“Miss, can we have a free day? Like watch a movie or somethin’?”
In a course that consistently moves at the speed of light, slowing down for a flick is a frequent request. Well, why not give them what they want while still managing to get what you want?
“Sure, class…let’s do just that.” The teacher glides over to the DVD player as thirty sets of blinking eyes light up like fireworks. Oh yes, kiddies, learning CAN be fun.
A meaningful and deliberately-planned documentary pick is a great way to energize the class under any circumstance. As bright-eyed and bushy-tailed as they often are, our population of accelerated-level students have their days too…but calling a study hall day because they are unmotivated, or because you need time to grade, or because your lesson plans grew legs and hit the pavement, or because of high absences due to some blasted TLE…well, this doesn’t always do us justice with the time frame we are working with, especially since we have to compete with other breakdowns in seamless instruction (like district diagnostics, and ice cream socials, and testing, and end-of-course exams, and school-wide presentations, and…and…and…).
In fact, if you plan the lesson carefully, the documentary teaches itself. Having a group-related activity to incline the group to problem-solve is crucial, for example. Prior to the start of the film, set your intentions; let the students know what they are seeking.
Let’s use 180 Degrees South, a documentary I mentioned in a previous post, as an example. Since this story concerns the preservation of the natural environment in light of a modernizing world, you could open class with a GP essay prompt such as:
- Can a country preserve its culture nowadays when continually subjected to outside influences?
- How far do we agree that, in spite of all the changes in society, traditional values always remain best?
- How far do you agree that the pleasurable things in life are bad for you?
- Is a world dominated by science a dream or a nightmare for future generations?
- Discuss the advantages and disadvantages of industrial development.
- Does the modern world place too much reliance on technology?
Perhaps have them talk it out first, activating what they know currently. Then watch the clip. Then write about it. (Information gleaned from the above documentary can be used to argue a point in any of these essay topics.)
But first, it would be smart to model for students how such connections between information gathering and essay writing are made before expecting them to successfully engage in this type of exercise.
Use something familiar, such as Supersize Me, for example, alongside the prompt: “Consider the view that the key to good health is not medicine, but lifestyle.” Most kids have at least heard about Supersize Me before, so you can probably get away with a quick summary. Ask them to discuss how they would use this information in said GP essay prompt. Lead them gently to the connection. Then perhaps show them what a sample paragraph of this task would look like in its finished product…I usually draft up my own to ensure that it has all the right teachable moments, but if you want to put a few Supersize Me facts on the board and have them do a practice round, go for it!
Once they know what is expected of them, students can begin to set their sights on finding the answer that leads to the grade. 😉 Since we want the GP classroom to be highly interactive–where kids share and debate issues with one another in order to see multiple perspectives before drawing conclusions–let them do this practice activity in collaborative groups. Have the groups present for added exposure to ideas. After all, we know that our lessons are much more than ‘just a grade.’ 😉
If the group uses the documentary information as an example in favor of the prompt, have each student independently research an opposing idea to work against the prompt as homework.
See, kiddies?! Learning IS fun!
They’d never believe us otherwise 😉
Well, I take that back, actually. Lots of high school students were intrigued (and even moved to action) by the the Koney 2012 movement this past year, a message spread via documentary. And with the ever-popular YouTube generation, it’s no secret that society, especially teenagers, like visual stimulation.
There are a million activities one could do with a documentary, and I’m sure showing educational videos in your classroom is nothing ground-breaking here. But the purpose of this post is to share some “GP-relevant” documentaries along with your own idea of how to get our classrooms to come to life alongside them.
Here’s my own personal list of documentaries so far. (I like to show a doc during the same week that I give an essay because, as it plays, I can conduct individual conferences with student writers as I grade.) Please NOTE: though documentaries are not rated, which means they don’t need parent signature to approve viewing, I’d be very careful to view each flick first to ensure the content is appropriate for your level of students. In some of these, I skip scenes to avoid violence, language, etc. As you know, the topics we study are often mature, so we need to be vigilant in filtering out inappropriate material.
Here are a few that I like or a few that I plan to look into this summer:
180 Degrees South (of course)
And for the motherboard of all documentary links, check out the Top Documentary Films website. I would suggest scanning here for ideas, then do more finely-tuned research elsewhere to ensure that the film is appropriate, etc. Again, always use your best judgment and adhere to school policies.
Ok, fire away! What have you watched that would get your GP stamp of approval? POST IT!