I am back to tell you about an incredible unit I just completed with my seventh grade students.
I have been struggling to help them stay engaged with the literature we have been reading. When students are not engaged in the content you teach, the learning will not stick.
Yet, I can only do so much to make myself entertaining to students. I am competing with the excess amount of technology out there, So, if you can’t beat em’, join em!
Film or movies have bad stigma associated with them when used in the classroom. I remember in my teacher preparation classes never to just show videos or movies. For teachers, movies are known as taking the easy way out: a reward for students at the end of a movie, a way to fill class time when a substitute comes, or even tossing in YouTube videos which connect with the content, but have no end goal or purpose.
“Media literacy skills can be developed by asking critical questions about media messages, comparing newspapers to TV news, analyzing patterns of representation in documentaries, or studying television and film adaptations of literature,” says Renee Hobbs in her journal article, “Non-optimal uses of video in the classroom” (Hobbs 36).
Yes, we need to teach our students how to critically analyze written text. But, what about the texts that constantly bombard them everyday. Things such as advertisements, teen magazines, commercials, movies, TV shows..etc.
We must also teach our students to analyze media, so they are not consumed by information without knowing what it means.
Hobbs touches on this by saying, “Without a critical perspective, media use in the classroom may replicate the ways that television, video and other electronic media are used in the home, as a passive form of recreation, amusement, or escape that is increasingly a dominant, normative dimension of contemporary leisure among young and old” (Hobbs 37).
Therefore, I wanted to students to see why movie directors control a movie the way we do. We went through the beginning of Edward Scissorhands, and discussed the lighting, sounds, camera angles, language.
I told my students each added element of this movie has a meaning and a purpose. Then, we compared the written script version to further analyze the language. I explained to them, everything in written text has a purpose. The author never accidentally places a comma where they do, or exchanges an exclamation point for a period. Everything has purpose.
The students loved it. They were enthralled to get to watch a movie in class everyday, but they also had so much fun realizing things about movies they never knew before.
We, as educators, need to stop using media as a filler, a reward, or a hook to intrigue students. We need to teach students to be aware of what messages our culture is telling kids through diverse media formats. And that starts with showing them how to analyze the things they are consuming.
The beauty of teaching what students are already digesting is that they are engaged. They want to learn about the stuff they like. Why would we not shift education to meet kids where they are at? Trust me, look at the academic standards and using diverse formats is all over them. Not just using them, but analyzing them.
I saw my seventh grade kids comes to life in this unit! I saw the slacker kids speak, I saw my advance students come up with amazing analysis. It was a win, win.