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ASSIGNMENTS, PROJECTS, AND ACTIVITIES FOR USE WITH ANY FILM THAT IS A WORK OF FICTION
Topics for All Writing Assignments, including essays: Topics for writing assignments can be suggested by (1) a topic set out below; (2) questions in TWM’s Discussion Questions for Use with Any Work of Fiction Shown on a Screen ; and (3) any discussion question or proposed writing assignment contained in the Learning Guide for the movie.
Short Writing Assignments
Topics for short writing assignments can include the contribution to the film’s story made by one of the following: (1) a cinematic element, such as music; (2) a theatrical element, such as lighting; or (3) a literary element of the film’s story, such as expository phase, theme, plot, conflict, symbol, or characterization. Topics for short writing assignments can also include:
1. What was the strongest emotion that you felt when watching the film?
2. What did you learn from this movie?
3. Which character did you [admire, hate, love, pity] the most?
Students can be assigned to write a journal entry, either in class or as homework, responding to the events or episodes in the movie as it progresses. The journal may or may not be focused on one topic; topics can change each day.
We are going to be watching the movie, “Remember the Titans,” for part of the class period each day this week. As homework, every day after a class in which we watch the film, I’d like you to write a short journal entry about your reactions to the movie so far. [Describe the length of the entry desired or the amount of time students should spend writing the entry.]
Students can be required to write ruminations in which they respond to the motivations, values, or attributes of characters in the film.
We are going to be watching the movie “Cyrano de Bergerac.” After you have seen the movie, please write a page or two of your thoughts about whether Cyranno was a bully. Include a comparison of his actions in the play to those of a bully you know or have heard about.
Students can be asked to write a single paragraph about an element of a film and how that element contributes to the story or to the artistic presentation.
Write a paragraph about the use of camera angle in the scene in which Dorothy first meets the Wizard of Oz. The topic of your paragraph is: “What does the camera angle add to the scene?” The paragraph should have a topic sentence, citations to evidence to support the point being made, and a conclusion.
Students can be asked to write without preparation and in a set period of time, their thoughts or observations on a topic selected by the teacher. Quickwrites often become a ritual at the beginning of each class.
“To Kill a Mockingbird” ends with two ironic twists. Name one of them, describe why it is ironic and what theme of the story is highlighted by the ironic events.
Essays - Formal and Persuasive
Topics for Formal or Persuasive Essays with Research Outside the Confines of the Story
Students can research and evaluate the historical accuracy of the film or of a scene in the film and, where inaccuracies are found, students can theorize about the filmmakers’ reasons for making the change from the facts.
Historical, Cultural, or Literary Allusions:
In many films, historical, cultural, or literary allusions are important in conveying ideas. Students can be assigned to investigate one or more of these references.
Differences Between the Book and the Movie:
When a movie is based on a book, students can be asked to describe those differences, ascertain whether the movie is true to the story told by the book, and make a judgment about whether the changes made by the movie improved the story.
Themes and Messages:
Students can be asked to identify and evaluate, using research from sources other than the film, the wisdom of any theme or message which the filmmakers are trying to convey.
Issues of Interest Relating to the Subject Matter of the Story:
All films present issues of interest to the audience aside from the story itself. For example, the concept of attachment disorder is important in the film “Good Will Hunting” even though the film can be appreciated without knowing much about the disorder. However, the film may motivate students to research and write an essay about attachment disorder. The movie “October Sky” refers to the early U.S. and Russian space programs. Students who have seen this movie can be assigned to write an essay about what has occurred in space exploration in the last twenty years and how it differs from what occurred in the 1950s and 1960s.
Topics for Essays Based on an Analysis of the Film
Literary Elements and Devices in the Story Presented by the Film:
These include the plot, subplot, theme, irony, foreshadowing, flash-forward, flashback, characterization, and symbol. Students should be required to describe the use of one element or device and its contribution to the overall message of the film. TWM offers a Film Study Worksheet to assist students in organizing their thoughts for this assignment.
Cinematic Elements in the Film:
Cinematic elements include shot (framing, angle, and camera movement), sound (including music), lighting, and editing. Students can be asked to identify and discuss the cinematic elements in an entire film or to focus their analysis on a particular scene. The analysis can be limited to the use of one cinematic element or it can include several. Students should be required to describe the use of the cinematic element as well as its contribution to the overall message and artistic presentation of the movie or the scene. See the TWM student handout: Introducing Cinematic and Theatrical Elements in Film . TWM also offers a worksheet to help students identify theatrical elements in a film. See TWM’s worksheet entitled Cinematic and Theatrical Elements and Their Effects .
Theatrical Elements in the Film:
Theatrical elements found in movies include costumes, props, set design, and acting choice. Students can be asked to identify and discuss the theatrical elements in an entire film or to focus their analysis on a particular scene. The analysis can be limited to the use of one theatrical element or it can include several. Students should be required to describe the use of the theatrical element as well as its contribution to the overall message and artistic presentation of the movie or the scene. See the TWM student handout: Introducing Cinematic and Theatrical Elements in Film . TWM also offers a worksheet to help students ” identify theatrical elements in a film. See TWM’s worksheet entitled Cinematic and Theatrical Elements and Their Effects .
Creative Writing Assignments and Film Critiques
Creative Writing Assignments:
Tasks which will stimulate students’ creativity include: (1) write a new ending to the story; (2) add new characters or new events to an existing scene and show how the story changes as a result; (3) write an additional scene or incident, with its own setting, action, and dialogue; (4) expand the back-story of one of the characters and make it into a separate story; (5) write a letter from a character in the story to the student, or from a character in the story to the class, or from one character in the story to another character in the story, or from the student to a character in the story; (6) outline, storyboard, or write a sequel.
Imagine that Jean Valjean is still mayor of his adopted town of Montreuil-sur-mer. You are Bishiop Myriel, the man who had faith in Jean even though Jean stole his candlesticks and other silver. Jean has requested that you write a letter to Javert asking Javert to leave Jean Valjean alone. What would you say in that letter? Think about the nature of the man the Bishop is trying to convince, the tone he would take, and the arguments he would present. [Describe the length of the letter.]
Some students will enjoy writing a review of the movie, possibly for publication in the student newspaper. Students should be instructed to make sure that they cite evidence to support their views.
Imagine that you are a film critic for a major newspaper. Write a critique of the film, “The Outsiders.” Be sure to support your conclusions with evidence and logical arguments. [Describe the length of the critique.]
Other Assignments, Projects, and Activities
Students can work together in groups of two to write and perform a mock interview in which one plays a character in the film and the other takes on the role of the interviewer. The answers should reveal the values of the character.
Many films offer controversial social or political ideas which can easily become the topic of vigorous debate. Students can be divided into teams to support or oppose an idea presented by the film.
The Great Divide Separate the class into two groups representing sides taken on a particular issue. Students in support of the point should sit together facing those opposed to the point. Students should use the rules of Accountable Talk to argue their positions. Accountable Talk requires that students listen carefully and adhere to a code for responses to one another’s words. Each respondent must begin his or her point with phrases such as:
I hear what you are saying, but . . . Your point is good; however, I want to say . . . I’m unclear about what you mean . . . Granted, your point has validity; however, consider . . . I understand what you are saying; however, the facts are . . .
Students may not resort to name calling or any other insults and must back up their points with reference to the work being discussed. When students hear points that cause them to change their minds, they must get up and take a seat on the other side. Often, an entire class will become convinced of one position and all seats will be moved to one side of the room. Pro-con T-Chart organizers or any other form of note taking can be beneficial so that students can refer to points they felt were important when it comes time to write their essays.
Place a number of chairs at the front of the room and select appropriate students to fill them. These students will serve as a panel to discuss the issue that must be resolved or at least clarified so that the students can write their essays. Students remaining in their desks should take notes using a graphic organizer, such as a pro-con T-Chart, and can ask questions either during or at the end of the panel’s discussion. Sometimes students may want to relinquish a chair to a member of the audience in order to further the point he or she is making. Vary the rules to fit the goals of the discussion but keep to the rules of Accountable Talk.
Students can be given the opportunity to compose poetry, music, song, or dance relating to an idea in a film. They can also produce a film or create a painting or a poster.
Written by Mary RedClay and James Frieden .
- BookWidgets Teacher Blog
15+ Short films for students with ready-to-use lesson ideas
Who doesn’t like short films? They’re often innovative, funny, or surprising, and always to the point. There are hundreds of great short films available online for free, about almost any topic you can imagine. Whereas it’s not always easy to show feature films in the classroom (because of your limited amount of time), a short film can perfectly be watched and discussed in one lesson sequence.
Since most short films have an engaging element, they can be used in several ways in your lessons:
- as a lesson starter;
- as an introduction to a new topic;
- as a discussion starter;
- or just as a way to add some variation to your classes.
In short (pun intended), there’s no reason not to use a short film in your lessons from time to time.
In this blog post, I’ve selected 15+ great short films for students about totally different topics and created ready-to-use lesson examples for each one of them. Most of the presented short film lesson ideas focus on social-emotional learning (SEL), which will encourage your students to stand strong in this world and respect others.
Most of these short films don’t have spoken dialogues, so they can be used in any language (and we’ve already translated most of them in English, French, German, Spanish and Dutch). All the digital exercises are created with BookWidgets . You can create a free BookWidgets account (if you don’t have one already) and copy the widgets to your account, which will allow you to make some changes where necessary. We’ll explain how this works at the end of this blog post .
But first - drumroll please 🥁 -, BookWidgets proudly presents the 17 selected short films. Click on the name of the film to get the synopsis and the ready-to-use lesson ideas.
- 🍪 Snack Attack
- 📺 Jamais sans mon dentier
- 🧑🏾🤝🧑🏽 Louis’ Shoes / Cuerdas
- 🪙 Coin Operated / Alike / Happiness
- ☯️ Brothers
- 🧠 Mind Games
- 🤳🏼 Are you living an insta lie? / A social life / Percentage of life
- 🎁 The Present
- ❤️🩹 Le grand jeu / J’attendrai le suivant
FYI: Some examples (Snack Attack and Le grand jeu) are using a new digital lesson template, a Video Quiz. Play the video for your students and pause it to ask questions ath the right time and check for understanding. Whenever you’re doing a video lesson, the Video Quiz widget is the way to go! Find out more about a video quiz lesson in this blog post .
