘films are a really valid text as much as books. With the National Curriculum we have to look at various types of media within a child’s learning and film is one way.’

‘Films are not always easy to understand and it does take time sometimes for a young learner to fully understand the complexities of a film like the music changing in relation to the mood of the film.’ As we are aware there are three types of learners; visual, auditory and kinesthetic. A film is one medium that incorporates all three learning styles and can hold the attention and pass on knowledge and understanding to all three main learning styles.  Nick Hargreaves says ‘film takes into account how a learner learns…it attracts the three main types of learners and engages all of them in one sitting. It reaches out to all target levels especially boys’.

I remember reading Great Expectations at school and found watching the David Lean adaption a much-needed guiding hand when it came to revising for the GCSE. A film may not always be true or correct, but in the right hands, us as teachers, we can filter out the bad and use the great pieces of film there is out there waiting to be used. I would really like to know what films you use in the classroom – do you have a ‘Top Ten Movie List’? Please send in your comments via the comment box below or by twitter @tiddtalk – I look forward to reading your choices!

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5 Comments on “Teaching with Movies”

  1. Steven December 11, 2011 at 8:49 pm #

    Great article Mike. I teach both English and Media Studies, so use a variety of movies in class. I’m currently looking at the documentary “Supersize Me” with my Higher Media Studies class. For fictional film studies, I use Forrest Gump, Jaws and Truman Show, among others.

  2. interactivenarrativespaul December 12, 2011 at 12:18 am #

    Really interesting post, I have seen many teachers wheel in the old school style VCR and leave a mindless video on for an hour and leave the classroom. I hate this use of video/film in the classroom as I feel it doesn’t benefit anyone involved and can even disengage students from film.

    A more useful technique I feel is intercutting small video clips or scenes from films and documentary’s to give students a nice visual aid to enhance their own mental images of an idea. I honestly love film and completely agree with this post and hope that the days of my old Geography teacher putting a 3 hour documentary on continental drift have long gone.

    As for inspirational videos and scenes I have put a small list below:

    •Making Of The Bouncy Ball Advert – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9NymcQJjPCs

    •Wildlife (Scale is impressive) – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GTXinF8ZVCo

    •Beijing Opening Ceremony – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JsDY1Ha83M8

  3. Esther Sparhawk December 12, 2011 at 2:26 am #

    I see you’ve earned the “Shortlisted Education Blog Award” of 2011. How does one sign up for this award? I also run an educational blog–mostly for students to access directly–and I’d like to apply.

  4. authort December 12, 2011 at 8:24 am #

    Movies can be an excellent teaching tool ! Once my 13 years was told to read “Pride and Prejudice” from school summer reading plan, which considering her being bilingual exposure, was kind of too much text, not an easy read for her but when I showed her the movie she got interested, and read some the book more eagerly.

  5. dedunu December 19, 2011 at 3:33 pm #

    I love this blog this is one of best blogs i have ever read. I love teaching too. This post is very important friend thanks a lot!!

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