ERIC Identifier: ED300848
Publication Date: 1988-00-00
Author: Aiex, Nola Kortner
Source: ERIC Clearinghouse on
Reading and Communication Skills Bloomington IN.
Using Film, Video, and TV in the Classroom. ERIC Digest Number
Teachers have long used the media--and particularly film--to accomplish
various instructional objectives such as building background for particular
topics or motivating student reaction and analysis. The appeal of visual media
continues to make film, video, and television educational tools with high
potential impact; and they are now considerably more accessible and less
cumbersome to use.
The use of film in the classroom has become more popular since the arrival of
the videocassette recorder (VCR) with its relative economy and ease of
operation. The opinion of one teacher probably echoes the opinion of many
others: "The VCR gave us flexibility. We could watch the first exciting twenty
minutes, stop the tape and discuss elements of introduction, mood, suspense, and
characterization--and view it again....The VCR is simple to operate, portable,
and less expensive." (Farmer, 1987) Another educator who has considered the
potential of the VCR believes that "one of the pedagogical tasks of the next
decade may well be discovering the most efficacious ways of employing this
omnipresent piece of technology." (Gallagher, 1987) Another teacher pinpoints a
reason for the potential: "Because students live in a media-oriented world, they
consider sight and sound as 'user friendly.'" (Post, 1987)
THE POTENTIAL APPLICATIONS ARE WIDE-RANGING
Even before the
advent of the VCR, the "introduction to film course" had become a staple in most
American universities (Lovell, 1987). What has become apparent over the years is
that film can be used as an adjunct to almost any discipline, especially the
language arts. And it can be particularly effective in teaching different kinds
of learners. 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
Post (1987) argues 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
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 it is
definitely an adult film, its screenplay contains none of the potentially
objectionable material or language that appears in the original play.
FILM CAN LINK DISCIPLINARY PERSPECTIVES
Film can also be
used in interdisciplinary studies. Krukones and several colleagues (1986)
designed an interdisciplinary college-level course integrating political
science, literature, and film to examine politics on the local, state, national,
and international levels. Based on the premise that students too often sort
information into categories dictated by the different courses they take, the
authors developed the course to enable students to get from theoretical politics
a clearer, practical meaning with broader implications. Such concepts are not
easy for all students to grasp, but can be more affectively experienced when
studied in the context of a political novel or movie.
In Krukones's course, four novels and their analogous films correspond to
particular political spheres: "The Last Hurrah" (local), "All the King's Men"
(state), "Advise and Consent" (national), and "Fail-Safe" (international).
Following an overview of a novel or film, specific scenes and passages are
discussed and are related to real-world politics. Classes meet for 2 1/2 hours
once a week, so that more than one discipline can be dealt with and sufficient
time for movie viewing is available.
FILMS CAN SERVE VERY SPECIFIC COURSES AND UNITS
of courses in which film can play a major instructional role is wide. For
example, White (1985) reported on the effective use of film in a college-level
course called "Women and Violence in Literature and Film"; Dyer (1987) developed
a secondary-level mini-course on "Rural America in Film and Literature."
Dyer's course encompasses nearly all the mass media forms. It begins with
readings of several classic short stories with rural settings by Willa Cather
and John Steinbeck. It proceeds by examining articles from the newspaper about
farm issues and incidents, and then it has the students view the recent movies,
"Country" and "The River," both of which portray contemporary life on a farm.
Next the students view a 27-minute television documentary about three women
farmers in Minnesota; and then the course continues with the study of the recent
best-selling novels, "The Beans of Egypt" and "In Country." It concludes by
having the students listen to several segments of the radio program "Lake
Rebhorn (1987) also uses Hollywood movies to enliven and enrich history
classes, with the conviction that film brings an immediacy and interest to
historical events that students often consider dull because they occurred long
ago and faraway. Some of the films which she uses are "Inherit the Wind," "The
Grapes of Wrath," "All the President's Men," and "Reds."
Another example of more focused use of film and television in the classroom
is found in a course on the Holocaust (Michalczyk, 1982). A review of Holocaust
films yielded material in various popular genres--newsreels (both German and
Allied), documentaries, fiction films, and TV docudramas; the value of the
particular type of media in teaching about the recent past was considered along
with the content of each piece. Michalczyk had Holocaust survivors and educators
evaluate the diverse films and their potential for teaching the Holocaust as an
historical event with profound implications for humanity; and their reactions
and experiences were incorporated into the course material.