Snack Attack (2012)
🎬 Producer: Andrew Cadelago
🗣 Language: None
🎲 Topics: stereotypes, young vs old, politeness
🍿 Synopsis: If you like plot twists, you’ll love Snack Attack . An old lady sits on a bench in the train station, when suddenly the boy sitting next to her starts eating her cookies. As a spectator, you’ll quickly think the boy is extremely rude and has no respect for elderly people, but things turn out a bit differently…
👩🏫 Lesson idea: This short film is a great resource to introduce the danger of stereotypes and judging people too quickly. You could start your lesson with pictures of an old lady and a young punk-style boy and ask your students to tell the first things that come to their minds when seeing these pictures. Write them down on the blackboard before watching Snack Attack . It is a good idea to pause the short film a couple of times and ask your students what they think will happen, like in the digital exercise you can find below.
Jamais sans mon dentier (2017)
🎬 Producers: Students from the bachelor 3D Art Animation program at Bellecour École
🎲 Topics: Cooperation, Elderly people, Rebellion
🍿 Synopsis: Four retirement home reseidents want to watch their favorite series Never without my denture , but the remote control is taken away. As a result, they team up to get their remote back.
👩🏫 Lesson idea: This light-hearted short film is an ideal introduction to get students thinking about their own lives and how they would see themselves when they are elderly. Consequently, this assignment fits perfectly into life skills classes. Besides, this short film can also be used as an introduction to group work since it shows the importance of setting goals, collaborating, and possible failure.
Louis’ Shoes (2020) / Cuerdas (2013)
🎬 Producer: Théo Jamin, Jean-Géraud Blanc, Kayu Leung, Marion Philippe / Pedro Solís Gracía
🗣 Language: French (with English subtitles) / Spanish (with subtitles in multiple languages)
🎲 Topics: school, inclusivity, autism, physical and intellectual disability
🍿 Synopsis: These two short films show that a school is not an easy setting for students who are a bit different .
In Louis’ Shoes , a boy named Louis has to introduce himself to his classmates in his new school. He gives viewers an insight into his life and the additional challenges for students with autism.
Cuerdas is about a student with a disability who enters a new school. He is viewed strangely by most of his classmates, but there is one girl who thinks otherwise and involves him in all activities.
👩🏫 Lesson idea: In our society, students are often expected to achieve the same goals. Yet everyone is different, so this is not always realistic. Therefore, it is important to engage in conversation about inclusivity to have students understand classmates’ and other people’s thoughts and actions.
Coin Operated (2017) / Alike (2016) / Happiness (2017)
🎬 Director/Producer: Nicholas Arioli & Jennifer Dahlman / Daniel Martínez Lara & Rafa Cano Méndez / Steve Cutts
🎲 Topics: childhood dreams, life goals, money, capitalism, the rat race
🍿 Synopsis: Childhood dreams and the brevity of life may sound like heavy topics, but they are presented in a very approachable manner in Coin Operated . The story starts with a boy who has the dream to travel in space. He overcomes a first disappointment when a rocket kiddie ride doesn’t help him to reach his goal. He then decides to start selling lemonade to make enough money to get into space one day. Will he eventually get there? Watch the short film to find out.
A different childhood dream is the main topic of Alike , where a father and son live a monotonous life. However, the kid’s passion for music will eventually break the routine.
In Happiness , the spectator gets a much darker image of the quest for happiness and fulfillment. This engaging animated short film shows the rat race we’re all living and leaves no one unmoved.
👩🏫 Lesson idea: There are quite a few interesting YouTube comments about Coin Operated , Happiness and Alike , so it’s a nice idea to ask your students to read some of the comments and discuss them, before writing their own comments. Another idea could be to ask students to compare the three short films since they address the same topics but differently.
🎬 Producer: Adil El Arbi & Bilall Fallah
🗣 Language: Arabic & Dutch (English subtitles)
🎲 Topics: religion, morality, drugs, violence
🍿 Synopsis: Brothers is a modern parable about two young people from Brussels. Karim is exemplary and committed to the community, while Nassim goes down the bad path. Sometimes, however, things turn out differently than you might think.
👩🏫 Lesson idea: Since this short film has scenes related to drugs and violence, it is only recommended for older students. The film ends with an open-ended question about what is good and what is bad, an ideal starter for a class discussion.
🎬 Producer: Jonas Geirnaert
🎲 Topics: urban cohabitation, neighbors, daily routine
🍿 Synopsis: An old Dutch proverb says “A good neighbor is better than a distant friend”. Flatlife shows the life of 4 neighbors who live in the same skyscraper. The split-screen view allows you to simultaneously follow the 4 characters, who don’t seem to realize the influence they have on each other’s lives.
👩🏫 Lesson idea: This short film is great when you’re teaching a foreign language and your students are working on themes like the parts of the house, housing environment, and habits. The split view works great for a group work: make 4 groups and ask each group to concentrate on one of the four characters, so they can present them to their classmates.
Mind Games (2018)
🎬 Producer: Jiaqi Emily Yan
🎲 Topics: education, exams, free time, the meaning of life
🍿 Synopsis: In Mind Games , a boy is taking an exam, but his brain decides to escape and play outside. The exam should be no problem, as the brain fills the boy’s head with books. He answers question by question, but then bumps into a final question which he can’t answer without his brain: “What is the meaning of life?”.
👩🏫 Lesson idea: Mind Games could be used as a tool to let your students reflect on the way they study for an exam. You could also use it as a lesson starter to discuss the role of schools (it could be an introduction to the spoken words film What is school for? , presented in this previous blog post ). But the most creative way of using Mind games would be to ask your students the final question of the exam and give them the freedom to answer by text or by drawing.
Are you living an insta lie? (2017) / A social life (2016) / Percentage of life (2018)
🎬 Producer: Ditch the label / Kerith Lemon / Pascu Dragos
🗣 Language: English
🎲 Topics: Social media
🍿 Synopsis: These three different short films are all about the impact of social media on young people’s lives. We see how they share beautiful or impressive pictures with their friends, but in reality, a lot of these things are made up. The three short films are great instruments to let your students reflect on the impact of social media on their daily lives.
👩🏫 Lesson idea: Since the three short films discuss the same subject and have a lot of similarities, it could be interesting to ask your students to analyze and compare them. Besides, they are a great way of starting a group discussion about a topic that concerns them all. To end this topic in a creative way, you could ask them to make their own “Instagram versus reality” picture or movie.
The Present (2014)
🎬 Producer: Jacob Frey
🗣 Language: English (subtitles in other languages available)
🎲 Topics: video games, living with a disability, pets
🍿 Synopsis: A boy is playing a video game when his mother gives him a present… a puppy! But the puppy is missing one leg and the boy doesn’t seem to be interested in it anymore. The puppy then starts playing by itself and it doesn’t take long before the boy gets infected by its joyful enthusiasm. When he decides to go outside with the puppy, it turns out the boy is also missing a leg.
👩🏫 Lesson idea: The main theme of the story is living with a disability, but The Present could also be used to introduce topics like video games, pets, free time … Besides, you could ask your students to analyze the emotions of the different characters (the mother, the boy, and the dog).
🎬 Producer: François Caffiaux, Romain Noël, Thomas Salas
🎲 Topics: war, sports
🍿 Synopsis: In the animated short film Versus , two samurai tribes (a red one and a blue one) try to conquer an island that lies right in the middle of their territory. They are very creative when it comes to finding new war techniques and even get inspired by different sport disciplines to beat the enemy. If you want to find out which tribe wins, you’ll have to watch the short film ‘till the very end (there’s a last plot twist after the closing credits).
👩🏫 Lesson idea: Versus is a great way to introduce the vocabulary related to sports in your language lessons, but could also be used to talk about the uselessness of war.
Le grand jeu (2008) / J’attendrai le suivant (2002)
🎬 Producer: Yannick Pecherand / Philippe Orreindy
🗣 Language: French
🎲 Topics: Love, Public transport
🍿 Synopsis: French is often considered as the language of love and these two short films are about very romantic love stories… but if you’re expecting a happy ending, you might get disappointed. If you like dark humor though, you’ll love both of them.
👩🏫 Lesson idea: Both short films are great for French teachers who like to work on listening comprehension. You could also work the different future tenses by pausing the video several times and ask the students what they’re expecting to happen next.
Instructions on how to use these digital short film lesson activities
Above, you can find the 15+ ready-to-use short film lesson activities by clicking on the image. You can use these lesson examples for free. Since they’re all made with BookWidgets, I’ve listed them in this BookWidgets group , and most widgets are available in English, French, German, Spanish and Dutch. Here’s what you need to do:
- Click on this link . It will immediately bring you to the group with all of the short film activities. If you don’t have a BookWidgets account yet, you’ll have to sign up first for free .
- Click on folder with the name of the short film activity that you would like to duplicate. Select the activity in your language of preference. Click on the settings wheel , choose duplicate selected widgets . Choose where you want to save the activity in your BookWidgets account.
- Go to your saved short film lessons. You can now click on the black dropdown arrow next to the ‘Show’ button and select Edit . You can make some changes to this activity (if you want). If it’s perfect for you, click on Share in the upper right corner.
- Share this link with your students. When they click on it, they can fill it out. When done, they can submit their answers to you by clicking on the submit button.
- As a teacher, you go to “Grades & reporting” in BookWidgets to find your students’ answers.
Of course, now that you’ve got your own BookWidgets account, you can also create new short film activities or other assignments yourself!
Attention! Once your free trial runs out, you’ll only be able to use the widgets you’ve already finished/shared with students. While your BookWidgets account will still work and you’ll still get your students’ results with the free BookWidgets version, you won’t be able to duplicate widgets nor create new widgets yourself anymore.
Do you already use short films in class or are you planning to do so? I hope I gave you some new ideas that might inspire you. Which of these ideas is your favorite? Let us know on Twitter! - @ibookwidgets
Or share your own widgets about podcasts in our Teaching with BookWidgets Facebook group so that in turn, you can inspire others!
