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Oscar Week Special: Seven Teaching Resources on Film Literacy

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. It looks like it might be a big year for Steven Spielberg in the classroom and on Award night -- his Lincoln has been nominated for 12 Oscars, including Best Picture.

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 -- they can also be an engaging teaching tool that provokes students' interest in a variety of subjects and issues. Here, we're providing some classroom resources from around the Web:

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.
  • Oscar-Nominated Flicks for Families: Common Sense Media produced this list of reviews of 2013's Oscar-nominated films for the whole family. Included are reviews for animated films, Brave and Frankenweenie, and films based on historial events, Lincoln and Argo.
  • Teaching History With Film: Lincoln, Argo, and Zero Dark Thirty: The New York Times Learning Network offers several approaches to using these three Oscar-nominated films for teaching history. The Learning Network also hosts other great film literacy resources, including "Ten Ways to Teach the Oscars" from 2010 and a "Film in the Classroom" page that features lessons and activities.
  • 12 Basic Ways to Teach Media Literacy (PDF): This guide from Ithaca College is a great beginners resource for teaching media and film literacy. The tips included by authors Cyndy Scheibe and Faith Rogow are a great kickstarter for any media literacy unit, including suggestions for stimulating student interest in new topics and encouraging students to think about how media messages influence them.
  • Teachers' Guide Series from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences: These guides, produced by the Academy and Young Minds Inspired, can help you dive into the art and science of film. 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.
  • Visual Media: A New Literacy: Media literacy educator Frank W. Baker wrote this two-part article for MiddleWeb, offering teachers ideas for visual literacy lessons for students in grades 4-8. Baker also hosts a great list of film literacy resources on his personal website, Media Literacy Clearinghouse.
  • Comments (5)Sign in or register to postSubscribe to comments via RSS

    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/

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