Learning from Films

It was not long into my education career as a teacher that I started to realise the importance and usefulness of film in my lessons. I had 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.

In April 2009 I wrote an article for Sec-Ed regarding the usefulness of films in education called Learning from Films. I have used films in the classroom and have found they have a lasting impression on a young students mind. Films are a successful way of engaging and stimulating young people.

Films can enhance a lesson and excite a young mind with their powerful and thought provoking subject matter. Dr. Pietari Kaapa of the University of Nottingham 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. 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 kinaesthetic. 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’.

It is not only watching films but using/making films within a lesson. This is sometimes difficult to do with budgets and time constraints but can be a worthwhile exercise. Young people like to be more involved in classes and using digital film recorders is one way. Pupils should be encouraged to produce news reports, presentations or stop motion modelling to help their knowledge and understanding. The technology and resources are out there and we as teachers must start to use them for the benefit of our pupils and ourselves as practitioners.

It may be uncomfortable for some of us to film ourselves in a lesson and to watch our mannerisms but would it further develop ourselves as teachers? I think the answer would be yes and should be encouraged with any teacher new or old. Filiming ourselves could be way of encourging our own development as teachers.

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.

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