And most of all… enjoying watching! 🍿
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Teaching with Short Films in Middle & High School ELA
Teaching with short films in ELA is a great way to strengthen reading skills and increase students’ literary analysis.
Why use short films with students?
Much in the same way that short stories can help reach reluctant readers, short films are excellent for demonstrating literary elements in ways that are approachable, memorable, and engaging. They’re also a fantastic choice for ELLs since many of them have little to no dialogue, and therefore rely on more universal means of communicating their message.
I’ll share some specific tips for the short films I’m shouting out, but here are some activities you can use with any short film:
Practice writing summaries . Since short films are just that (short), they’re easy to summarize in a paragraph. You can make it more fun and challenging by asking students to write a haiku summary. Here’s one I wrote, for example:
“Hobbit gets a ring Simply walks into Mordor Has hairy feet. Ew.”
Practice plot sequencing . Have students practice identifying key elements of the plot structure using a graph like this . Practicing this activity on a few short films is a great warm-up before asking students to diagram the plot of a longer work.
Practice some creative reading . Asking “what if’s” like “What books, movies, or television shows have you seen with this setting?” and “Imagine an alternate ending” are fun, low-risk ways to get students thinking. Learn more about how I use Creative Reading Task Cards in this blog post 🙂
Teaching with short films in ELA
Fear of flying (hs/ms).
This charming short by Irish filmmaker Conor Finnegan is great for demonstrating irony and characterization .
The irony is present in many ways. The protagonist is a bird named Dougal who is afraid of flying. When the other birds go south for winter, Dougal is left alone. Dougal then takes a plane to the “sunny south,” and having finally conquered his fear of flying, he finds himself confronted with a new fear: swimming.
How does the film show Dougal’s (literal and figurative) journey to overcome his fear?
How many specific instances of irony did you notice?
What were Dougal’s motivations for overcoming his fear?
What does it mean that Dougal agreed to go swimming so quickly, when it took him months to work up the courage to fly?
Content warning: At 1:44 a minor character uses the pun “Let’s get the flock out of here.” If you wanted to avoid the questionable language, you could skip/mute that few seconds of dialogue without students missing anything important.
Soar by Alyce Tzue (Elementary/MS)
This whimsical and heartwarming tale is the perfect short film for students who are younger, or ELLs. In it we meet an aspiring aeronautical engineer who can’t seem to get her design off the ground (hah!) until she gets help from an unexpected new friend.
I suggest pausing this video at 1:45 and asking students to flex their prediction muscles. How do they think the story will end? What’s in the mysterious bag that our crash-lander is fiercely protecting, and where are she and her compatriots heading to? Then un-pause and let them watch the rest of the film. They won’t get all the answers right, but it will be fun to see what their imaginations come up with. After students finish watching the film, you can ask them what message(s) they derived. (Be kind to others, the importance of perseverance, and never being “too young” or “too small” to achieve their goals.)
Lock Up (8th grade + up)
This short film is very effective at demonstrating and teaching suspense . I don’t want to spoil the plot, but it’s only 3:34, so you can easily find out for yourself.
Here are some ideas of post-viewing discussion questions: What do we learn about the protagonist in the first 45 seconds, and how does that information help increase the suspense? What is the effect of cutting back and forth to the surveillance camera footage? What visual and audio effects did the filmmaker use to create suspense?
Content warning: This film doesn’t show any blood or weapons, but it is highly suspenseful and features some startling (but brief) jump cuts at the end. I think this film is okay for teaching suspense with short films for 8th grade and up, but you know your students best.
If you’re enjoying these ideas using short films for ELA, check out this post about TED Talks for Young Writers !
Hair Love (All ages)
This Oscar award-winning short film by Matthew Cherry is a heartwarming look at a father tackling his biggest challenge yet: his daughter’s hair.
This film has a powerful theme, a fun comic relief character, and a loving family that’s sure to brighten your day. I also love that it also has a training montage sequence with the hair as the chief antagonist.
Pixar shorts provide a wealth of great short films for teaching ELA, I’ll share a few of my favorites, and you can find even more Pixar shorts in this post by my teacher-friend Meredith from Bespoke ELA.
Piper (All ages)
This short follows a young sandpiper on her journey from a fledgling to a fearless shell-hunter. It’s ideal for discussing characterization and character development. How does Piper’s character change/grow over the course of the film, and what around her (setting, other characters, etc) influences her? It’s also good for discussing tone and mood. Although it shows Piper’s biggest fear, the tone remains lighthearted and whimsical overall. How did the filmmaker convey this mood? How does the character of Piper follow the Hero’s Journey archetype?
Boundin’ is one of the few Pixar shorts to feature dialogue, which in this case is delivered in rhyme by the Cowboy Poet-esque narrator. This film is perfect for discussing themes and metaphor .
After watching, ask students to reflect on these questions: What is the overall theme of this short? What is “boundin’” a metaphor for? How does the rhyming-style narration impact the film?
Purl (High School)
This short features an upbeat ball of yard named Purl who takes a job at the corporate office of “B.R.O. Capitol.” Purl struggles to fit in at first until she changes every aspect of her personality to conform with the office culture. Fortunately, this film has a happy ending in which Purl helps to create a more inclusive and positive workplace by being herself and helping others.
Since entire film is an extended not-so-subtle metaphor for discrimination against women in the workplace, it could be a great jumping off point for a classroom discussion about real-life gender discrimination.
After viewing, ask students to reflect on these questions: How does the setting impact the story, and what does the setting tell us about the other characters? What visual contrasts do the filmmakers use to show how Purl differs from her coworkers? How does Purl change herself to fit in, and what prompts her to change back? What is the dominant theme of this film, and do you think the filmmakers were effective at getting their message across?
I think this would also be perfect to accompany a novel study of The Outsiders by S. E. Hinton. (Find more ideas for teaching The Outsiders here !)
Content warning : This short features a couple jokes with some potentially objectionable language (at 1:56 and 4:40), as well as the phrase “kiss our ass.” As always, you are the best judge of what’s appropriate for your classroom.
Final thoughts on teaching with short films:
Need some other media literacy ideas?
✨ Songs to use in ELA ✨ TV episodes to use in ELA ✨ Photo analysis ✨ Video games ✨ Short texts for teaching cultural appropriation ✨ Dystopian unit introductions
I hope this post gave you some fun ideas to shake up your lessons. What are your favorite of teaching short films for ELA? Comment below so we can all learn!
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Colleen C Smith
Great ideas! The suspenseful video drops an F bomb. I debated if I could scoot over it, and I did with the kids and they loved the video. I am trying to find a Pepsi version of this film, is there one?
This is Carina, the blog manager for Teach Nouvelle. I am overjoyed to hear your students loved the “Lock Up” video! I rewatched it just now, but I could not find the “F” bomb. Would you mind sending me a timestamp for when this happens? This way I can add a disclaimer for future viewers.
Hmm, I am not familiar with any Pepsi version of this film. I did some quick research, but I had no luck finding anything that sounded like what you are looking for. Would you be able to clarify what you are looking for? I would love to help find the resource! 🙂
Happy teaching, Carina Assayed Blog Manager
The link for Boundin’ goes to a different film.
Thank you SO much for bringing this to my attention! I just fixed this 🙂 I am also dropping the link below should you still need it. Happy teaching! We are almost there.
With gratitude, Carina – Nouvelle ELA Blog Manager
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Choosing Digital Escape Rooms for Secondary ELA
New short stories for middle school.
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8 Ways to Teach With Short Documentary Films From The Times
How to use our weekly Film Club feature to teach close reading and critical thinking skills via an eclectic mix of nonfiction videos.
By Jeremy Engle
Death metal-singing grandmothers. Gravity-defying dancers on nine-foot stilts. The dangers of “sharenting.” Coming-of-age with autism. What really happened at Stonewall. The whereabouts of smooth-voiced, permed-haired Bob Ross’s vast collection of lost paintings. These are just a few stories and themes we have explored in our weekly Film Club since it began in 2015.
Every Thursday during the school year, we feature a short documentary film from The New York Times and a set of five open-ended questions intended to encourage thoughtful and honest dialogue, either in your classroom or in the comments section. These films — drawn from Times Video series like Op-Docs , Modern Love , Diary of a Song and Conception — offer viewers an intriguing and unique perspective of the world and ask students to think deeply about themes like ethics, human rights, gender identity and scientific discovery. And each one is typically under 12 minutes.
As with other short texts like stories, poems and articles, mini-documentary films can stimulate discussion, debate, thinking and writing. And, they can serve as a refreshing break from print media to help students explore curriculum themes and practice important literacy skills.
You might use Film Club weekly in your class as a tool for regular writing and discussion. Or, if you’re looking for specific ways to make short documentaries a part of your curriculum, below, we present eight ideas for teaching with the series. For each topic, we suggest several films to watch, questions for discussion and activities to go further.
Let us know in the comments section or by emailing us at [email protected] how and why you are using Film Club and if you have any suggestions to improve our feature.
Explore a Theme or Big Idea
A concerto is a conversation, a virtuoso jazz pianist and film composer tracks his family’s lineage through his 91-year-old grandfather from jim crow florida to the walt disney concert hall..
