Film Shaping Minds

Welcome to the ’13-’14 school year.

This week we are kicking off our ’13-’14 AY Moving Images-Moving Forward blog.

The mission of our blog is to provide film and media literacy resources to middle school, high school, and college educators.  In this space, we will create conversations about film analysis related resources, classroom activities, and pedagogy.  We will also provide interactive discussions that you can use in your classrooms.

Every Monday at 9AM (Mountain) we will post a film literacy resource, classroom activity, or educational discussion.

This week Executive Director, Laurie Chin Sayres discusses:

  1. the importance of being film and media literate; and
  2. why it’s important to bring film analysis into history classes.

Please comment below or discuss with us on 

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Film Shaping Minds

by Laurie Chin Sayres

Molly-with-Light-GALS

Film camp student explores moving images and lighting.

In many years of teaching students at multiple levels, one truth has become clear to me: students, even those having the benefit of strong curricula and innovative teaching methods, often lack the ability to effectively understand how images shape their understanding of events and how they view the world.

Therefore, it is critical that we bring film and media literacy into our classrooms to:

1) equip students with critical thinking skills;

2) engage students with the educational process; and

3) provide students with the skills necessary to be capable citizens.

We often downplay or even ignore the influence moving images have on our understanding of the world because we consider movies and TV to be entertainment only.  Although I agree that film and television primarily serve as entertainment in our society, making the assumption that movies and TV do not shape the way see the world simply because these moving images may not influence our factual reality is dangerous. This dismissive perspective prevents us from bringing film into our educational system in any meaningful capacity.

Our understanding of the world is formed by personal interaction with people, places, and things, and in large part, by movie and TV images.  Once we see something it becomes a visual reality—even if not a factual reality.  For example, we know that Jaws is not a real shark, yet the moving images of the animatronic shark have clearly shaped our collective image of great white sharks and our behaviors towards the ocean and beach culture.

Similar to reading illiteracy, students who cannot decode or think critically about moving images are at a disadvantage because they do not have the ability to navigate a world saturated with moving images.  To help students become media literate and understand the role of images in shaping the way they see the world, it is important to shift from talking about thematic content to analyzing moving images from a visual and technical perspective.

Helping students read and decode moving images includes teaching them about the components of images, from camera framing to lighting to editing. With this knowledge, students will be able to see and discuss the ways images convey certain ideas and attitudes. An effective hands-on vehicle to teach these lessons is film production. This tactile approach adds an important dimension to students’ understanding of film literacy.

Armed with film literacy skills, students will then be able to engage in critical thinking conversations about how moving images shape our ideas and perspectives, providing students with valuable education and life skills. For example, students will be able to discuss the ways extreme close-up (XCU) shots have the ability to convey more intimate emotion and the ways lighting can shape the attitude we have toward the subjects in the image.

It is no secret that once we leave the classroom we find ourselves in a world where its understanding of history is largely shaped by media images, not academic study.  So, let’s bring film into social studies classrooms to help students navigate both the academic study of history and also our collective popular culture image of the past—the version of history our society uses to make many of its decisions.

A discussion example can be found in Glory.  This 1989 film ends with the camera first zooming into a close-up of several dead African-American Civil War soldiers, then the camera moves in even closer to see the one white officer who agreed to lead this regiment, dead in the trenches. Would the idea of the past have been different if the film ended a few scenes earlier with a medium shot of soldiers both charging their enemies and also falling to the bayonet? Both scenes can be construed as “factually accurate,” yet visually each scene leaves audiences with a very different picture of the past.

Once students recognize that film images have influence on the ways we think they respond with enthusiasm. For they are now able to think critically about the moving images that surround them in the classroom and as they move throughout their lives.

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Film & Cultural Memory I

Welcome to the Labragirl Film Project’s weekly film literacy discussion. Every Monday morning Labragirl provides a resource, activity, or methodological discussion to help incorporate film analysis into your classroom.

