ERIC Identifier: ED436016 Publication Date: 1999-12-00
Author: Aiex, Nola Kortner Source: ERIC Clearinghouse on
Reading English and Communication Bloomington IN.
Mass Media Use in the Classroom. ERIC Digest D147.
In its 75th anniversary issue (November-December 1995) the education journal
"Clearing House" reprinted an article originally published in 1930. Entitled
"Educating the Twentieth-Century Youth," the article argued that 20th-century
youth should be taught using 20th-century methods and went on to discuss the use
of the stereograph, the stereopticon slide, the radio, and the motion picture
(Dorris, 1995). The first two media named are museum pieces today, while radio
is the home of talk shows and disk jockeys, but the motion picture is still
going strong, joined by television and videotapes. A well designed course of
instruction can utilize these mass media to channel a student's enthusiasm and
route it to an academically useful goal.
WHAT DO FILMS AND TELEVISION OFFER TO EDUCATORS?
communication offers links between classrooms and society. Motion pictures can
help explore cultural context, may be integrated easily into the curriculum, are
entertaining, and allow flexibility of materials and teaching techniques. Motion
pictures can also be related to students' personal experiences, act as a focus
for teacher-student interaction, and can be used to promote awareness of the
interrelationship between modes (picture, movement, language, sound, captions)
(Wood, 1995). TV and video are also highly valuable as teaching tools, and seen
as especially effective for reaching visual learners and special populations.
According to a recent wide-ranging survey, TV and video are being used more
deliberately than ever before and are being more fully integrated into the
curricula. (Study of School Uses of Television and Video, 1997). Teachers look
for quality programming, programs of appropriate structure and length, and
advance information to allow them to preview and tape.
The survey found that students and teachers are becoming more media savvy and
are increasingly using camcorders and other video production equipment. It also
found that the focus on computer acquisition and use has not replaced television
in the classroom. Or, as one educator has stated: "Because students live in a
media-oriented world, they consider sight and sound as 'user-friendly'" (Post,
WHAT ARE THE POTENTIAL APPLICATIONS IN LANGUAGE ARTS?
before the ease of using the VCR, the "introduction to film course" had become a
staple in American colleges and universities (Lovell, 1987). What has become
apparent over the years is that film can be used as an adjunct to almost any
discipline, most especially the language arts. Lovell notes that in addition to
encouraging the use and development of communication skills, film can be used to
establish a social context for English as a second language and to provide
visual "texts" for deaf students. Indeed, movies can be considered as a form of
text. They are controllable teaching instruments, and offer a great variety of
subject, communicative language, language environment, and cultural content
Post (1987) contends that videotapes of literary classics can become powerful
allies of the teacher in the English classroom if used effectively. She adds
that films allow the teaching of longer works that might otherwise be omitted or
the teaching of controversial works that might be excluded from the curriculum.
The example she gives is of Tennessee Williams's "Cat on a Hot Tin Roof."
Although the film is definitely an adult film, the screenplay contains none of
the potentially objectionable material or language that appears in the original
If videotapes of historical and literature-based films are going to be used
as shortcuts to learning, then teachers should structure videotapes into the
curriculum and classroom experience to teach students how to intelligently
evaluate what they are watching and to compare the visual with the originally
published work (Paquette, 1996). In teaching Nathaniel Hawthorne's "The Scarlet
Letter," teachers should encourage students to read the book and watch the
recent film and then write a research paper for which they: (1) read articles
about the movie; (2) identify places in the film and book that contradict each
other (for example, the film has a contrived "happy ending," a plot change which
astounded and bothered American literature teachers); (3) write a compare and
contrast paper that will explain the significance of these differences and how
they change the meaning of the original work; (4) conduct research to explain
why the director/script writers made these changes; (5) conduct research to
determine whether the book and the film accurately portray the historical
period; and (6) analyze how the alteration of history or literature by the film
affects the public view. Another way to examine the artistic choices made by
actors, writers, and directors would be to use short clips from different film
versions of classic literature-Laurence Olivier's "Hamlet" and Kenneth Branagh's
"Hamlet," for example (Kaufmann and Kent, 1998).
WHAT ARE SOME OTHER APPLICATIONS?
Science fiction has long
been the favored recreational reading genre for adolescent boys. Librarians and
teachers could use a wide range of science fiction materials as teaching tools.