All right. It’s a real pleasure to welcome Kris Bowers, our composer, who has written a concerto, “For a Younger Self.” Welcome. [APPLAUSE] Can I ask a question? All right, Granddaddy. Can you tell me, just what is a concerto? So it’s basically this piece that has a soloist and an ensemble, an orchestra. The two are having a conversation. And so sometimes that conversation can be this person speaking, and now this person speaking. Sometimes the conversation — It’s a question. — is at the same time. Yeah. And it really depends on how the composer wants to, or how I want to frame that conversation. Did you ever picture yourself doing what you’re doing now? Huh. [MUSIC PLAYING] [APPLAUSE] I’m very aware of the fact that I’m a Black composer, and lately actually I’ve been wondering whether or not I’m supposed to be in the spaces that I’m in, or supposed to have gotten to the point that I’ve gotten to. Well, I can tell you one thing. Never think that you’re not supposed to be there. Cause you wouldn’t be there if you wasn’t supposed to be there. It goes back to slavery. [MUSIC PLAYING] My grandfather, who I found out has cancer a little while ago, I wanted to spend some more time with him and talk to him about his life, about our family, ask him as much as I can before he passes. [BELL RINGING] Granddaddy. Mm-hm? Need a bit of help with this. Do what? Getting this seamed out for the show. OK. Don’t step on the pedals. Push it right in the corner. OK. Wow. OK. We’re going to make it real handsome here. You’re going to be ready to go. Thank you, sir. Growing up in the South was quite a thing for me. Bascom, Florida, as far back as I can remember, I think the plantation was the Bowers plantation. All 13 of you all grew up in that house? Mm-hm. Wow. How all of us stayed in two rooms, I don’t know. We would start on the porch singing. And there were people, I don’t know how they could hear it that far, would come drive in the front yard and listen to us sing at night. People in that area was, the Blacks were Bowers, and the whites was Beavers. Beavers had the grocery store. But when Dad would walk in the store, this kid about my size, small kid — How old were you about this point? Like how old? I probably was 6 or 7 years old. Oh, wow. And he would go up to my dad and say, what could I get for you, boy? That stuck with me forever. Why are you calling my dad a boy? And Daddy would answer him, sir, yes sir, no sir. But it was something that stayed with me because I knew then when I got of age I was going to leave there. I didn’t want no parts of the farm. I didn’t want no parts of that part of the country. I just wanted to leave. Wherever I could get a ride to, that’s where I was headed to. [MUSIC PLAYING] What was that process like, hitchhiking as a Black man in America in the 1940s? I had to be crazy. Now, the first place I remember being is in Detroit. A man picked me up. He was saying that he could get me a job and a place to stay and all this. I asked him, does it snow there? And he said yes. And that was the end of that, because I didn’t want to be any place that was cold. But I hitchhiked from there to Denver, Colorado. And I was in this Greyhound bus station, cause they had two counters, white and Black. So I could get something to eat. And I heard somebody say, Los Angeles, California. I said, that’s where I want to go. Never heard of Los Angeles before. I had $27 or $28. I didn’t know how I was going to make it, but I knew I was going to make it. So I said well, I’m going to pretend to be an employment agency and call around to get a job. Wow. I got the telephone book, started at the A’s. A Cleaners. And I don’t think I made more than five calls, and the phone rang, and it was the A Cleaners, and they said they needed a presser. I got all the information. I said, OK, I’ll send someone right out. And that was me. [LAUGHING] That’s where I met your grandmother. [MUSIC PLAYING] How old were you when you bought the cleaners? I was 20. Wow. So within two years I had gone from homeless to I was in business. [MUSIC PLAYING] But I never could get a loan. And I owned the place. I said, something wrong with this picture. I told them I come in for the loan, and he said no, I don’t have anything. And I left later, and picked up an application, and I mailed it in. A few days later, I got a call, your loan is approved. I said, it’s the color of my skin. I said in the South they tell you. In Los Angeles they show you. From then on we started buying property, I would get things at the cleaner, everything, but nobody ever saw me. Everything was done by mail. People are constantly throwing up things to stop you in life. But you’ve got to know you cannot stop me. [MUSIC PLAYING] My name is Kristopher Bowers, and I want to play “Shining Star in Atlantic City.” My parents decided before I was born they wanted me to play piano. Literally, I think it’s called like “Piano Sampler No. 5” that they used to put on my mom’s stomach every day. Actually, one of the first pieces of music I ever wrote was on this piano. And I remember, you know, just playing around here all the time. But we were up at a restaurant one, I believe it was a Sunday. At Marie Callendar’s? Marie Callendar’s. They had a piano in there, and I asked the guy could you play it. And they said yes. I carried you over there, and you were playing it, and I was proud of you. [LAUGHING] [MUSIC PLAYING] There aren’t that many opportunities for young kids of color to showcase their talents or to interact with other kids of color playing music and doing those things, and you talking about being my manager, essentially, from the very beginning. If I didn’t have that, I probably wouldn’t have been as confident pursuing music. I remember — where were you in school at that I was up there? What, in New York? At Juilliard? Juilliard? Wherever it was, you enjoyed it. So that’s all I was thinking. If you enjoyed making a living at it. I knew that, boy. And the winner is Kris Bowers. “Green Book.” [APPLAUSE] [MUSIC PLAYING] [APPLAUSE] [MUSIC PLAYING] What do you think your biggest challenge is today? My biggest challenge today, being honest, is my health. It’s just trying to stay healthy. That would be my challenge today. [MUSIC PLAYING] I’ve got a few more years to go, but I’m almost to the top. [LAUGHING] Ten more years, I’ll be at the top. [LAUGHING] So now I just keep trying to do the best I can. Yeah. And enjoy seeing my children and grandchildren being successful. That’s glory in itself. It’s just something that I hope I had a little something to do with it. [MUSIC PLAYING] [APPLAUSE] (SINGING) Then sings my soul, my savior, my God to thee, how great thou art, how great thou art. You did it! You did it! You did it! [LAUGHING] See, it surprised you. [LAUGHING]
Why is it important to preserve our historical memory? What will be lost if we can’t? Can we trust what we see and hear? How can art give us purpose and meaning?
Many courses, curricular units, projects and activities are organized around themes and essential questions. Perhaps your students are about to read a novel dealing with love or loss; investigate the concept of evolution in science; or explore the subject of suffering and sacrifice during wars. A short film can be a great way to dive into a big idea or essential question.
What makes the many mini-documentaries featured in Film Club so powerful is that they can present a compelling theme, such as justice, adversity, responsibility or freedom, in just a few minutes. Each Film Club begins with an essential question to help frame the lesson like the three that begin this section.
Here is a sampling of films that explore common essential questions in different subject areas:
Why is it important to preserve our historical memory? “ 116 Cameras ” (15:16) Eva Schloss, a Holocaust survivor and stepsister of Anne Frank, participates in an interactive hologram project to preserve her story for conversations with future generations.
How can art give us purpose and meaning? “ A Ship From Guantánamo ” (6:17) Moath al-Alwi has never been charged with a crime, but he has spent over 19 years in prison. In this Op-Doc video, Mr. al-Alwi tells the story of the art he makes to survive — and escape.
How did the discovery of microorganisms change our view of the biological world and our place in it? “ Animated Life: Seeing the Invisible ” (6:35) This animated documentary celebrates Antonie van Leeuwenhoek, a 17th-century citizen scientist, and his discovery of microbes.
How has your life been shaped by the sacrifices, strength and wisdom of your elders? “ A Concerto Is a Conversation ” (13:24) A virtuoso jazz pianist and film composer tracks his family’s lineage through his 91-year-old grandfather, from Jim Crow Florida to the Walt Disney Concert Hall.
Activities to Go Further
Teachers, what big themes and ideas are you exploring in your classrooms? Which of the suggested films address themes that connect what you are studying with your students? Don’t see something that resonates yet? Check out our archive of over 200 films in the Film Club spotlight. You can also search The New York Times’s Video spotlight page for more offerings.
You might use a film as a warm-up activity to begin a larger study, or as fodder for discussion and debate around a key idea. Ask students: How does the film illuminate and challenge your previous understanding of the big idea or theme? What new perspectives and insights does it offer?
Or, consider curating your own series of films based on a single theme. Have students compare and contrast the pieces in the collection both for form and content.
Open a Window to a Different World
Arctic boyhood, coming of age on the greenland tundra..
<begin subtitles> 01:00:35:00 01:00:36:04 There’s one. 01:00:36:10 01:00:37:22 I just missed it. 01:00:55:03 01:00:57:17 I’ve done this so many times, 01:00:58:04 01:01:00:15 my teeth hurt now. 01:01:04:15 01:01:07:10 Soup is all I’m good for. 01:01:10:22 01:01:13:03 You’re ready. Go on. 01:01:13:10 01:01:14:12 Pull. 01:01:14:16 01:01:15:15 Like this? 01:01:15:19 01:01:17:08 Come on, with all your might. 01:01:18:09 01:01:19:11 Harder, harder! 01:01:20:02 01:01:22:12 Poor kid, not too hard. 01:01:23:11 01:01:25:18 Almost finished. 01:01:28:05 01:01:30:14 And here’s your dog’s harness. 01:01:32:17 01:01:35:10 When you’re on a sled 01:01:35:17 01:01:37:06 with your dogs, 01:01:37:23 01:01:40:02 you’ll put this harness on them, 01:01:40:11 01:01:42:18 and you’ll think of me. 01:01:51:20 01:01:52:21 Hey, you. 01:02:20:02 01:02:21:11 Scoop up the ice. 01:02:21:20 01:02:23:01 Scoop up the ice. 01:02:29:14 01:02:30:22 Here, look. 01:02:31:11 01:02:32:19 Like this. 01:02:57:02 01:02:59:21 Once upon a time there was a village 01:03:00:04 01:03:03:12 where the hunters who left in kayaks, 01:03:04:09 01:03:07:21 disappeared one by one. 01:03:08:10 01:03:12:14 So food started running out and the village was without its men. 01:03:13:02 01:03:18:00 Soon only a little boy remained who had never left the village. 01:03:18:13 01:03:23:13 He decided to take his kayak to find out what was going on. 01:03:24:02 01:03:26:20 “Qajaarngaa! Qajaarngaa!” 01:03:27:08 01:03:29:16 “Come, please.” 01:03:29:20 01:03:32:08 So he paddled toward the cries. 01:03:34:11 01:03:36:09 It was an old woman 01:03:37:04 01:03:41:14 who was calling from the shore. 01:03:42:13 01:03:45:14 The little boy followed her into her house. 01:03:46:16 01:03:51:09 He looked down and saw human bones. 01:03:51:19 01:03:55:17 And on the walls hung severed heads. 01:03:55:21 01:04:00:08 The faces belonged to the village’s hunters. 01:04:01:17 01:04:04:20 The boy, listening only to his courage, 01:04:05:06 01:04:08:15 grabbed her by the hair. 01:04:09:20 01:04:14:05 He picked up a woman’s knife off the ground, 01:04:14:15 01:04:17:21 and in one fell swoop, cut her head right off. 01:04:21:13 01:04:26:11 Qajaarngaa went home. 01:04:28:04 01:04:31:12 Now alone among all the women, 01:04:31:16 01:04:37:09 he became a great hunter. 01:04:38:00 01:04:40:09 The best in the whole region. 01:04:40:17 01:04:43:07 The village never went hungry again.