Last week we recommended Film Education and their materials for helping teachers incorporate film into both primary and secondary education.

This week we discuss cultural memory and the role moving images playing in shaping our collective understanding of the past.

Please comment below or discuss with us on 

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700-Movie-Reel

Classroom Discussion Synopsis: 

This week’s Moving Images-Moving Forward conversation explores the idea of cultural memory and how moving images shape the way we understand the past.

Grade Level: High School & College

Educational Goals:

  • Help students apply classroom skills to the real world and vice versa
  • Incorporate film analysis into popular culture discussions
  • Help students think critically about their interactions with moving images
  • Enable students to participate in discussions about the fluidity of history
  • Encourage students to navigate critical thinking discussions about moving images & historical images
Exercise Philosophy:

The main goal of this exercise is to help bridge the gap between the classroom and the ‘real world.’ Oftentimes, film is left out of  history classrooms because movies are fictional accounts of the past. Although this approach is valid, keeping film out of history discussions altogether leaves students without the critical analysis and film reading skills to understand how films shape the way we understand the past—collectively speaking.

Although Labragirl does not advocate the use of historical films to teach historical “facts” or “truth,” we do believe that it is necessary for students to be able to dissect, analyze, and discuss how historical films shape our popular culture understanding and view of the past.

Exercise Activity & Process:

1. Discuss the idea of cultural memory and collective memory.

Although we can clearly get into very complex and detailed conversations about cultural memory and collective memory, for this introductory conversation simply discuss with students the idea that there is a common and collective understanding of our past.  Also, I suggest engaging in a discussion about how this collective understanding of the past is shaped, in large part, by moving images.

2. Why is it important to understand cultural memory and collective memory?

Certainly the history classroom is a place to examine primary sources to learn about what happened in the past, however we here at Labragirl believe that it’s also important to help students navigate the abstract terrain that is our popular culture understanding of the past.

We believe that it is important to understand how our collective memory is created because we make individual and collective decisions based on our understanding of the past.

Suggested Discussion Questions:

How is cultural memory created? Shaped? Perpetuated?

3. Examples of our cultural memory.

An example of a common image of our history is Thanksgiving and the relationship between European settlers and Native Americans.

In the classroom, we know that Thanksgiving likely looked more like this. . .

{Click on image for source info.}

. . .rather than this. . .

{Click on image for source info.}

Despite the academic and educational knowledge that the image of a happy and iconic Thanksgiving is not historically accurate, this idyllic image and understanding of the past persists in popular culture.

Why?

3. Apply the concept of cultural memory to a particular concept, time period, person, or issue. This Film & Cultural Memory conversation can be applied to any historical topic, issue, person, or time period.

WWII

Today our conversation centers around World War II.

Because WWII is a very popular topic and the subject of many movies and tv shows students have a firm image of what the war was like.

Note: At this point, I do not suggest talking about the historical accuracy of the clips below. The goal of this exercise is to determine how our collective understanding of the past was shaped. It’s important for students to be able to explore the abstract and complex ides of how films create a popular culture image of the past—in this case World War II.

I. Watch and discuss each clip individually.

Below you will find several clips from popular WWII movies.

Some suggested discussion questions include:

  • How is WWII portrayed in each clip?
  • How is war portrayed in each clip?
  • How is the military portrayed in each clip?
  • How are the enemies and allies portrayed?
  • How do cinematic elements such as music, editing, film shots, and lighting shape the images?
  • How do these images shape the way we understand the past, collectively?

*Note: Many of the clips show images of war and are graphic. Make certain to preview the clips to determine whether or not they are appropriate for viewing in your class.

Saving Private Ryan

Letters of Iwo Jima

Schindler’s List

The Thin Red Line

Pearl Harbor

II. Discuss the group of clips.

How do these clips work together to shape our visual understanding of the past?

Do some of the more recent movies perpetuate ideas from earlier movies?

