I like to think of myself as a proponent of using multimedia in the classroom to better engage students in the curriculum. I’ve amassed a large collection of movies from youtube, teachertube, itunes podcasts, and commercial DVDs that I show in frequent short bursts in the classroom with adults and children to help make my points and show visual examples of what I’m talking about.
I think it’s time to clarify how to show movies effectively.
1. Showing movies in class should not be a Friday fun day activity. Okay, I don’t mind if you show them on Friday or even if students enjoy watching them. However, students should not view watching a film in class as any less rigorous than reading a book. If they do then you’re doing nothing to teach media literacy or enhance your curriculum. Brains should turn on when watching multimedia, not turn off.
2. Show curricular movies at the beginning of units and not at the end. This gives students background information that they need to understand a unit before teaching that unit. That background knowledge then pays dividends throughout the unit. If you wait until the end to show the movie as a “treat” it implies that the rest of your unit is not a treat and the benefit of having background knowledge to carry students through the unit is lost.
3. Do not clean your desk, file papers, or correct homework while students watch the movie. You will need to be front and (off)center.
4. Set up expectations about the content and the delivery of the movie as well as student behavior.
Content. This is a movie about X it relates to what we’re learning about Y because Z.
Delivery. Working with English Language Learners in primary grades, often any selection I choose will have language students will not understand. I tell them straight up, there will be a lot of academic English in what we’re about to watch and some of it you won’t understand. Still, you’ll be able to understand a lot of it and figure out the rest based on what you do understand. If you still don’t understand, right down what you hear and raise your hand, we’ll stop for a moment to clarify it.
Behavior. When watching a movie about animals, for example, I tell students, you’re going to see a lot of amazing animals that you know in this movie. You’re going to feel like shouting out every time you see an animal you know. Instead of shouting out, I want you to raise one finger like this (I model) every time you see an animal you’re familiar with. And every time you hear an interesting fact, I want you to write it down. Also, write down any questions you have about anything you hear.
5. I sit up front at a 90 degree angle to the screen so that I can see both the TV and my students. This keeps students on task and allows me to see the screen. (If you have problems with students talking during movies, see #3).
6. Don’t put down the remote control. You will need to stop the movie frequently. I stop whenever I want to clarify something or students raise their hands to ask questions. Students absolutely comprehend more and retain additional information if you stop along the way rather than waiting until the end.
7. At the end of the movie, ask some students to ask the question they’ve written down but don’t attempt to answer all those questions. Students can record their questions on a concept/question board or KWL chart. These questions become the basis for research in the coming unit. Also assist students in clarifying information that was confusing. Try to model how to figure out confusing language rather than handing them the definitions of unfamiliar words.
8. Have students recap what they’ve learned and explain how the movie is related to the unit. This helps transfer the new knowledge into long term memory. If students can explain what they’ve learned, you can assist but if they still can’t explain, you need to re-evaluate showing that movie or better frame the movie discussion next time.
9. Ask students to evaluate the movie. Not just did you like it but did this movie add to your knowledge about X? If they say yes, be sure to ask why…you’re starting to make them aware of themselves as learners. If they say no, then that’s learning for you.