Films can give us a glimpse into someone else’s life. They can bring us inside a stranger’s home or to a foreign country. They can chip away at social and class divides. They can foster empathy for those who are different from us.
In 2018, Michael Kellen, an English teacher in Florida, shared with us how he uses Film Club in his A.P. Capstone Program to expand his students’ awareness of other countries and cultures and to help them explore their own beliefs.
In a final class reflection, his student Valenca Charles, reflected on how the assignment broadened her understanding of the world:
Throughout the school year, the Film Club assignments have actually helped me learn about new things. I learned that scientists are working to help those with missing limbs from the film “ The Bionic Man .” I learned about a language that is on the verge of extinction and how one person is attempting to save it from the film “ Who Speaks Wukchumni?’ ” I have constantly thought about the lives and troubles of people like the ones from the film “ Arctic Boyhood ” and “ Death Row Doctor .” Learning about these two different people and how they live their lives has opened my eyes to different cultures and lifestyles.
Invite students to watch one or more of the following films and then reflect: In what ways do these films open their eyes to new cultures, experiences and perspectives? In what ways do the films make them more empathetic to the situation of others? How does a window into a new or unfamiliar world make them see their own lives differently?
“ The Midnight Gardeners of Mumbai ” (11:27) Meet the people who keep their city running while the rest of the world sleeps.
“ Tears Teacher ” (10:53) A teacher travels across Japan to encourage adults to cry more.
“ Sensations of Sound ” (6:20) At age 20, Rachel Kolb received cochlear implants that gave her partial hearing. In virtual reality, experience how music felt for her, before and after.
“ Dancing In the Air With 9-Foot Stilts ” (3:20) In Trinidad, a group called “Touch D Sky” dances on stilts to practice the art of Moko Jumbie.
“ Arctic Boyhood ” (5:25) What it’s like to come of age on the Greenland tundra.
Ask your students to storyboard or make a short film about life in their hometown for other students around the world: What would they show? What people, groups or traditions would they profile? What would they want people around the world to know about where they live? What visual and audio elements would enhance the project? How might their film inform and engage audiences?
Afterward, students might consider entering The Learning Network’s annual fall multimedia contest , where teenagers from around the world can submit videos about growing up today, or to one of many other competitions for youth art .
Another idea? You might invite students to write a letter to one of the people featured in one of the films. What did they learn from this person? What questions do they have for him or her?
Make Connections to Students’ Lives
The lonely goalkeeper, arsenal legend bob wilson on the loneliest role in soccer..
[MUSIC PLAYING] [APPLAUSE] Hello, chaps. My name’s Bob Wilson. Arsenal goalkeeper, Arsenal legend, if you like. “Wilson leading off Liverpool once again. Bob Wilson Cup. Rock solid once again.” [CROWD CHEERING] “Oh! And a great save by Wilson.” I was a nervous goalie. And that was the buildup. The day before I started to get worked up about it. And I went off into this unknown world. By the time the bell went in the dressing room to go out, I was a bag of nerves. My stomach was churning. I’d been to the loo four times. And then I’d go down the tunnel, and I hit daylight — [CROWD CHEERING] — and the 40 ... 50 ... 80,000 and went, yep, this is what you’ve chosen, boy. This is great. Football is a team game. It’s 11 players gelling together, understanding each other. The whole purpose of a game of football is to score goals. And the one villain in the piece is the bloke between the sticks, the goalie. They’re the only individual in what is a team game. There is an incredible loneliness about it. The other 10 guys can make numerous mistakes in a game. Even the star striker, he can miss five, six, eight chances in a game and score a winning goal in the 89th minute of a match, and he goes home the hero. “Oh, that was beautiful!” On the reverse situation, you are putting yourself in this position where for 89 minutes you play brilliantly. And in the 90th minute, you make a positional error, or the ball moves, swerves and dips. And it looks as if it’s your fault because it just makes you look a fool, an absolute total fool. And everybody behind the goal goes home casting dispersions about your parentage. You know you think about it, this thin tightrope that a goalie walks. You’re underneath your crossbar in between your posts, which is a massive area anyway. People don’t realize it’s eight yards wide, and it’s eight foot high. And it’s a chasm! It’s not just a big area. It’s a chasm! And you are very capable of falling off at any opportunity. I think you have got to be different. All great goalies need a desperate sort of courage within their makeup. When all is lost, when their defensive barriers and their structures and playing 4-4-2 or catenaccios, like the Italians do. When all else fails, those guys in front of you, those 10 guys, need to look ‘round and say, “The goalie will save us. The big man will save us.” That’s when you’re tested. And that’s why I went head first, hand first, for the sake of winning a game of football. It’s suddenly that belief in yourself. I belong. That is the ultimate. You have the respect of all of your team. And that was my greatest reward, and it’s the greatest reward any footballer can ever get. [MUSIC PLAYING]
As much as these films help us to see a different world, sometimes the most powerful moments are when students make connections to their own lives — and perhaps even see themselves a little differently.
For instance, after watching “ The Lonely Goalkeeper ,” a short animated film that profiles the British soccer legend Bob Wilson as he reflects on the “desperate courage” required to be a goalie, Sarah Elgart, a student from Wilmington, N.C., shared:
I am a basketball player and I can definitely relate to the feeling of nerves and feeling alone. In basketball when you get fouled on a shot you go to the free throw line. That’s when the crowd goes silent. All eyes are on you. Waiting for the ref to give you that ball so you can take the two free shots. It’s literally two free points with no defense! It should be extremely easy to make both shots. But the nerves take over. Thinking in your head, “what if I miss this one?” “what if I miss both?” “what if coach is disappointed?” But, getting into a routine can overpower those nerves. Deep breaths and positive thoughts.
Students can explore the theme of coming-of-age through one or more of these films. They might consider questions like: What do you learn about childhood and growing up from these films? What do you discover about the opportunities and challenges that young people face across the globe? In what ways do these films reveal childhood to be a universal experience? In what ways do they show it to be shaped and influenced by culture and society?
“ Girl Boxer ” (6:13) Jesselyn Silva, known as “JessZilla,” is a 10-year-old girl who loves to box. She dreams of someday winning an Olympic gold medal.
“ Summer’s Choice ” (9:40) A talented teenager in the Mojave Desert is torn between her goal of attending art school and her desire to help support her family.
“ Why I’ll Raise My Daughters to Be Strong. Not Polite ” (4:33) Kind. Obedient. Agreeable. Check check check. Now with two daughters of her own, she will make a new set of rules.
“ Growing Up Ethan ” (15:18) How do you find independence when you’re coming-of-age with autism?
“ We Became Fragments ” (12:37) Ibraheem was just a regular kid — until he lost everything. This Op-Doc video profiles a teenage refugee from Syria as he adjusts to his new high school and life in Canada.
“ A Conversation About Growing Up Black ” (5:11) What is it like to be a young Black man or boy in America?
Ask your students to storyboard or make a short film about their own lives: What aspects of their lives would they share? What audio and visual elements, images and words would they include? How might other students learn from their experiences?
Or, you can match one of the coming-of-age films above with one of these writing prompts:
How Would You Describe Your Identity?
What Does Your Accent Say About Who You Are?
How Do You Connect to Your Heritage?
What Does Your Unique Style Say About You?
How Much Has Your ZIP Code Determined Your Opportunities?
Additionally, to more deeply explore their own identities in relation to the films, before or after watching, students might create an identity chart , or write a bio-poem or a “ Where I’m From ” poem. These activities come from our friends at Facing History and Ourselves .
Bring Current Events and Issues Into the Classroom
Films can be a great way to bring current events and today’s headlines into your classroom — powerfully showcasing the human dimension of often complex and challenging issues like inequality, police brutality, homelessness, terrorism and war.
After watching a film on the current humanitarian crisis in Ukraine and how many women are returning to their homeland to rescue loved ones, Genesis, a student from New York City, wrote:
Seeing all of these people in the film going back to Ukraine in order to save their families is heartbreaking. That takes an immense amount of courage and strength. This film puts a lot of this chaos going on in perspective, how much of a difficult situation they’re going through. I’m aware of all the destruction happening in Ukraine, but I’m not living through it. It’s insane to feel so afraid for them and not be in their situation, imagine how it is for the Ukrainians.
Which current events are you teaching in your classroom? Here are several films that explore headline news, and you can find many more by searching our Film Club column .
Invite students to watch and then discuss: How is watching a video on the subject different from learning about the events or issue from a traditional news story? In what ways did the film challenge or deepen your previous understanding of the topic? What perspectives or viewpoints, if any, are still missing?
War in Ukraine : “ ‘I Must Save My Mom’: The Women Returning to Ukraine ” (4:22) As millions seek to escape Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, some women are risking the dangers of war to rescue relatives or defend their homes.
Climate Change : “ Greta Thunberg Has Given Up on Politicians ” (7:48) An animated Op-Doc profiling the 18-year-old Swedish activist who calls climate change “the biggest crisis humanity has ever faced.”
The Coronavirus Pandemic : “ An Ode to the Before Times ” (3:06) A filmmaker ruefully recalls all of the small things she misses from normal life before the pandemic.
Politics : “ ‘It’s Like You Want to Stop People From Voting’: How U.S. Elections Look Abroad ” (6:59) Times Opinion asks people from other democratic countries to share their thoughts on the American election process.
Immigration : “ Darlin ” (15:33) A family divided by immigration authorities struggles to reunite.
Homelessness : “ Lullaby ” (7:25) Young mothers living in the Siena House shelter in the Bronx write lullabies to bond with their babies.
