It’s May. School is out for us next week! For those of you who are teaching in June… I’m so, so sorry. This is the hardest time of the year, isn’t it? The only one more antsy than the students is YOU.
*GASP!* The teacher down the hall is showing a movie! She only has one more year and then she’s retiring, and she doesn’t CARE anymore. You wish you had the balls to put a movie on, but you’re like me – a Goody-Two-Shoes, and you’d die if your principal walked in on *GASP* your students watching a movie!
Well, it’s time to get rid of the movie-teacher Cameron Diaz from Bad Teacher stereotype of teachers who show movies. I show a few feature length movies each year. While one or two of them might be directly from the standards (the comparing the book to the movie bore) I also show some movies for which we didn’t even read the book. Heck, for most of them, there isn’t a book!
How many of your students read on their own nightly, for pleasure? How many of them read over the weekend? Over the holiday breaks? Most importantly… over the SUMMER?
Believe me, I’m working my rear off to make sure my students have access to high-interest independent reads. But it isn’t a reality that I’m going to turn all 140 of them into avid independent readers, try as I might.
Now, how many of them are going to watch movies over the weekend or during the summer? MOST of them, right? So, let’s go ahead and take advantage of all of that movie watching.
If you’re teaching in 2014, then you’re doing close reading. Have you ever close-read a movie scene? Oh yeah! That’s a WHOLE other blog post. But the concept is the same. It’s time to train your students to look at movies in a whole new light. Not as means of mindless entertainment, but rather as stories – or even NOVEL-like things – that can be classified by genre, analyzed, diagrammed, predicted, and yes, entertaining!
Here’s an example for you from my End of the Year Lessons.
I recently rekindled my flame for a childhood classic when my own boys fell in love with the timeless Homeward Bound: The Incredible Journey. If you grew up in the early 90s like me, then I’m sure you’ve already seen it! But if you’ve somehow missed this treasure, you just might like it even more than your students. And they’re going to LOVE it, because chances are most of them haven’t seen it, either.
There is so much analysis potential in this movie that I have only scratched its surface with my students!
One of the things I loooooove about this movie is its clever dialogue, so I created a Figurative Language & Expression Guide so that my students could “close read” some of the dialogue. Here’s an example.
Chance used an allusion to compare a mountain lion to Arnold Schwarzenegger. Chance is implying that they are both …?
I love this example of allusion! Some of my students struggle with allusion so much. It’s hard to teach when students don’t have the background knowledge needed to GET the allusion in the first place! But this one is pretty easy for just about everyone.
This is just a small excerpt from the guide my students complete as they watch the movie.
Then, because they love the movie so much, and because they love “making stuff,” our final project analyzes theme, plot, and focuses on complications.
We also talk about this movie being a journey and how just about every journey in a story or movie will have a series of complications that keep the hero from reaching his destination and keep the reader (or viewer) in suspense and sometimes frustrated.
My students love talking to me about the books they read. I work hard to be very approachable and many students enjoy book talking with me. I find that some students who aren’t as passionate about reading (or who struggle more) will approach me and movie talk with me. And even though they didn’t read a book over the weekend, we can still have a meaningful conversation about the movie they watched, what genre it fell into and why, and even how the student found irony in the movie. Hmm.. initiating a conversation that includes content-specific vocabulary. Nice!
And that’s why you should be watching movies during precious school hours. Working them in to key times of the year, such as MAY or the week before Christmas holiday, makes it even more wonderful for your students and you as you find a way to enjoy the time together and still accomplish something meaningful.