Ah, the silver screen: we all love to escape into other times, other worlds, and other peoples' stories. While millions tune in to the Oscars with bated breath and bowls full of popcorn, I know there are some educators out there who are wondering how they can drum up that kind of excitement and engagement in their classroom. Gone are the days when all the students fell asleep as soon as the lights went dim -- movies and videos can be incredibly powerful teaching tools, if you know how to use them well.
Edutopia's founder George Lucas has argued that visual literacy is a skill as important as reading literacy -- but how do we make time for it in our already-strapped classroom hours? What resources are out there for learning the language of film? Alas, I don't have all the answers. But as a nod to the Academy Awards this month, I've created a playlist with resources to get you started on thinking about media and visual literacy and how to teach the language of film.
Video Playlist: Feature Films in the Classroom
Keep watching the player below to see the rest of the playlist, or view it on YouTube.
- Turner Classic Movies: Story Of Movies Excerpt (01:55)
Story of Movies offers three wonderful free film-based visual literacy units for middle school students, produced by Martin Scorsese's organization, The Film Foundation. See Edutopia's coverage of the Story of Movies here.
- THE ORIGINAL Scary Mary Poppins Recut Trailer (01:07)
Here's a quick, fun, and easy media literacy lesson: watch remixed movie trailers to see how our emotions are manipulated by film editing. In this one, Mary Poppins is reimagined as a horror film by editing the same footage differently. And don't miss The Shining as a romantic comedy.
- Film: 21st Century Literacy - Showreel (08:22)
A comprehensive overview of what film education means (with British accents!), from Film: 21st Century Literacy, an organization in the U.K. that provides curriculum materials and guidance to encourage teachers to use films and teach visual literacy in the classroom.
- This is the JBFC (01:38)
If you're in New York state, the Jacob Burns Film Center is an incredible and unique facility -- a hybrid of a movie theater complex, a media arts and literacy lab, and a film artists' residence.
- Visual Literacy in the Classroom (04:03)
The origins of this one are a little mysterious -- the description links to this blog and says it was made by students, for teachers, in a plea to teach more about visual language -- but it's a very thoughtful piece. I've only excerpted here, but it's worth watching the whole 14 minutes.
- Media Literacy Film Project (01:30)
These enterprising students made their own trailer parodies to deliver key content for a media literacy class. Though they made six trailer spoofs in this clip, I've only included their Twilight movie trailer that describes the history of film; click here for the actual Twilight tease for comparison.
- How to Use Classroom Films 1963 (01:56)
I couldn't resist a little clip from this rather slow-moving vintage 1963 reel on how to use filmstrips in your classroom. Ah, what a long way we have come from checking out spools of 16mm film from the AV center... or have we?
- AFI Screen Ed: Visual Literacy (01:28)
Although the American Film Institute's Screen Ed program is no longer around, its former associate director, film educator Frank Guttler, still teaches visual literacy workshops all over; you can find more information on his Lights, Camera, Learn! blog.
- Scripts, Screen Writing, and Film in the Classroom (05:55)
Jennie Cross, manager of learning resources from the Toronto International Film Festival, gives concrete ideas for the classroom from a workshop she gave on using screenwriting in school. Filmed at the Association for Media Literacy's annual conference.
More Resources for Film Literacy
Whether you use videos to explore and illuminate core content, or you're teaching about the art and methods of filmmaking and digital storytelling, or you're deconstructing media messages as a key part of learning to think critically, you can find dozens of ways to include the moving image in your classroom. We've also just published a great blog chock full of film literacy resources, "Oscar Week Special: Seven Teaching Resources on Film Literacy," so start there for one-stop shopping. And below, I've rounded up a few more links to check out if you're hungry for more resources around using film and video in education. See you at the movies!
- Story of Movies, from The Film Foundation
- Lights, Camera, Learn! blog
- "Film in the Classroom: A Guide for Teachers," from PBS Masterpiece Theater
- Film Education (UK-based literacy org)
- Media Lit Kit from the Center for Media Literacy
- Teach with Movies (350+ film-based lesson plans for small annual fee)
- "Movie Lesson Plan Ideas: Ways to Effectively Use Movies in Class," and "Pros and Cons of Using Movies in Class," by Melissa Kelly
- Film English (lessons plans for teaching ELLs with film)
- "Cover to Cover: Comparing Books to Movies," middle school lesson plan from ReadWriteThink
- "Cinematic Magic: Using Film in Class," by Melinda Barlow, National Education Association