Policing : “ Inside the Battle Over George Floyd Square ” (6:33) The intersection where George Floyd died beneath the knee of a police officer has become a memorial site — and a controversy of its own.
Ask students to create something to inform others about the current event they explored in the selected film: What is important for people to know, and why? What can audiences do with the information?
Here are some ideas:
Make an infographic : Students can use statistics and numbers cited in the film or from additional research to create an infographic that shows the size, scale and impact of the event or issue. They can design their work on paper or with a free program like Venngage .
Design a one-pager : Students can synthesize and present what they have learned by identifying key words, themes, images and quotations from the film. You can find templates and examples here .
Create a public service announcement : Students can storyboard or make a short video using stills from the film along with their own text, narration and music.
Write an editorial : Students can write an opinion piece to be published in your school or local newspaper, or to submit in our annual editorial contest . They can look at our 2021 Student Editorial Contest for editorial writing resources and read some of the 2021 winning entries for inspiration.
For additional background and research, many Film Club entries include an article for learning more at the bottom of the post. And films can also be connected to our Lessons of the Day or Student Opinion prompts, or, of course, to the wide range of coverage on issues The Times offers daily.
Learn to Think Like a Filmmaker
Music and clowns, what i wish people understood about having a family member with down syndrome..
Do you know that — Mm. — you’re a complete mystery to me. I don’t know what you’re thinking. Mm, mm. Can you give me a clue? Queen. You were thinking about the queen? Mm. O.K. How do you feel about me — Mm. — making a film about you? [LAUGHS] You just kissed my microphone. [MUSIC PLAYING] Can you help me introduce the characters in the film? So what’s your name? Jamie. And what’s my name? Clown. I’m not a clown. Here’s some family photos. Show me who you can see. Who’s that? Mummy. And who’s that there? Who’s that at the end? That’s Daddy. Daddy. Who’s that? Alex. And next to him? D. “No, no.” [LAUGHTER] Who is it? Jamie. That’s right. Mm, mm. What are you doing? Well, it’s my place, sitting over here. Yep. Ready? Steady? What do you imagine he thinks of you? I don’t think he analyzes things at all as you tend to. When I’m stressed or maybe not even known I was stressed, he’s come up to me and just touched my arm. And you can almost feel it draining away. It feels like a lightning conductor, just a small touch. What do you think he’s trying to do? I don’t think he’s trying to do anything. He’s just empathetic. So he understands how you see things. I think he understands how you feel probably better than you do. What he thinks is a mystery to me. I have no idea what’s going on in his head. Maybe nothing is. It could be a total blank. Mm, mm. Mm. But I’ve no idea. I’ve no idea how — what goes on in his head. I mean, he loves food. Anything to do with cooking and food, he’s there like a shot. Because he enjoys his food. But then he hasn’t got that much else in his life really. Music. Music, yes. Oh yes, he likes music. ABBA [MUSIC PLAYING] Mm. And of course, the circus. He’s mad about clowns — The circus. — and the circus. [HORN PLAYING] Do you know where that came from? No, not at all. I mean, he’d obviously like to be a clown. Maybe that’s — hiding behind the mask. I don’t know. No, no, no. I don’t think he wants to be a clown. I think he likes what they portray, which is a nice and simple mime of life. But he’s got the family sense of humor. [MUSIC INTENSIFIES] I just looked at him. I just knew. And that was good, knowing from the beginning. Because I think it’s harder if you think you’ve got a normal child and then find out later that then there’s something wrong with them. So you could sort of grieve all at the beginning really. So it was. It was like a bereavement. You’re grieving for the child that you hoped you’d have instead of which you’ve got this other child. I remember finding out that he got Down syndrome and just holding him and thinking, oh dear, start again. When did your own feelings settle down? No, no. That was just an instant. Clearly life would not be the same without Jamie. He’s a blessing. Yes, I, I — a bit bemused when people hear they’re having Down’s children and only see the negative side. But there are lots of positive sides. There’s a video of Jamie and Guy playing recorders. And he’s about 6 maybe, and he’s full of energy. And that slowly, slowly diminished. I feel like it correlates with moving out. Yes, it does actually. Because that’s the same time he stopped getting any sort of educational programs, even, like, not being around the rest of the family. Yeah, no, you’re right. It did change him. We worry about the future of how he will cope when we’re dead. So our plan was to find somewhere, which we have. He’s got to get used to the place. And then we’ll disappear, and it won’t be quite so bad. The impact is that carers are paid to do things for him. So he no longer talks or does things for himself because he doesn’t need to. Yeah, no, you’re right. But you never know. You can only do what you think is best at the time. And really, you can’t regret what you do. What’s your plan for Jamie in the future in terms of living? I found an institution, a charity that provides housing and all sorts of things. So I don’t want to put that guilt onto any of my children. But I just hope they would look after him. I know people get busy lives and forget. But I should hate to think of him in his own little world and then none of his siblings taking an interest. We’re all quite spread out now. We are, yeah. But that’s irrelevant. O.K. I feel like I’m being told off. [LAUGHTER] You are, you are. [MUSIC PLAYING]
What makes a good documentary? What draws you in? What turns you off?
Responding to, analyzing and interpreting the subject matter of films is central to Film Club, but students can also learn to understand and appreciate the artistry and craft of documentary film. In Film Club, we curate an eclectic and diverse group of films showcasing a variety of styles, techniques, methods and approaches. Students can learn to identify and assess different filmmaker “moves” and how they shape a film — its meaning and its effect on a viewer.
You might have students watch several of the following films, or assign small groups to watch each one and then share what they found with the class in a jigsaw activity .
Ask students: What do you notice about the film’s style and approach? Which audio and visual elements — for example, narration, archival footage, interviews, music, graphics or re-enactments — did the filmmaker use? What do you notice about the camera shots, framing and composition? What role did these play in the storytelling? Which perspectives are included and which are missing? What was the filmmaker’s objective, goal or message? How effectively and fairly was it communicated?
Animated: “ Music and Clowns ” (7:37) A filmmaker searches to better understand his brother who has Down syndrome.
Traditional (Interview-Based): “ The Queen of Basketball ” (21:53) An Oscar-winning film that tells the story of Lusia “Lucy” Harris Stewart, one of women’s basketball’s most accomplished — but largely unknown — players.
Cinéma Vérité : “ Volte ” (12:53) Zuzia, 12, navigates her changing body and her position on her vaulting team.
Opinion/Argumentative: “ It’s Quitting Season ” (4:55) In this Times Opinion video, the filmmakers argue that despite what many of us were taught in childhood, sometimes the bravest thing you can do is quit.
Virtual Reality: “ Sanctuaries of Silence ” (7:19) A 360-video that follows an acoustic ecologist as he travels from noisy city streets to the Hoh Rain Forest in western Washington state in search of quiet.
First-Person: “ How Life Looks Through My ‘Whale Eyes’ ” (12:11) A filmmaker shows what it feels like to live with several disabling eye conditions. “I don’t have a problem with the way that I see,” he says. “My only problem is with the way that I’m seen.”
Students might compare films on the same subject or theme that are told through different styles, techniques or approaches. Which resonate with them more and why?
Or, you might ask students to write a documentary film review and submit it to our annual Student Review Contest . Their review should express an opinion and back it up with compelling evidence. Look at our 2021 Student Review Contest for review writing resources and read some of the 2021 winning entries for inspiration . They can also watch our five-minute video “ Review Writing Tips From New York Times Critics ” for guidance.
Another creative option: Students can create a movie poster that captures the essence of the subject, story or themes of the film in an appealing and visual look that grabs the audience’s attention and that is also consistent with the documentary’s style and tone.
Develop Media and Visual Literacy
If you didn’t ‘sharent,’ did you even parent, children are concerned about online privacy violations. the culprits their parents..
I’m Lucy. I’m 7 years old and my mom posts pictures of me. on Insta– online. I’m Elmer, I’m 18 years old. My mom shares too much about me online. I’m Zoya. I’m 16 years old and my mom shares my whole life. If you’re going to be so worked up about it then I’ll take it down. But I don’t agree with you, just for the record. Why are we here today? To talk about the photos. Yes. Let me show you a few. This. What’s the big deal? I think you look so cute. And it was a nice moment. What’s wrong with it? Yeah because you didn’t ask. I also think of it as connecting to other people that I know in real life. You know, like just think, like Abu and grandpa? How else do they know about you guys, except to see you there? You can call and FaceTime. You can – You can do many other stuff to see them instead of through social media. Yeah, that’s true. That’s a really good point. By age 5 the average kid has 1,500 photos of them online. Technically yes. It’s a photo where I’m shirtless and I’m not ready for a photo. All it takes is one person and one hack and there goes all your privacy. Remember when I was getting my debit card? No, I know you didn’t, but it was like the ... By 2030 parents sharing about their kids online will account to two-thirds of identity fraud. What is everybody so worried about? The sauce-on-the-face photo like what is it going to do that is like wrecking everybody’s life in their imagination? I think the sauce-on-the-face photo ... that’s just an embarrassing photo, but you know the photo of me in a bathing suit ... Someone out there could look at my body and think something of me that I wouldn’t want them to think. But you go on the beach in those clothes, and strangers could take photos of you on the beach and do what they want with those photos. But you’re my parent, you’re my mom ... Right. Yeah, I would think about that. Yeah. You would? So now you would say that you would consider ... I would maybe. Not really. Unless we stop taking vacations together, and stop having good times together, that it would actually, honestly would be depressing, if I couldn’t document it for Insta. If it’s not on Insta, it didn’t even happen. You really feel that way? Yeah because ... yeah. Yeah. Do you think kids should have veto power, the ability to say, please take that down. You have to. I absolutely think that kids should have veto power. And again, it’s because of how aware I am of the implications of the digital footprint that I say that. Some facts: In France, kids can sue their parents for sharing too much about them. I mean, I would. What should I say? They just don’t know what they’re doing, France. If I’d asked you about that picture would you be O.K. if I posted it? Uh, Yes. Oh, really? So it’s actually, about the asking not about the picture itself. Uh-huh. Posting any private information or anything online should be my call. I really try to limit the amount of things I aggravate you with. And if a photo or an upload is causing so much aggravation, is it worth it? It’s probably not. So I understand where you’re coming from.