III. Add in additional clips that either you or your students suggest. Discuss.

Did you use any of these discussions or activities in your classroom? How did it go?

Do you teach film reading and film analysis?

What are some exercises you use?

We’d love to hear from you.

Please comment below or discuss with us on .

*Disclaimer: All movie clips are suggestions for class use, only. All instructors should screen clips to determine if they are appropriate to use in their classrooms. 

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UP NEXT 5/13: Lost Voices—The Stoning of Soraya M.

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Sign up for our e-newsletter for more lesson plans and classroom conversations. Click here. 

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Bring Labragirl into your classroom. Contact us at info@labragirlfilmproject.org or fill out our Interest & Inquiry Form.

———————————————————————————————————————–

Previous Blog Entries

Film Education

Relevance – the 4th ‘R’

Making Film I

Talking Film I

Downton Abbey in Your Class #1 – Roll Sound!

Reading Film

Fictional Projections of History

Think Globally Using Film

Our Relationship with Movies

Moving Past Historical Accuracy

Images Telling Stories

Film Shaping History

Think Film Images

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©2013 Labragirl Film Project. All rights reserved.

Relevance – the 4th ‘R’

Welcome to the Labragirl Film Project’s weekly film literacy discussion. Every Monday morning Labragirl provides a resource, activity, or methodological discussion to help incorporate film analysis into your classroom.

Last week we combined beginning film production skills with beginning film literacy skills.

This week we are grateful to have media literacy professional Greg Williams as a guest blogger.

Greg is graduating from Brigham Young University this month with a BA in Media Arts Studies (film) and a minor in English. Post graduation plans include going to Tulsa, OK to work in a k-12 school with Teach For America, blogging and writing about media literacy, and learning how to be a good father. He is leading a team of innovators on a project to create a website where teachers and educators can share and find popular culture clips to use in their lesson plans. Greg loves creating and critiquing films, reading, hiking in Utah’s stunning national parks, and spending time with family.”

Greg’s blog, The Relevant Classroom can be found herehttp://therelevantclassroom.blogspot.com/

You can also follow Greg on:  and !

Please comment below or discuss with us on 

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Relevance – the 4th ‘R’

Gregg Williams - A media literacy professional and author of the Relevant Classroom.

Gregg Williams – A media literacy professional and author of the Relevant Classroom.

Relevance has and will continue to be an important quality to understand and promote in learning centers around the world. “Think of it as the fourth R”, encourages Daniel Pink in his bestseller Drive, “Reading, writing, arithmetic and . . . relevance.” We need to focus on the idea that students obtain more knowledge and retain further information when they actively participate in the learning process and when they can relate to what is being taught (Akey, 2006).  Amongst all the hype and contention over issues such as high-stakes testing or teacher evaluations the necessity of relevance and the student experience itself is often left out.

Relevance Blog Image

Image by Andrew Langendorfer – Click on image for source info.

Indeed one reason students fail or are disinterested is because they don’t see the connection between today’s lesson and what they really want to do someday. The more we can close that gap – to illustrate classroom relevance to their world – the better we can engage students and keep their interest (Masters, 2009). Many different methods and pedagogies have developed from this need for relevance in education, including project and problem-based learning. Using movie clips and other aspects of media literacy, however, has largely gone untapped as an important paradigm that can greatly strengthen students’ yearning for relevance and meaning in the classroom.

Why Film?

Using film in the classroom effectively can increase relevance and student motivation in at least two ways. First, film and forms of pop culture can be connected to just about every subject there currently taught, and second, using media clips empowers students outside of formal learning environments.

1) Film can be used for a variety of subjects even when it gets it wrong.

Perhaps you are thinking that showing a clip from a film in your class will be a waste of time or will distract students from your lesson objectives. While this can be true in some circumstances, it really depends on you as the teacher. I still remember a lesson from my freshman year in high school where we learned about balancing equations in Pre-Algebra. Why do I remember it? My teacher showed us a clip from Monty Python and the Holy Grail and then led a constructive conversation about balance and its application to math. It became more relevant to me! Though I remember little about the rest of the curriculum for that year, the connection and motivation from that one clip is still with me.

