The running joke has always been that teachers show movies on days they’re sick, tired, or haven’t planned anything for the day, but the power of movies is underrated in the classroom. Movies and videos help students visualize books, see history, and understand new perspectives that just reading or lecturing can’t do. Movies and video are also highly engaging for students if used correctly in the classroom.
The problem is that movies or videos can be very tricky to use in the classroom if not thought out and executed correctly. There’s a fine line of engaging students with movies ,overwhelming them with questions throughout the movie, and students falling asleep. Even so, don’t shy away from using them in fear of looking like a lazy teacher. Embrace the power of a purposefully chosen movie to engage, enhance, and inspire discussions in your classroom with these tips:
- Set clear expectations before watching the movie. Students should know what behavior you expect during the movie (sitting up, heads up, quiet mouths ect.), why they’re watching the movie, and what activities will accompany the movie. Setting clear expectations and purpose will help ensure a better movie watching experience for all.
- Prepare a few important questions for students to answer that require them to pay attention throughout the video. A lot of teachers create viewing guides with lots of questions that students answer throughout the movie. This can be distracting when students are so focused on answering questions that they miss experience of watching the movie. Small random facts are not what students should be focused on. Questions should be overarching themes, ideas, and concepts that connect to other activities you’re doing in class.
- Keep videos short. Don’t spend a whole period watching a movie. Engage students with the subject before and after the video to engage them in discussions, writing, and group work. If you only watch a movie during a class period, you risk students zoning out and daydreaming. It’s important to chunk activities and movies/videos should be apart of this chunking.
- Compare and contrast different videos of the same subject. Instead of watching only one video, watch a few and ask students to compare and contrast the subject they’re studying based on these videos. It keeps the videos short and the lesson moving along.
- Stop and start videos. If you want students to watch a whole movie then break it up by stopping and having a conversation, writing activity, or answer questions throughout the movie before starting again. It keeps students engaged by chunking activities and less likely to fall asleep as well as checks understanding and students ability to connect the movie to bigger themes you’ve been discussing in class.
- Make sure there is an assessment that goes along with the movie or video. This can be an informal or formal assessment, but students should know that your purposefully picked a movie that they need to pay attention to and that they will need to demonstrate some kind of learning afterwards. If the video has no connection or accountable, students are much less likely to watch.