As teachers work to implement the Common Core State Standards, they should consider using film to help teach students analytical skills.
In this blog post, Jessica Keigan writes about her approach to teaching students such skills, including conducting a literary analysis of a film. Students then are asked to analyze the cinematic decision-making behind the film, and to conduct a critical analysis.
When I was a student, watching a movie in class meant watching documentaries, literary adaptations, or informational filmstrips.
These film-viewing experiences were not without their impact. I can still sing the theme song from a particularly gruesome film we viewed in 5th grade during my first adventures with sex education curriculum. It was titled, “My Mother’s Having a Baby,” but should have offered the additional subtitle of “Literally, Right There on Screen,” so that we could have had a little more context for the images we were about to see.
Traumatic memories aside—I remember my student experiences with film being very passive. I might’ve filled out a worksheet or two, but that’s all. But now that I am a high school teacher myself, I use film to inspire my students’ interaction with a variety of texts.
Film and the Common Core
The Common Core State Standards call students to actively analyze texts of all kinds (CCSS: RL.9-10.1). Why not film?
The first part of analysis is pulling things apart to see how they work. But students must also be able to evaluate these workings or interpret why the audience should care about them.
I teach students to interact with texts in three ways:
1) Factual—the who, what, when, where of a text;
2) Inductive—the how or why of a text;
3) Analytical—the so what, or application of ideas from the text.
Film presents a complicated text that is approachable for all kinds of learners, making it an excellent tool for teachers who want to push students towards analytical thinking in the classroom.
Here is a breakdown of how I teach my high school language arts students to analyze film texts.
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