In middle school we watched Pocahontas and my teacher helped us understand the historical inaccuracies and why the filmmakers may have presented the film in the way they did. The media doesn’t have to be correct for you to show it (indeed it rarely will be), but it is important for you to discuss with your students what they are seeing and where the connections are. Writer and former educator Mark Phillips explained, “Film can be used as a culminating experience to summarize a unit or lesson. It can be studied as an art form. Short films designed to teach a concept or skill, especially in a subject like physical education, can be very useful. Developing students’ critical consciousness of visual media should be a major part of every school’s curriculum.”

2) Using film and other popular culture resources in your classroom empowers students to learn outside of class.

I agree with teacher and researcher Renee Hobbes when she stated,

Teachers who have used popular works in the classroom know that such works can generate some remarkable, vigorous, and sophisticated reasoning, rich conversations, and dynamic writing from young people . . . It’s a transformative experience for a young person to discover that the same skills used to discuss The Tempest can be applied to an episode of “The Wonder Years.” Students who discover this in a powerful way chant a mantra that many teachers who employ media literacy have heard frequently: ‘I’ll never watch TV the same way again!” (Hobbes, 1998).

As you show and discuss clips, students will begin to see that the world around them – the very same world that they turn to for entertainment and “non-school stuff” –in a new light. As a nation do we really think we can nurture a new generation of STEM students by feeding them tests and banal worksheets? Not to mention other fields such as the humanities and business.

The Bottom Line

With education being at the center of many debates, there are multitudes of issues in the air. Though we may be unsure of vouchers or the role of public school, technology integration and classroom sizes, one thing everyone ought to understand and rally around is the idea that students need to understand the relevance of learning in their own lives. As we move toward using film and other multimedia effectively in the classroom we can increase student motivation in all subjects, and empower young people to learn outside of formal education.


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Citations

Akey, T. M. (2006, January). School context, student attitudes and behavior, and academic achievement: An exploratory analysis. New York: MDRC. Retrieved April 6, 2012, from http://www.mdrc.org/publications/419/full.pdf

Hobbs, Renée. “The Simpsons Meet Mark Twain: Analyzing Popular Media Texts in the Classroom.” The English Journal, 87.1 (1998), pp. 49-51. http://www.jstor.org/stable/822021

Masters, Andy. “4 Ways to Engage Today’s Generation of Students.” Techniques (AECT) 84.3 (2009): 8-9. Print.

We’d love to hear from you. Please comment below or discuss with us on .

*Disclaimer: All movie & television clips are suggestions for class use, only. All instructors should screen clips to determine if they are appropriate to use in their classrooms. 

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UP NEXT 4/29: A Film literacy resource suggestion

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Sign up for our e-newsletter for more lesson plans and classroom conversations. Click here. 

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Bring Labragirl into your classroom. Contact us at info@labragirlfilmproject.org or fill out our Interest & Inquiry Form.

———————————————————————————————————————–

Previous Blog Entries

Making Film I

Talking Film I

Downton Abbey in Your Class #1 – Roll Sound!

Reading Film

Fictional Projections of History

Think Globally Using Film

Our Relationship with Movies

Moving Past Historical Accuracy

Images Telling Stories

Film Shaping History

Think Film Images

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©2013 Labragirl Film Project. All rights reserved.

Our Relationship with Movies

Welcome to the Labragirl Film Project‘s weekly classroom film literacy discussion. Each Monday morning we provide a resource, activity, or methodological discussion to help incorporate film analysis into your classroom.

Last week we talked about how to use movies as primary sources in history classrooms. This week we discuss how to think critically about our interactions with movies.