Are your students savvy news consumers? Are they good at distinguishing reliable from unreliable information on the internet? Have they ever fallen for misinformation or fake news of some kind? Do they ever unwittingly spread it?
We have several films in our collection that can help students think critically about media literacy with questions like: Should parents share images and videos of their children without their consent? How do people get drawn into conspiracy theories and what are the consequences? What happens when what you show on social media isn’t real? And with “deepfakes” on the rise, can we trust what we see and hear?
You can use any of the films below to explore different issues in media. As they watch, students might consider the questions: How worried should we be about mis- and disinformation? What are some strategies to be a critical consumer of media and to see through its lies, distortions and manipulations?
“ If You Didn’t ‘Sharent,’ Did You Even Parent? ” (4:52) Children are concerned about online privacy violations. The culprits? Their parents.
“ This Video May Not Be Real ” (3:38) What should we really be worried about when it comes to “deepfakes”? An expert in online manipulation explains.
“ What Do We Do About Q? ” (10:27) The conspiracy theories seem ridiculous, but the consequences are real.
“ Love Factory ” (13:00) Livestreaming your life to a devoted audience is big business. What happens when the cameras are off?
Teachers might pair one of the films from the suggested list above with one of these writing prompts:
How Do You Decide What News to Believe, What to Question and What to Dismiss?
Do You Think Online Conspiracy Theories Can Be Dangerous?
Should Media Literacy Be a Required Course in School?
Or one of these lessons:
How to Deal With a Crisis of Misinformation
‘‘Belonging Is Stronger Than Facts”: The Age of Misinformation
Covid Test Misinformation Spikes Along With Spread of Omicron
Additionally, The Times has critically examined the role of mis- and disinformation in a three-video Opinion series called “ Operation Infektion ,” which examines how a fake news story from the pre-internet era has led to a “worldwide war on truth.”
To help students think deeply about their relationships with the news, you might invite them to audit their media intake, and then devise a personal “news diet” that works for them. Here is a lesson plan that can help . How can they use what they learned from the films to be more savvy news consumers?
A conversation with native americans on race, native americans challenge their invisibility in society..
I’m Apache, but really that’s the government’s name, because they can’t say “Dził Łigai N’dee.” They will tell me how awesome they think it is that I’ve decided to be a part of my culture. And it’s funny to me. It hits me really weird, and I don’t like it. And I didn’t know why at first, but it’s because I haven’t decided to be a part of my culture. I live it every day. I’m more comfortable with the term “native,” divorced from “Native American.” I know there are people who use “indigenous.” If there is one term I do not like to be called, it is “American Indian.” And for me, to be indigenous is to have an intimate and interconnected relationship to a homeland. And so that’s really important, because land is, you know, tied to every aspect of who we are. Being native in a city is almost a daily reminder of your people’s erasure. Of the fact that people don’t even remember that you’re here and that you exist. But what I did encounter was just this preconceived notion that all Native Americans are dead. I’ve had older white men come up to me and say, “Oh, man, if this was 40 years ago, I could just do whatever I wanted to you.” You know, the cattle outside doing the work and the dog inside the house, those are property. Those are the black folks in America. They are property to white men. Then the exotic antelope on the wall or the exotic — that’s how natives are perceived in America. We’re treated like animals. They monitor our blood quantum. I mean, besides dogs and horses, I don’t know of any other animal that they monitor the blood quantum. The way I explain it to people is, imagine a pizza with different slices, and let’s say 32 slices. Of the 32 slices, I’m 28 Apache. That’s my particular blood quantum. And Native Americans in the U.S. are the only minority group who have to prove their nativeness on an Indian card. It’s used to divide native people against each other, because it can be used as a way to say, I am more native than you. And I was a part of that, too. I used my 4 fourths to kind of make myself feel better against other people. The one drop rule, meaning that one drop of black blood makes you black, that was to keep as many people oppressed or legitimize their oppression as possible. But on the other side, one drop of anything else completely dilutes you as a native person. So if you’re a native person, you have the one drop of something else, then suddenly you’re less native. So it’s the opposite. Traditionally, within the Apache society, you go by the mother. And if the mother is recognized as Apache, she has her clan, the children are unquestionably Apache. Not in the American context, not when patriarchy trumps matriarchy. So what does that mean? My sisters are short 1/16 of a degree. What does that mean? Does it mean their pinkies aren’t Apache? What does that mean? You know, being a mixed race person is a whole other side of it, but that’s a very common experience in our tribe. So it’s not as if we’re unusual in that way. What is unusual is the admixture of black. My grandfather actually doesn’t want people — if he hears that somebody from the tribe is coming over, he won’t come out of his room. Because he doesn’t want them to know that he’s that complexion, that he doesn’t — I guess he doesn’t want me to be affiliated with having African-American blood. But I mean, I say it. It’s not going to change anything. If it were up to the American government, natives wouldn’t be around. Because after a certain time, that blood will dilute. It will go out. And so if there’s no native peoples to provide benefits, then we’re not obligated to meet these treaty rights. And if we’re not obligated to meet these treaty contracts, then the land is available, the resources are available. And I think that that essential point about our claim to sovereignty, our claim to land, our claim to a culture, our claim to resources is one that gets lost if we don’t insist upon the fact that we are nations. And we have taken huge steps to decolonizing, and that proof comes from people being able to have the opportunities to speak their language, to be on their ancestral land. But the thing with decolonization is that it’s an ongoing process, just like grieving, just like any loss. As much as possible now, I try to tell people that I have a Native American name, and maybe it doesn’t mean anything to you, but it means everything to me. My name, maybe, doesn’t have a romanticized, Hollywood Indian name, but my name has more meaning than that. My name means that my family survived. My family survived disease. My family survived Catholicism. My family survived settler colonialism, and my family, they survived. I survived. My existence is resistance. Me saying my name is Skiumtalx, that is resistance in and of itself.
Many of our films directly challenge issues of prejudice, discrimination, bias and stereotyping. A good place to start is our “ 26 Mini-Films for Exploring Race, Bias and Identity With Students ” collection that comes with numerous film choices, activities to have safe and productive conversations, and resources for further exploration.
These films examine race, ethnicity, age, disability and gender. As students watch, they might consider: In what ways do the films offer you a new perspective? In what ways do they provide you an opportunity to be seen and known? What role does media play in creating and disseminating stereotypes? In what ways can it be a vehicle for breaking them?
“ Coronavirus Racism Infected My High School ” (3:42) A Chinese American teenager on what she and her friends are encountering during the outbreak.
“ Never Too Old for a Tiara ” (6:02) The Ms. Senior America pageant caters to women who have experienced life in all of its joys and sorrows.
“ Perfectly Normal ” (12:01) Through music and relationships, a man with Asperger’s syndrome finds another way to be “normal.”
“ A Conversation With Native Americans on Race ” (6:23) Seven people with a range of perspectives on what it means to be Native American today.
“ Just Girls ” (13:00) From period pains and hip dips to bullying and catcalling, five girls talk about the trials of growing up.
“ I’m an Actor of Color. My Curls Aren’t Wanted. ” (3:07) A Dominican-American actor reflects on the hundreds of crew cuts he’s gotten over the course of his career in hopes of winning over casting directors who often have a limited vision of what a star actor should look like.
What kinds of stereotyping or prejudice do your students face or feel passionate about working against? How might they explore that through film?
Students can storyboard or create a public service announcement about stereotyping to raise awareness and prompt change. Invite them to consider: What would your message be? Who is the target audience? What would you hope audiences would learn or do? What audio and video elements would you include? What’s your tagline or slogan? For tips and a lesson plan on making a P.S.A., see this resource from Learning for Justice.
Or, teachers might pair a film from the suggested list with one of these writing prompts:
What Assumptions Have People Made About You Based on Your Race, Religion, Gender, the Way You Dress, or Anything Else?
How Much Racism Do You Face in Your Daily Life?
Should All Americans Receive Anti-Bias Education?
Is a Chinese-Style Prom Dress Worn by Someone Who Is Not Chinese Cultural Appropriation?
After parkland, turning trauma into change, samantha fuentes, 18, was hit by gunfire from an ar-15 rifle at marjory stoneman douglas high school last month. onstage, she’s helping to lead a national conversation about gun control. behind the scenes, she’s reeling from mental and physical trauma..
“— our future. I say, get your résumés ready.” My name is Samantha Fuentes and I am a survivor of the Stoneman Douglas school shooting. “It’s as if we need permission to ask our friends not to die! Lawmakers and politicians will scream, ‘Guns are not the issue,’ but can’t look me in the eye. [sputtering] I just threw up on international television, and it feels great!” [cheering] You don’t see us when we get offstage. You don’t see us when the cameras turn off. You don’t see when you have panic attacks or when you cry, and you cry, and you can’t stop crying. “You all right?” [sobbing] [yelling] “Yeah, Sam!” “Thank you so much.” “Woo!” When I got shot, the bullet was deferred into a wall first, before hitting me, and then broke apart. So I have pieces of metal in my face. And like, I can stick my finger on the top of my lip and feel a piece of metal. And that alone — that’s not normal. Like, there’s nothing normal about having metal in your face, unless it’s braces. When I got to D.C., I really didn’t know what to expect. “D.C.’s honestly really pretty. I wish I could appreciate it more, but I can’t.” I feel like sometimes I’m not the right person, or maybe this isn’t my job. Or maybe, as an 18-year-old, like, this isn’t the path that I was supposed to take. “This is for MSNBC.” “We have another 14.” “I can move, also.” “We can move somewhere else.” “I’m just not ready for this. I’m sorry.” “It’s O.K.” “I’m sorry.” “Yeah, we’re going somewhere else.” “O.K., cool.” “These are some of the families from Parkland.” “Hi, I’m Josh.” “Oh. No, no, it’s fine.” Ever since the shooting, I have been suffering from PTSD. You don’t really think you notice it at first, until, like, something sets you off. Sometimes when someone beeps their horn or they slam their door, or if someone, like, sneezes too loudly, it freaks me out. “I’m really honored to have a chance to meet with you. And you guys have really been through a lot, haven’t you?” “Yeah.” “I’d really love to just hear what’s on your mind, how you guys are doing.” “I don’t ever want someone to be in my position. I don’t ever want someone to be afraid of loud noises and afraid to go to school. And I think, out of all the people who can speak efficiently about the topic are the people who have been in front of a barrel of an AR-15.” “The voice of moral authority that you all have is just a really, really powerful voice. It’s really powerful.” Some people don’t believe that participating in a cause will ever make a difference. “So I would like to bring to the stage a poet from Stoneman Douglas, Samantha Fuentes.” And some people don’t believe that they matter. [applause] And if you’re just that one person, just speak up for yourself. Just having those ears available and having those faces to look at and to speak to is the first step. “Can my present love breach the past tense? Does loving the dead make any sense? I love you. I love you. I love you. Will you come back to this place?” I feel like I’ve been changed. Like, maybe not — like, yes, maybe physically. But like, I feel like something more is there, like, when I look at myself. Like, there is this feeling that I really can’t wrap my head around that, like, just confuses me. And like, it always happens when I look at myself in the mirror. And like, I have to realize that I’m not the same person and I had no control of that transformation. “Today is March 24, the March for Our Lives.” “Protect our schools like we do our other government establishments! And one more request — listen. [cheering] Will you give up, or is enough enough?” [cheering]
Film Club has chronicled change makers big and small, past and present. And many feature young activists, such as Greta Thunberg, who is leading a global fight against climate change; a victim of the Parkland High School shooting who pushes for gun control; and the Young Lords, Puerto Rican activists who took over a hospital in the 1970s to demand accessible health care.
