"It is only through the understanding of the structure of a medium

that one can gain real access to its message."

- Frank Zingrone, The Media Symplex: At the Edge of Meaning in the Age of Chaos, (p. 3)

The following is a resource for teachers when using film to teach ELA. A wide variety of films or film clips may be used. Any or all aspects can be changed to fit the needs or objectives of the lesson and/or students. The purpose of this resource is to (in some cases) introduce teachers to the idea of using film to address various ELA Expectations within the Ontario Curriculum. It should be noted that any or all of these resources can be incorporated within the ELA classrooms at various grade levels.

Why use movies to teach?

Using film to teach can be a wonderful way to break from traditional forms of literature such as the novel or short story. Although the importance of reading words will forever be essential, using film to teach can ignite interest among students that go beyond the written word and in some cases lead to the discovery of new career options. Film can engage students beyond what is being presented on the screen and cause them to analyze and pick up nuances that would otherwise go unnoticed during the often unstructured viewing of a film outside the classroom. Similar to other forms of literature, the use of film in teaching must be meaningful to students and go beyond preliminary level activities such critiquing or reviewing films. It is therefore essential that teachers slect films or film clips and lesson plans that are relevent to ELA curriculum.Teachers must decide expectations BEFORE choosing films or film clips (this is not just simply showing a movie in class to kill time)- "Teachers sometimes use the film as a relief or a nonteaching break" (Vetrie, 2004).

*Things to consider when using films to teach:
- The movie segment should be from ten to twenty minutes in length, not a full-period.
- Students are made aware of SPECIFIC EXPECTATIONS of the lesson. The goals should be clear and to the point.
- Sufficient time has been built into the lesson for student questions and comments following the viewing experience. Viewing does not end at the bell, the lesson does.
- During the viewing the teacher circulates and ACTIVELY supervises the class, answers individual students' questions, and insures task orientation.
- Careful summary notes are provided by the teacher so that absentees can still grasp the essence of the film lesson or obtain a sense of continuity.

*Taken from Nathonson's guide for using videotape as written in PED 3177 course pack (p 62).

Generating Introductory Activities
The following questions are considerations can form the basis of a film study. These questions can be used for personal response writing, free writing or using graphic organizers prior to investigating a specific film.

  • In general, what attracts you to a film? (the film's stars, subject, genre,effects and word of mouth recommendations)
  • Identify a movie you saw recently and enjoyed. Did the film meet your expectations? Why or why not? What reasons did you have for seeing the film?

Although introductory-level activities are important at the beginning of a film study, they should not be the basis of the lesson plan.
Now you can procede to teaching lessons or skills that go beyond initial treatment of movies or movie clips with the following classroom activities.

Consider the following film clip from the movie UP

  • How does this scene present the theme of aging and/or love? What techniques did the director use to be successful in his treatment of the themes? Music, expressions, camera angles? (Media Literacy- Responding to and Evaluating Texts 1.3)
  • Explain why different audiences (with respect to gender, age ability/disability) might have different responses to this film clip? (Media Literacy- Audience Responses 1.4)

Watch the following movie clips

  • What immediate differences can you observe in the preceding monologues? Did the speakers use facial expressions, vocal effects and body language appropriately? (Oral Communication- Analysing Texts 1.7- Presentation Strategies 1.9)
  • What clues help you to recognize the mood in each of these monologues? (Oral Communication- Point of View 1.8)
  • Suggest how the first clip might affect an audience of Marine recruits. Suggest how the second clip might affect an audience of first-time fishermen or scuba divers? (Oral Communication- Analysing Texts 1.7)

You can now come up with your own lesson plans using these activities as a starting off point. The possibilities are endless and the resources are out there. Read on for references and useful links.


References and links:

Barsam, R. (2004). Looking At Movies. New York: W.W Norton & Company, Inc.
Slomp, D. (2010). PED 3177 Course Pack: Teaching English in the Intermediate/Senior Division. Ontario: Rytec Printing.