Thursday, November 11, 2010

Movies in the Classroom

Each time I'm teaching a new novel with a group of students, the question will inevitably come - "Are we going to watch the movie?" It is generally in the early part of the year, for as the year goes on the students don't even bother to ask. Are we going to watch the movie? In Class? After we already finished the book? The answer: Of course not. We're at school. It's not the weekend. It's not free time. It's not an hour to just kick back and veg out in front of the TV. It's school.

Occasionally, students will not ask, but "recommend" - "We should watch the movie. I've heard it's really good." In the case of a book/movie like To Kill a Mockingbird, I completely agree. I even tell them You're right. You should watch the movie. Why don't all of you get together at [Amy's] house this weekend and watch the movie. [Joe] can bring the popcorn. That's a great idea. They sneer as they smile back at me, not appreciating my smug recommendation. I sneer as I smile back, believing there is absolutely no reason to just "watch a movie" at school. It's not our job, it's not our purpose, and it is, in my opinion, a colossal waste of time and the taxpayer's money.

This is not to say, I'm opposed to using clips of movies to accent a discussion, or even using a film as a unit unto itself. I actually use a four-minute clip of The Jungle Book while teaching Lord of the Flies, and I have developed an entire unit on documentary film using Supersize Me. We watch the film, deconstruct the argumentative strategies, analyze it as commentary, take an objective test on the strategies and content, write an argumentative deconstruction of it, and develop our own piece of commentary about a social issue. That is a reasonable use of film in the classroom. Watching the movie for three days for fun after finishing the book is not.


Happy Elf Mom (Christine) said...

Wow, I hadn't thought of a movie as taking THREE class periods! No wonder you don't do that. We are reading Lord of the Rings, and after each book in the trilogy, we watch a movie. It takes a while to get through each book. :)

PS. It's me, Mrs. C. Just got tired of seeing 75 OTHER Mrs. Cs blogging and mixing myself up.

j said...

[Amy's] = Maden's or Emma's or Zach's (probably the third)
[Joe] = Jack
Your too predictable Mr. Mazenko...
I probably shouldn't say that, I might get -2 on my essay. Oh no, hope I didn't give you any ideas.

Jordan Crawford said...

On a more serious note than my previous comment (that for some reason decided to call me "j"), I was wondering what your take is on movies as a whole. Do you like movies at all? You seem so focused on books, do you consider movies viable ways to tell a story and teach a theme?

Stephen said...

I think that a 21st century school curriculum that doesn't seem film as a form of communication and, therefore, its study a form of literacy is not worth a great deal.

mmazenko said...


My point exactly. Film is a viable source of instruction and worthy genre of study. That's why we have a writing on film class, a video production class, a screenplay component of our creative writing class, and the study of documentary and feature films in our classes.

However, the watching of a movie in class for pure entertainment value is a waste. And that happens far too often - weekly in some classes.