FILMS CAN TARGET AND MOTIVATE WRITING
Boyd and Robitaille
(1987) offer suggestions for using the popular mass media to generate topics for
a composition workshop designed for the college writer but adaptable for
secondary school students. They concentrate on advertising images but also use
movies, monthly magazines, and television series to help foster critical
thinking while writing. The work-shop is built around a sequence of analogies
between what students already know experientially as viewers of film and
television and what they need to know as writers of essays.
Another approach to teaching college composition classes (Masiello, 1985)
organizes brainstorming sessions around themes from popular movies--for example,
talking about family relationships as portrayed in "Breaking Away," "The Deer
Hunter," "The Godfather," "Saturday Night Fever," and "Terms of Endearment." He
finds that the film viewing helps students learn to observe carefully and often
results in sharper writing skills.
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. Using a
VCR so that everyone can watch the episode at the same time (and filling in gaps
in plot lines by reading "Soap Opera Digest"), he 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 certain 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.
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
mirrors 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 provide information 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
The instruction using this model and the evaluation of the products that
result should stress that the news treatment of a topic should include an
introduction and adequate supporting detail and explanation. If the aim is to
persuade, the writing should include adequate argumentation. Both formal and
informal mechanisms should be used for evaluation, and the students should be
given opportunity to revise.
A novel approach in the use of film in generating enthusiasm for writing in
the elementary grades is advocated by a librarian who sponsored a writing
contest in which 1,100 students participated (Simpson, 1982). She began by
showing the classic short French film without dialogue, "The Red Balloon."
Students viewed the film and were allowed two weeks to complete entries that
included poems, short stories, or essays expressing any themes or experiences
connected with the movie. Entries were judged on the qualities of appeal and
originality, and all the participants received certificates on Honors Day. The
winners additionally received ribbons on their certificates.
The mass media are an integral part of the environment in which today's
students learn to read, write, listen, speak, and make meaning of their lives.
Thus a properly designed course of instruction can use media to channel a
student's enthusiasm and route it to an academically useful goal. The documents
cited here are but a small sample of those in the ERIC database illustrating how
teachers can do that.
Boyd, Veleda, and Robitaille, Marilyn. "Composition and popular culture: From mindless consumers to critical writers," English Journal, 76 (1), January 1987, pp. 51-53.
Dyer, Joyce. "Rural America in film
and literature," English Journal, 76 (1), January 1987, pp. 54-57.
Farmer, David L. "The VCR:
'Raiders' as a teaching tool," English Journal, 76 (1), January 1987, p. 31.
Gallagher, Brian. "Film
study in the English language arts." In Report by the NCTE Committee on Film Study in the English Language Arts, 1987. 23 pp. [ED 287 165]
Jeremiah, Milford A. "Using
television news and documentaries for writing instruction." Paper presented at the 38th Annual Meeting of the Conference on College Composition and Communication, 1987. 13 pp. [ED 280 031]
Krukones, Michael G., et al. "Politics in fiction and film: An introduction and appreciation. A team-taught course," 1986. 30 pp. [ED 280 086]
Lovell, Jonathan H. "Where we stand." In Report on Film Study in American Schools. Report by the NCTE Committee on Film Study in the English Language Arts, 1987. 23 pp. [ED 287 165]
Masiello, Frank. "The
lessons of popcorn." In Spielberger, Jeffrey (Ed.), Images and Words: Using Film to Teach Writing, 1985, pp. 56-59. 93 pp. [ED 260 393]
Michalczyk, John J. "Teaching
the Holocaust through film." Paper presented at the Modern Language Association Meeting, 1982. 20 pp. [ED 240 011]
Moss, Robert F. "The next episode: Soap operas as a
bridge to improved verbal skills," English Journal, 76 (1), January 1987, pp. 35-41.
Post, Linda Williams. "Frankly, my dear," English Journal, 76 (1), January 1987, pp. 28-30.
Rebhorn, Marlette. "Hollywood films as a
teaching tool," 1987. 6 pp. [ED 286 815]
Simpson, Jeanette. "A writing contest? Why bother," Exercise Exchange, 26 (2), Spring 1982, pp. 47-48. White, Kathy. "Teaching
about women and violence," 1985. 14 pp. [ED 268 528]