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WHAT WORKS IN EDUCATION The George Lucas Educational Foundation

Using Feature Films for Learning

Using Feature Films for Learning

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When I was in high school, as soon as the lights went down, it was time for zoning out. But I've also seen lots of great curriculum packages and lessons intended to engage students that accompany or complement documentaries and feature films. I really believe that the moving image can be a great tool for education in more ways than one. What kinds of lessons have you planned that used films well? For visual literacy? Critical thinking? History? Any resources to offer about how to integrate film into your classes? Here's a starter - a curriculum package called Story of Movies that uses "To Kill a Mockingbird" to teach an integrated unit about visual literacy and social studies - we've got a video about it here.

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Keith Heggart's picture
Keith Heggart
High School Teacher from Sydney, Australia

Hi Amy,
I totally agree - some of the most effective lessons I've seen have used parts of films to really capture and hold the students interests, as well as introducing them to some very challenging themes and concepts.

I don't have anything quite as polished as the examples you suggest, but here are a few that I've used or seen used really well.

Gattaca - for teaching about DNA, inheritance. Especially effective for introducing the debates on things like 'Designer Babies.'

The Last Samurai - I've used this to teach Year 10s about cultural clash, as well as medieval Japan. Can get a bit long, sometimes.

And for a little bit of a laugh: I once used excerpts from 'School of Rock' to teach kids about working as a team/ developing a business idea. Kind of like a giant class-based PBL project. It worked surprisingly well. The kids got all kinds of ideas from the film, including the importance of having specific roles, having a manager, solving arguments productively and so on.

Good fun!

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