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Classroom Discussion: It’s Not Just a Movie

Classroom Discussion Synopsis: This simple, straight forward introductory discussion is designed to help students engage in critical thinking discussions about the ways we interact with movies.

The following questions shape this conversation:

How do we interact with movies?
How does our interaction with film shape the ways movies influence us?
What roles do movies play in society?
How do these roles shape the way we are influenced by film? 

Grade Level: K-16

Educational Goals & Objectives: 

  • Introduce students to film analysis
  • Encourage students to think critically about the ways we interact with film
  • Illustrate how film images shape the way we see and understand the world around us
  • Help students navigate critical thinking discussions about how they interact with movies
  • Enable students to see and discuss the roles movies play in our society

Exercise Philosophy:

The goal of our “It’s Not Just a Movie” discussion is to help students think critically about their interactions with film. Because movies are considered solely entertainment we oftentimes dismiss the influence films have on us.

Later discussions will delve into how films shape the way we see and act towards others. However, “It’s Not Just a Movie” is meant to be an introductory conversation to help students thinking critically about the ways they interact with movies.

Exercise Activities and Process: 

Over the years, when introducing students to film analysis and reading, I’ve found this general and open-ended discussion to be a successful ice-breaker conversation.

1. Contextualize and explain the purpose of the conversation.

Below are a few of the questions I use to begin this discussion.

How do you interact with movies?

Does thinking about movies as entertainment prevent you from looking at them critically? 

Do we interact with movies differently when we watch them in school than with a group of friends? How so? 

Does the type of device you watch a movie impact the way you interact with a movie? How so? 

2. Provide Examples

I suggest a few ways that films have influence – even physiological influence—on us.

A. Scary Movies

Movies can remain in your mind far after you’ve left the theater or shut off the DVD player.

How many of you have watched a scary movie and for some time afterwards you jump when you hear something or see a shadow? 

How many of you have screamed during a movie? When? What were the circumstances? 

B. Music

The elements of a film can have a physiological impact on us.

Has your heart ever started to beat faster when watching Jaws? Or, have your hands ever start to sweat when watching Psycho?

When you hear the music from Jaws what comes to mind? Do you think others have the same experience? 

Do you have any other examples of music shaping your reactions? 

Jaws theme music

C. Personal Examples

Sometimes I share my personal examples with students. It oftentimes helps students to open up with their stories.

Additional Questions

Below are some additional questions I use in this discussion. Let us know in the comments below if you have other questions. If you used these questions in class, how did it go?

What are the elements that make up a movie? How do you engage with these elements?

How do the norms of the movie theater shape our movie watching experience? 

How do movies make you feel and/or think?

Why do we have actual physiological reactions to movies?

Once students see that they are indeed influenced by film—it will be much easier to look at other historical, social, and academic influences.

A note about viewing clips: I don’t recommend screening clips for this particular conversation. I have found that helping students reflect on the ways they’ve interacted with film in the past is beneficial for this exercise.

A note about grade level: Because the ultimate goal of this exercise is to help students thinking about the ways they interact with film the conversation and questions can be scaled to the age group that you teach.

Did you use any of these questions in class? How were your discussions? Do you have any related questions or issues you’d like to discuss? What other questions did you use in class?

Comment below or discuss with us on .

Let’s talk film images,

Laurie

*Disclaimer: All movie clips are suggestions for class use, only. All instructors should screen clips to determine if they are appropriate to use in their classrooms. 

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UP NEXT 2/18: A classroom resource suggestion to help students think globally

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Sign up for our e-newsletter for more lesson plans and classroom conversations. Click here. 

———————————————————————————————————————–

Previous Blog Entries

Moving Past Historical Accuracy

Images Telling Stories

Film Shaping History

Think Film Images

———————————————————————————————————————–

Bring Labragirl into your classroom. Contact us at info@labragirlfilmproject.org or fill out our Interest & Inquiry Form.

———————————————————————————————————————–

©2013 Labragirl Film Project. All rights reserved.