From Mark Twain and H.G. Wells to Anne McCaffrey and Isaac Asimov, novels and
short stories can provide the grist for discussion in such subjects as
psychology, history, sociology, anthropology, and science (Ontell, 1997). There
are many movie and television versions of science fiction tales which can be
used for reading motivation and for stimulating the imagination. Science fiction
films can especially engage students and encourage greater enthusiasm and
interest in science. Even a "fun" movie such as "Jurassic Park" can be used as a
vehicle for science comprehension (Cavanaugh and Cavanaugh, 1996). In addition,
television networks such as PBS and CNN provide classroom guides for educational
materials-PBS for their many documentaries and CNN to accompany their daily
broadcasts. A look at CNN's Guide for October 1998 shows the following topics
related to science: scientists find trace fossil; the evidence of
billion-year-old worms; John Glenn's return to space sparks a renewed interest
in Space Camp, and a NASA invention helps one young woman win her battle with
cancer (CNN Newsroom Classroom Guides, October 1998). These segments could be
viewed in the classroom to spark discussion among students.
HOW CAN FILMS AND TELEVISION TARGET AND MOTIVATE
Jeremiah (1987) outlines an instructional model for using
television news and documentaries for writing instruction in the secondary and
postsecondary classroom. He believes that the structure and content of news
presentations mirror the practice of essay writing, and thus can serve as a
writing project that effectively serves instruction. A step-by-step examination
of a selected TV program can be undertaken in a single class period, using the
following strategies: (1) as a warm-up mechanism, the teacher introduces the
writing skill (for example, to inform or to persuade); (2) students are allowed
time for questions and comments; (3) the news segment or documentary is shown;
(4) students produce an outline for the news report they will write in response
to the stimulus; and (5) the outlines are assessed for organization. The
outlines are collected at the end of the class period to minimize any external
influences; and the students produce a full-length essay during the next class
period, after their outlines have been returned.
Another approach from Boyd and Robitaille (1987) suggests using the popular
mass media to generate topics for a composition workshop designed for the
college writer but adaptable for secondary-level writers. This approach
concentrates on advertising images but also uses movies, monthly magazines, and
television series to help foster critical thinking while writing. The workshop
is built around a sequence of analogies between what the students already know
experientially as film and television viewers and what they need to know as
Moss (1987) uses the lowly, elemental daytime soap opera as a vehicle for
teaching remedial writing in the SEEK program in New York City colleges.
Utilizing a VCR and videotape so that everyone can watch the episode at the same
time (and filling in gaps in plot lines by reading "Soap Opera Digest"), Moss
begins by asking the students to write on the most elementary level. The
assignment is intended to tap into their passionate devotion to "the
soaps"-which characters do they like the best, the least, and why? Then the
class members discuss the acting and begin to impose critical criteria on the
material. A short lesson on genres establishes appropriate aesthetic categories,
and the students can begin to dissect the narrative in a composition.
Boyd, V., & Robitaille, M. (1987).
Composition and popular culture: From mindless consumers to critical writers.
English Journal, 76(1), 51-53. [EJ 347 027]
Cavanaugh, T., & Cavanaugh, C. (1996). Learning science with science
fiction films. Paper presented at the Annual Meeting of the Florida Association
of Science Teachers. [ED 411 157]
Dorris, A. V. (1995). Educating the twentieth-century youth. Clearing House,
69(2), 77-79. [EJ 517 678]
Jeremiah, M. A. (1987). Using television news and documentaries for writing
instruction. Paper presented at the 38th Annual Meeting of the Conference on
College Composition and Communication. [ED 280 086]
Kaufmann, F., & Kent, J. (Eds.). (1998). Ideas plus: A collection of
practical teaching ideas. Book 16. National Council of Teachers of English:
Urbana, IL. [ED 421 711]
Lovell, J. H. (1987). Where we stand. In "Report on Film Study in American
Schools." Report by the NCTE Committee on Film Study in the English Language
Arts. [ED 287 165]
Moss, R. F. (1987). The next episode: Soap operas as a bridge to improved
verbal skills. English Journal, 76(1), 35-41. [EJ 347 024]
Ontell, V. (1997). Science fiction: Popular culture as reading and learning
motivation. Paper presented at the Joint Popular Culture Association/American
Culture Association Meetings. [ED 407 666]
Paquette, W. A. (1996). Literature, history, film, Sam Malone, and the
research paper. Paper presented at the Annual Meeting of the College English
Association. [ED 398 984]
Post, L. W. (1987). Frankly, My Dear. English Journal, 76(1), 28-30. [EJ 347
Study of School Uses of Television and Video, 1996-1997 School Year Summary
Report. (1997). Corporation for Public Broadcasting: Washington, DC. [ED 413
Wood, D. J. (1995). Good video movies for teaching English as a Foreign or
Second Language. Bulletin of the International Cultural Research Institute of
Chikushi Jogakuen College, 6, 105-125. [ED 389 225]
Digest #147 is EDO-CS-99-08 and was published in December 1999 by the ERIC
Clearinghouse on Reading, English and Communication, 2805 E 10th Street,
Bloomington, IN 47408-2698, Telephone (812) 855-5847 or (800) 759-4723.
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