There have been quite a few wholesome, family-friendly movies popping up in the theaters recently. How can I take advantage of the opportunity and use these and other movies for school?
Yes, Hollywood has finally figured out that moviegoers prefer movies with pro-Christian, moral, family-friendly content. And with 76% of Americans calling themselves Christians, Hollywood sees dollar signs. Whatever the reason, I too am glad to see the change.
Movies are great teaching tools. We can glean all kinds of lessons from them, from critical thinking, to language arts, to history and/or science. While we don’t want to ruin the entertainment value of the movie, I haven’t yet seen a child reject the idea of watching movies in the name of school. Here are a few ideas:
Movies Based On Books
Movies are often based on written works. In our family, we usually read the book before watching the movie. Then we compare and contrast the written work and the visual work. To compare, we point out the similarities in the works. To contrast, we point out the differences in the works. Here is a Venn Diagram Lapbook Component and a Venn Diagram Notebook Page to organize comparisons and contrasts.
If you want to go a bit deeper, Homeschool Share has oodles of free unit studies and lapbooks for some of the books that have been made into movies. If the movie stays fairly true to the book, the units and lapbook components can be utilized for both. Some examples of what is available for Free at Homeschool Share include:
(Note: As with all Homeschool Share materials, it is recommended that parents preview movies for suitability for your family)
(Disclosure: Clicking on the videos and buying them through Homeschool Share’s affiliate links will help us to continue to provide FREE Unit Studies and Lapbooks to the homeschool community!)
Lapbook Any Movie
My teens and I designed a lapbook that can be used with any movie. You can download the Movie Lapbook for Free on Homeschool Share. It is probably best for middle schoolers and older, but some components and/or lessons can be used with younger children. It encourages children to look at the deeper meanings of movies, examining the genre, theme, motive, characterization, propaganda, and theatrical elements. You can see my teen assemble her Movie Lapbook for The Music Man HERE. Not into lapbooking? The lessons can stand on their own; just have children respond to what they learn in written or oral form.
Analyze and Respond
Children can respond to what they see and hear in oral or written form. MOVIEGUIDE is in the business of reviewing scripts and films for studios and families. They analyze movies in a comprehensive way, to see how to best give the audience what they want and puts lots of money in the movie makers’ pockets. Older children, especially, can use MOVIEGUIDE’S comprehensive analysis points for discussion or their own written analysis. For an essay assignment, choose one or two points for your high school student to describe what is observed in the watching of the movie. Here are the points:
Aesthetically: By looking at the movie’s artistic value and by looking at how well the movie is made, just as other reviewers do.
Emotively: By looking at how the movie captures and amuses the audience as entertainment and amusement.
Semantically: By looking at the individual elements, such as words, nudity and incidents of violence, and their meanings, just as many parents do.
Syntactically: By looking at how the movie’s elements come together and how the pieces and characters relate to each other, just as many teenagers and single adults do.
Propositionally: By looking at what the movie is communicating, as summarized in the movie’s premise of the movie.
Generically: By comparing it to other movies in its genre.
Thematically: By looking at the themes present in the movie.
Morally: By looking at the movie’s moral perspective and content.
Biblically: By looking at the biblical perspective and biblical principles in the movie.
Systematically: By looking at how the movie relates to other movies in various ways, including by screenwriter, producer, director, studio, nationality, style, film genre, etc.
Economically: By looking at how the movie does at the box office and how its box office gross compares to other movies.
Intellectually: By looking at how the movie fulfills its goals and premise.
Sociologically: By looking at how the movie relates to culture and society.
Politically: By looking at the movie’s political perspective.
Cognitively: By looking at the age group to whom the movie is marketed, the age group for whom it is suitable, and how it will impact a particular age group.
Psychologically: By looking at how the movie deals with the mind, the emotions, the will, and the soul.
Historically: By looking at how accurate the movie is in presenting history.
Sexually: By looking at how the movie deals with sex and sexual relationships.
Philosophically: By looking at the movie’s philosophical perspective and worldview.
Ontologically: By looking at how the movie deals with the nature of being.
Epistemologically: By looking at how the movie deals with the nature of knowing.
Spiritually: By looking at how the movie deals with God, faith and religion.
Critical thinking can be developed by the formulating of a good movie review. A movie review is not simply a summary or an unsupported opinion of what the viewer thought of the movie. A movie review will include information about the movie, and the reviewer’s opinion of how well the producers succeeded at presenting the story on film. A good review presents evidence to support this opinion. The writer of a movie review tries to give the reader enough information to decide whether or not he wants to see the movie, but not so much as to spoil the enjoyment of watching it. A good reviewer never gives away the ending! Here are the steps to writing and publishing a good movie review, as I’ve outlined in the Movie Lapbook.
Before Your Review:
To write a good movie review, you need to know the movie thoroughly. This requires careful, attentive viewing, and sometimes a second viewing. The viewer should also be familiar with the characteristics of the various genres, and be able to identify those characteristics in the movie. For instance, it would be wrong to criticize a science fiction movie for not having a realistic setting.
As you watch, make a list of especially good or especially weak scenes. Keep a mental (or written, if you prefer) summary of each scene, and think about the following questions:
Does anything confuse you?
Are you enjoying the movie?
Does it leave any questions unanswered?
What is your general impression of the movie?
Was it exciting or dull and predictable?
Did you learn anything from it?
What was most real and believable about it?
Which parts were especially good and memorable?
Which characters are the most believable and lifelike?
What truth about life is revealed?
Writing Your Review:
1. Opening or introduction – Write a good paragraph briefly summarizing the movie. Include the title, starring actors, and genre. You can briefly discuss the theme of the movie, and state the specific theme you want to cover in the review.
2. Body of Review – The body of your review will have paragraphs including:
a. The Movie’s Story and your opinion or reaction to it, including examples from the movie.
b. The Characters and your opinion or reaction to them, including examples from the movie.
c. The Movie Techniques and your opinion or reaction to them, including examples from the movie.
d. The Message and your opinion or reaction to it, including whether or not you thought it was successfully conveyed.
3. Ending – End your review with a paragraph or two that tells your overall opinion and the effectiveness of the story, and a recommendation to view or not to view.
4. Publication – After you have checked and rechecked your completed review for any spelling, grammar or punctuation errors, publish your review. You can post your review at http://www.amazon.com, or at http://www.swapadvd.com/ , or feel free to leave your review right here in the comments section of this post!
So, What Are You Waiting For?
Having a hard time figuring out what is worth watching and what isn’t? Check out these sites that provide reviews and insights from a Christian perspective.
So grab the popcorn, snuggle up, and watch some movies together, all in the name of school, of course!