These films show us how to channel pain and anger into action, explore the variety of ways we can make change, and prove that you’re never too young to try to make a difference.
Responding to the 2019 film, “ After Parkland, Turning Trauma Into Change, ” Olivia Pereira, from Providence, R.I., wrote:
I find it so empowering that throughout going through the school shooting and now suffering with PTSD, this young woman has still built enough strength to speak at protests, speak in this documentary, and travel to D.C. to be another’s young voice making an attempt at tackling the poor gun laws.
As they watch any of the films below, students might consider: How can we identify problems, their causes and effects, and become agents of change? What are effective ways to bring about action? How can you apply the lessons you learned from the film to your issues facing you and your community?
“ Greta Thunberg Has Given Up on Politicians ” (7:48) The 18-year-old Swedish activist argues that the climate crisis cannot be solved within today’s political and economic systems.
“ Takeover ” (38:24) In 1970, the Young Lords, a Puerto Rican activist group, occupied a hospital in the Bronx demanding safer and more accessible health care. What can we learn from this overlooked history?
“ ‘I’m Worried That I Will Die:’ Hong Kong Protesters Write Final Goodbyes ” (3:10) Letters written by young protesters to their loved ones chronicle the mental and emotional state of frontliners coming to terms with risking death for their beliefs.
“ Meek Mill: Prisoners Deserve a New Set of Rights ” (2:26) The multiplatinum hip-hop artist and advocate of criminal justice reform, describes how men and women of color are treated unfairly by a broken criminal justice system.
“ After Parkland, Turning Trauma Into Change ” (5:09) Onstage, Samantha Fuentes is helping to lead a national conversation about gun control. Behind the scenes, she’s reeling from mental and physical trauma.
“ Taking a Knee and Taking Down A Monument ” (11:00) In a Louisiana town, a mother navigates racial tensions that flare up around her son’s wish to take a knee during the national anthem, and her own wish to have a local Confederate monument removed.
What issues matter to your students? How do they affect your community? What are teenagers willing to stand up for — in small or big ways?
Teachers might pair the films with one of these writing prompts:
What Are You Doing to Change Your School?
Is Your Generation Doing Its Part to Strengthen Our Democracy?
Do You Think Teenagers Can Make a Difference in the World?
Then, students might create a civic self-portrait or a civic action plan to identify the issues that are important to them and develop clear steps to address and remedy the problems. See “ From Reflection to Action: A Choosing to Participate Toolkit ” from Facing History and Ourselves for these and more resources and ideas.
Another creative option? Students can create an Instagram post using a design website like Canva . Their post should outline the problem, causes, effects, and possible solutions or recommendations for action. They can look at some of the examples from the article “ Swipe-Through Activist Guides Are the New Zines ” to see how activists are using Instagram to educate and create change.
Jeremy Engle joined The Learning Network as a staff editor in 2018 after spending more than 20 years as a classroom humanities and documentary-making teacher, professional developer and curriculum designer working with students and teachers across the country. More about Jeremy Engle
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15 creative video project ideas for students (and their teachers)
Fall is here. The leaves are starting to change color and teachers everywhere are asking the same question: How do I come up with video project ideas for my students?
Video has been a staple learning tool for decades. But having students create, design, and edit video projects themselves is becoming a much more common classroom activity. Video projects are a great way to help students of all ages actively engage with subject matter and learn from one another.
Online apps like Biteable make it easy for students to turn video ideas for school into a reality. Templates and easy-to-use editing tools keep the process simple and offer plenty of inspiration for student video projects.
To help teachers and students alike leverage video as an educational tool , we’ve gathered our favorite creative video project ideas for students. Each idea comes with a ready-to-edit video template so you and your students can get started right away.
Create videos that drive action
Activate your audience with impactful, on-brand videos. Create them simply and collaboratively with Biteable.
Elementary student video project ideas
It can be tricky to keep young students interested and engaged all day long. Creating videos gives elementary students a fun, creative way to learn about anything. And student-created videos are an amazing classroom learning supplement. If a video is produced by their peers, interest will skyrocket.
1. Create a book trailer
Instead of a traditional book report, have students design a movie-style trailer that drums up excitement about a novel or a non-fiction book. Creating a book trailer gives students the opportunity to think creatively, share a story with their classmates, and reinforce their learning in a new way.
2. Give a video tour
To supplement social studies curriculum, students can create a video showing off a significant location or their favorite part of the school. If you have a field trip planned, ask students to share their experience by recording videos throughout the day and adding voice over narration.
A video tour of the school is also a great way to share the campus with new students and visitors. As a way to pass the torch before they leave for middle school, how about asking your fifth graders to collaborate on an orientation video for incoming kindergarteners?
3. Celebrate the holidays
There’s always something to celebrate, no matter what time of year it is. Have students film letters to Santa, make video Valentines for parents or grandparents, or make short educational videos about lesser known holidays. Students can even create simple, digital thank-you notes for classroom visitors or parent volunteers.
4. Recreate a moment in history
Learning about historical people and events? Have your students research and recreate major moments in history, like the story of Rosa Parks or the Oregon Trail.
Videos help students visualize and remember these important moments. It also gives students the opportunity to experiment with digital storytelling. And students will be challenged to bring each scene to life accurately.
5. Try stop-motion video
Video learning isn’t limited to literary or historical topics. Encourage students to use stop-motion or create their own slides to explain science experiments or other STEM projects. With the right footage, like Biteable’s extensive collection of clay animation footage, students won’t even need to build stop motion models. They can just focus on the presentation and storytelling in their video.
Video project ideas for middle and high school students
Video projects for high schoolers can be a little more advanced, as students should be practicing editing and narrative skills in addition to learning about new topics.
6. Create a news channel
To supplement learning in a current events class, have your students film a news broadcast covering both local and international events.
Ask students to take on certain roles in the newsroom: anchor, sports reporter, weather reporter, or entertainment correspondent. Doing a news segment helps everyone get involved and promotes teamwork.
7. Start a portfolio
Many high school students are thinking about college applications. Give them the chance to jumpstart their applications with a portfolio video project and showcase what makes them unique.
Art students can show off their best work and design skills. Students applying to traditional schools can answer an application question or create a video showcasing their community service and extracurriculars.
8. Promote a good cause
Rather than writing a traditional essay or report, have students create a video advocating for a cause that’s important to them. This helps students build their identity and develop persuasive skills. And students can share their promotional video with everyone, not just their teacher and classmates.
9. Questions for your future self
Think ahead with a video full of inspiring questions This project is great for incoming freshmen. At the beginning of the year, have students create videos with questions for their future self or with goals for their life and career. At graduation, send the videos back to them. It’s a fun, positive way to celebrate their success throughout high school.
Higher ed video project ideas
Higher education might not seem like the place for student-made videos. But in the real world, businesses use video for all sorts of things. Video projects build plenty of resume-worthy skills that college students can take with them to the workforce.
10. Create a university promotion video
It’s easy to forget that colleges and universities are businesses, too. And they need help with promotion. A solid college or university promotion video could open opportunities for internships or college employment. Promoting something that they’re already familiar with is a great way for students to build video persuasion skills.
11. Record and edit interviews
Being able to conduct a good interview and edit it in a way that’s appropriate for the purpose of the interview is a valuable skill in multiple industries. And interviewing experts in the field is appropriate for just about any class.
12. Make a video self-assessment
Grades are important. But being able to self-assess is also an incredibly valuable way for students to incrementally improve at any skill.
Making video self-assessments gives students a more active role in the grading process and offers them a creative way to highlight the work they’ve put into a course. It also gives them a chance to make an argument for the grade they feel they deserve — a skill that easily correlates to performance reviews in their future workplace.
13. Film a job interview guide
For most people, the interview is the most nerve-wracking part of getting a job. Practicing interview questions is a great way to prepare. But most students don’t know how to prepare for a job interview.
Creating a job interview how-to guide is a perfect way for students to learn how to prepare for a job interview and help other students prepare at the same time.
14. Create a video presentation based on a written assignment
Written assignments are the backbone of a university education (in most disciplines, at least). However, the audience for most written assignments is limited to the professor and assistants. Creating presentation videos for their assignments gives students the opportunity to share their hard work with their fellow students, while also learning valuable video editing skills.
15. Build a video resume
For most students, the job search starts even before graduation. A video resume helps students highlight the skills they acquired and the experience they gained during college. And, given the global workforce, a video resume is a great supplement to a paper resume, especially when applying for remote or distant positions where an in-person interview may not be an option.
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