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Using Film for Summer Learning

According to Mansoor Iqbal in “YouTube Revenue and Usage Statistics,” YouTube currently counts 2 billion monthly active users, and YouTube Kids counts over 8 million active users.

According to Journeys in Film:

  • 56% of teens see at least one movie monthly in theaters
  • 41% of teens watch an additional 2-to-3 movies at home monthly
  • 80% of teens watch movies with their parents

These statistics represent some of what we already know…young people watch a lot of movies, television series, television episodes, and video clips. We are surrounded by visual and auditory stimulation through film by way of mobile devices, tablets, laptop computers, televisions, movie theaters, and the like. Immersing oneself in film is relatively easy in today’s world because of accessibility.

Immersion and engagement with educational films means simultaneously engaging with visual imagery and auditory pieces that create opportunities for linguistically and ideologically stimulating conversations and responses which improve one’s visual literacy. So, why not use film for summer student learning and beyond?

Benefits of Using Film in Student Learning

While there is information available about screen time and its negative impact on children, there are also numerous benefits to using film when used appropriately for learning. Following are amongst the benefits that should be considered when determining the significance of film for your child’s summer learning and beyond.

Film is engaging because the contents appeal to the emotions. We are typically beings who empathize and feel; so, sad movies make us sad. Funny movies make us laugh. Movies with encouragement make us feel encouraged. Some movies, due to content, make us angry. Depending on the film’s content, we can be moved to feel certain ways.

Movies, videos, and shows represent a variety of topics and genres. Watching film on topics and genres of interest prevents boredom and instead promotes learning because most learning occurs when the learner is interested in the topic at hand.

Film allows for students to make connections. As students watch and listen, they are often reminded of similar experiences, people, or places in their own lives. Connections are required for learning, and connections through film make remembering and learning easier.

Quality film and show characters having conversations in which they use vocabulary that can add to students’ prior learned, linguistic libraries. In other words, quality film increases students’ vocabulary.

Film provides access to different cultures. It allows viewers to see and hear about traditions, ideas, beliefs, people, and places that have cultural significance. One or more cultures can be examined in nearly any film. Sometimes different cultures are juxtaposed in the same film.

Supplemental Activities for Learning through Film

Reinforcing ideas, exploring concepts, sharing thoughts, and identifying and elaborating on feelings promote social, emotional, and academic growth and learning, which gives justification to the need for supplemental activities when students are learning with film. Viewing and listening to a film alone will not provide the reinforcement necessary for long-term application and learning. Below are supplemental activities to allow students to interact with ideas, concepts, thoughts, and feeling related to topics, beliefs, cultures, etc. found in film.

Use a recording device to document one’s critique of a film. Have your child or student watch movie critics critiquing a film, then have him/her mimic the format as he or she creates his or her own critique of the film watched. You may set certain criteria for the critique, based on the learning goals you’ve established for your child/student. For example, within the critique you might expect your child to justify his or her opinion with at least three supporting facts or ideas found in the film. This particular expectation promotes the goal of being able to justify one’s reactions or opinions.

Write a transcript of the original movie ending, then a transcript to include a new, personalized ending. Then have the child create a chart contrasting the two transcripts. Creative and critical thinking are required to complete each part of this activity, and both reading and writing are incorporated.

Recreate a venue from the film and have a conversation or meal in the created space. This activity requires artistic abilities, creative thinking, and both visual and verbal expression.

Choose a favorite character from a film and dress like the character. Speak and act like the character. Pretend to conduct a news interview and answer questions from the point of view of the character. Character-related activities lend themselves to choice, creativity, verbal expression, and the application of one’s understanding of point-of-view.

Read the book version of a film, if available, and create a collage, poster, graffiti art, or some other visual representation to compare and contrast the book with the film. This activity requires artistic expression, creative and critical thinking, reading, and viewing.

When considering film viewing in education, attention should be given to the possible learning outcomes when using the right film and the right supplemental activities, based on students’ ages, interests, and learning goals. Learning is significantly increased when students are interested, motivated, and engaged and when the resources and activities are purposeful. Film provides opportunities for significant gains for students.


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