Saturday, January 15, 2011

Linking the Classroom to the World through Film

We all know students who struggle in academic classes. Their reputations can precede them, and as they pass through the grades teachers already know their names. They are the ones who are kept inside during recess to finish up some work.  Their shoulders stoop a little more as they long to feel the fresh air, to let out a whoop, and to allow their bodies to wake up through spontaneous and unplanned movements. They are so ready to bounce from monkey bars to slide, back up the ladder and down the pole on the playground, where they know themselves. They are gifted and talented students - just not in the ways our system of education currently values young learners.  They are the square pegs being forced through round holes. 

Our country is nominally based on the personal freedoms and liberties of the individual, but too often our educational system lacks the flexibility to nurture these very same individuals.  By providing a rich curriculum and multifaceted approaches to learning our schools can successfully support and educate a wide range of learners.  As educators, our challenge is to find the right way to reach each student. Once motivated, a child is more open to taking difficult risks.  When his community views a child as successful, he will feel supported, and ready to take on the harder work in areas that do not come so easily.

For some students, physical coordination is the place they excel. For others, it may be in the arts.  If you are lucky enough to work in a school that offers art as a core subject to all students, the art teacher can be a great resource, offering a different and illuminating perspective. A student who struggles in reading or math may be a problem solver in the art studio - confident, cooperative, a leader and an inspiration to other students.  For the classroom teacher the challenge is to find a way to allow those talents to surface, or even to shine in the classroom, and to help the student use those skills to unlock the curriculum they find difficult.  A well-planned, integrated curriculum that takes into account various learning styles and multiple intelligences can do just that.

Elementary teachers across the country are learning to organize curriculum and inspire students through integrated social studies and science-based curriculum.  State standards and district lessons are woven into the fabric of the day, but do not overwhelm the student-driven work in these learning communities. There tends to be a common thread seen throughout these classrooms; a high level of student engagement, a guiding principal of mutual respect, project based learning, choice, creativity, and collaboration.

A well chosen film paints a picture of a another part of
the world and video keeps pace with the rapid 21st C.
changes in China. 
The technology available in classrooms today makes it easier to bring the world into the classroom.  The ability to view a short film clip is just a click away.  For students struggling with fluency in their reading, or second language learners working on comprehension, an activity based on something other than written language can provide the necessary bridge to a feeling of competence and inclusion. A well-chosen film used as an introduction to a new place or culture engages the entire group of students, and motivates the creation of projects that make follow-up activities rewarding for all. Learning about another culture’s point of view through further reading, writing, analysis of graphs, or map making is more meaningful when students can see that all of their classmates are involved.

Sometimes we can find ourselves struggling to find the right words to describe a place we can’t visit on a field trip.  With the fast pace of development in China in the 21st century the illustrations in books can quickly become dated making them unattractive to students.  Film can be the answer to those problems.  Penny Rode wrote in her introduction to Using Art and Film to Teach Japan (Education About Asia, Volume 9, Number 1, Spring 2004) “As educators, one of our primary goals is to address the perception of Asia as strangely exotic and unfathomable, to take students beyond their comfortable Eurocentrism, and spark an interest and curiosity in the unfamiliar that will continue throughout their lives.  Combining art with film effectively advances these efforts”.  The combining of art and film also effectively addresses the diversity of student needs.

Do you have a favorite film you use in your classroom?  What strategies do you use to engage all the students in your class?

Don't forget to access the World Affairs Council Global Classroom Resource Packet.

No comments:

Post a Comment