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Oscar Week Special: 7 Teaching Resources on Film Literacy

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The Academy Awards are just around the corner, and there are a number of nominated films that can be great teaching tools for educators this year.

With the abundance of media messages in our society, it's important to ensure students are media literate. The Oscars provide a great opportunity to use the year's best films to teach students about media and film literacy. Not to mention, films can also be an engaging teaching tool for piquing interest in a variety of subjects and issues. In this compilation, you'll find classroom resources from around the web that cover many of this year's nominated films, as well as general resources for using film as a teaching tool.

First, we'll start with an Edutopia classic, acclaimed director Martin Scorsese discussing the importance of visual literacy and the power of film as a teaching tool.

  • Teaching for Visual Literacy: 50 Great Young Adult Films: Authors Alan B. Teasley and Ann Wilder share tips for using film as a classroom tool and include an extensive list of films that are perfect for young adults, focusing on lesser-known flicks, classic films, and movies that students have not likely seen.
  • Film Lesson Plans and Interactive Activities: Into Film is a U.K.-based film education non-profit that features tons of great resources on their website. Educators can browse their long list of free film-related lessons plans and activities, which are designed to enhance movie watching and cultivate future filmmakers. The lessons cover a diverse range of subjects, from World War I to science in film.
  • Oscar-Nominated Flicks for Families: Common Sense Media produced a list of great reviews for this year's Oscar-nominated films. Each review features an age-appropriate rating, as well as an overview of subjects covered in the movie and possible discussion questions families and educators can use following each film.
  • Ideas for Using Film in the Classroom: The Learning Network's "Film in the Classroom" page from The New York Times features tips, activities, and Times content for teaching students about motion picture-related topics. Also, be sure to check out "Teaching History With Film" and "Ten Ways to Teach the Oscars" for even more useful ideas for incorporating film into your lesson plans.
  • Teachers Guide Series: These guides, produced by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences and Young Minds Inspired, can help you dive into the art and science of film with students. There are guides for animation, media literacy, and screenwriting, and they include lessons that encourage students to write creatively, think critically, and explore visual literacy.
  • Learning About Media Literacy From the Oscars: Media-literacy expert Frank W. Baker wrote this article for MiddleWeb, offering teachers practical ideas for teaching visual literacy. Baker also hosts a Teacher's Guide to the Academy Awards on his personal website, which features links to other useful resources, ideas for teachable Oscar moments, and links to some great film-related lesson plans.

7 More Film and Media Literacy Resources for Teachers

There are many other great film-literacy lesson plans, how-to articles, and other useful education resources on the web, too many to list. But here are a few more quick links to helpful sources rich with interesting content. 

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Dave's picture

Excellent resources, Matt! I especially liked The Alan Review piece in which they argued against the traditional "read-the-book-see-the-movie" approach to teaching film in classrooms. As an individual with a background in cinema studies who is currently studying to be a high school teacher, it's good to know that there are others out there who value the need for visual literacy in the public school curriculum.

Penny Culliton's picture

While the ALAN resource contains a useful list, it is from 1994. I assure you, most students today have not seen Dead Poets Society ;~)

John Norton's picture

Matt, thanks for mentioning Frank Baker's posts about visual literacy at middleweb.com .... most recently he posted this article about the unsung heroes of Oscar nominated films and took a closer look at the Foley Artist. I was grateful, having always wondered what that person actually did. He has links to some great clips of a Foley Artis at work. See http://www.middleweb.com/5791/learning-more-about-the-movies/

Todd Sentell's picture
Todd Sentell
Author of the hilarious schoolhouse memoir, "Can't Wait to Get There. Can't Wait to Leave"


Here are now five revelations learned after only five minutes into the first movie of the school year. The movie was about the glorious founding of our beloved state:

* During the showing of a movie, never, ever blurt out that that part's important to remember. They don't like it when you do that.

* During a showing of a movie, never, ever, ask them if they understand that last part.

* During the showing of a movie, never, ever ask them if they remember when we talked about that exact same stuff a few days ago.

* They like the lights turned off and the window blinds closed.

* After the movie, if you ask them questions about the movie and most of them don't have a clue what you're talking about and you offer to show the movie to them again, they don't want to see the movie again.

So ... revelations. One of my little historians said Savannah's a real nice place now. Forrest Gump lives there.

Anna D's picture

There are some wonderful ideas here. I strongly believe in films / videos as a teaching technique. When I was teaching Oscar Wilde short stories in my English class, I showed the students the short animations of his stories. Then I showed a video of a story we didn't read and I asked students to look for theme, symbol, imagery, etc.... They were able to tell me all of the same things they did while reading the stories.

As an English teacher I believe strongly in the visual component of language, that language is something dynamic, interesting and that the words on the paper also represent pictures, scenes, dramas.

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