Movies in the Classroom: A No or Go?

Across the country, Smart Boards have become a mainstay of every high school classroom. With this advanced technology, teachers have the ability to project any media from the internet onto their classroom’s whiteboard. Smart boards have unlocked many new learning opportunities for students, as their teachers now have access to every movie and video the World Wide Web has to offer. In turn, content related films have become a major component of modern day education. However, the strength in the correlation between the movies shown in class by teachers and the course content has frequently been challenged by school administrators. The convenient accessibility of movies to the educators of our nation has raised the following question: Are movies in the classroom a deterrent from curriculum, or a powerful learning tool?

At North Attleboro High School, the use of film in the classroom has proven to be an asset to the education of the students.

According to the staff handbook, “All videos or movies shown at NAHS must directly relate to the curriculum being taught at the time of the showing.”

The teachers of NAHS strictly adhere to the rules of the handbook by strategically implementing movies and videos in their lesson plans in order to build student interest, meet additional learning styles, and support notes and lectures. Unlike the unmotivated teachers who have given film in the classroom a bad name by substituting lesson plans for irrelevant videos, the educators at North Attleboro High School exclusively show movies to reinforce curriculum.

For example, many teachers at NAHS use a series of online videos called TED Talks to develop student interest in content. TED Talks broadcast a wide variety of intriguing speeches made by influential people. Although they are predominantly shown in English classes, TED Talk contain subject material applicable to nearly any academic area.

In her Creative Writing course, NAHS English teacher Mrs. Rushlow shares a TED Talk featuring best-selling author, Elizabeth Gilbert, to inspire her students as writers. Senior Tyler Sullivan described this film as “the best video he has ever seen in school.”

“Gilbert’s words truly resonated with me,” Sullivan admitted. “That Ted Talk actually inspired me to read her book Eat, Pray, Love.

Additionally, many History teachers at NAHS share historical documentaries with their classes to give their students an accurate depiction of a certain era. Senior Neha Doddipalli explained that her U.S. History teacher, Mrs. Flanders, provided her with a strong understanding of the course’s curriculum by embedding movie clips in her PowerPoints.

“After every slide of notes Mrs. Flanders gave us, she included a short video that elaborated on the topic,” Doddipalli shared. “I am a visual learner, so these clips enabled me to create a clear mental image of the time period we were learning about.”

NAHS Principal Mr. Juelis described the way he used video clips in a similar way to Mrs. Flanders back when he was a teacher.

 “I attempted to use shorter clips and parts of movies to create foundational knowledge, as well as to expand on the work being done in class.” explained Mr. Juelis. “Students have different learning styles and movies/documentaries/films could provide a powerful visual to what students have read or discussed in class when done in combination with these different activities.”

Likewise, NAHS Science teacher Mrs. Montagna shows her Earth science class the movie Dante’s Peak to enhance their comprehension of the scientific material.

“I feel that Dante’s Peak contains interlocking connections to the course curriculum that provide my students with a greater understanding of the content,” said Mrs. Montagna.

Additionally, several teachers at North Attleboro High School share videos with their classes as a way of keeping their students engaged on days where they might have trouble concentrating. On some Fridays before school vacations and after standardized testing, NAHS Spanish teacher Ms. Hanley shows her students a Spanish television series that directly relates to the course content, entitled El Internado.

El Internado is fascinating and academic,” explained senior Angela DeJesus. “After taking the MCAS test sophomore year, my entire Spanish class was completely brain dead. However, when Ms. Hanley put El Internado on for us to watch, we were immediately captivated. It was amazing how we could familiarize ourselves with the Spanish language as we were watching something we actually enjoyed!”

Aside from keeping students on task, El Internado also serves as an powerful supplement to the videos that come with the Spanish textbook.

“The textbook videos are very outdated,” said Ms. Hanley. “As a [Spanish] department we decided we were going to have to find something more modern (El Internado) to hold student interest.”

In essence, as demonstrated at the North Attleboro High School, film in the classroom can be an effective learning device. Although some administrators may argue that movies occupy too much class time, or serve as a distraction to students from core curriculum, if the appropriate videos are shown, they will a have tremendous academic benefit. In a world of such advanced technology, it would be shameful to inhibit the educators of our nation from using media to their advantage in the classroom.   

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