Watching movies in class is generally a taboo subject. Yes, it happens. Most teachers have done it at some point but doing it too much tends to give one a bad reputation. That is because showing movies in class has become synonymous with “mailing it in” or laziness. And, in many instances, that is actually the case. However, watching movies in class is not inherently bad. In many cases, watching a film could be enriching to the class. It just has to be done the right way.
Here are five ways teachers can make sure they are watching movies the right way.
- Make sure the movie is relevant
It’s a lot easier to justify watching a movie in class if the movie is at least somewhat relevant to what you are learning. We all love Frozen, but it has little academic value.
History teachers can obviously find a period film to watch. Many of the books English teachers use have movies as well. Science teachers can look for movies that illustrate some of the concepts and themes they are teaching in class. It’s harder for math teachers obviously, but still doable.
2. Give students a viewing guide
Just because you are showing a movie doesn’t mean that students are not doing anything. If you are watching a movie, give students a viewing guide to follow along with. This could be questions they have to answer at different parts or simply a note-taking prompt.
Note: Many popular movies already have viewing guides online for classrooms.
3. Pause the movie to reinforce key points
While watching the movie make sure you pause it to emphasize key parts or takeaways. For example, if you are watching a movie about the Civil War like Glory, then you may want to pause the movie when they are talking about the causes of the war as that is typically a major sticking point of that subject.
4. Reference the movie when teaching
After you have watched the movie, make sure you reference the movie when teaching. Movies provide a powerful visual anchor for students. If you have already invested time in watching the movie in class, don’t let the opportunity go to waste.
Prompt students to think back to the visual to drive home points later. “Remember in _____ when _____?”
5. Discuss the movie afterward
Have a class discussion about the movie. This is especially effective when done in conjunction with a viewing guide or guiding questions.
Additionally, class discussions after movies tend to elicit more participation than other discussions because students who usually struggle have an easier time engaging with the content. So, don’t be surprised if you hear from voices you don’t usually hear from. This is especially effective when done in conjunction with a viewing guide or guiding questions.
Movies can be a giant waste of time or they can be a valuable way to engage students in hard to access content. It’s all about how you use it. Gone are the days where teachers have to call in the A.V. Club every time they want to show a film, and thanks to streaming services, a literal world of films are available at any time. With this in mind, educators owe it to their students to use this powerful medium to leverage learning.