Movies in schools

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An overnight post about movies in schools caught my attention. Nick Caumanns wrote:

Spending a few days writing FSA tests is no more wasteful of instructional time than all the ‘movie afternoons’ my kids got all through elementary school. The ENTIRE school in the gym watching a movie!”

Although he was writing about the FSA and not the movies, it touches on an issue that has bothered me for a long time and something I have heard other parents complain about too (although no one ever agreed to be quoted, often for fear of a backlash).

I protested when my daughter’s Grade 7 class watched almost a dozen Hollywood movies during class time and again in high school when her class watched Chicken Run during English 11, Troy (starring Brad Pitt) in a Grade 10 class, The Count of Monte Cristo in a Grade 10 French class (although the movie was in English) and Happy Gilmore (starring Adam Sandler) during a Career and Personal Planning class. That isn’t the whole list, but it’s representative. I discussed my concerns with teachers, principals and a superintendent but was mostly brushed off. The only real explanation I got was that movies are a “motivational tool”, although one principal defended Chicken Run by saying it could be used as an example of “humour, sarcasm and other literary devices.”

There are fabulous DVDs that tie in nicely with the curriculum. Check the Educational Resource Acquisition Consortium’s website. I wrote about ERAC a few years ago, noting that districts pay a fee to belong and gain access to resources that aren’t available commercially. Some schools and districts also buy licences from Audio Cine Films (ACF), which represents major studios and big-name movies. It’s that licence that allows teachers to get movies from rental stores, although they must report usage.

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  • Michele Mulholland says:

    When I was in Grade 12 (a few decades ago) we watched “the Shining” and then had to write an essay on it.

  • What a waste of time says:

    It is a chance for teachers to catch up on paperwork and marking, things they should be doing outside of instructional time. Showing hollywood movies during class time is a cop out. Learning can be fun and there are great documentaries and other films. There is no need for blockbusters in classrooms except if you are trying to keep a bunch of kids quiet so you can turn your attention elsewhere. What a waste of time.

  • Tunya Audain says:

    Movies and FSA’s are not the issue here The above story, about how many, and which kind of movies, and the why’s and wherefores for these movies, is not the issue here, to my mind anyway. Nor is the issue that movies are being used as a babysitting device while FSA’s are being written. But, we should not miss the excellent observation made in one comment that movies, unless absolutely pedagogically justified, give a LIE to the teacher union excuse that every precious minute in the classroom is important, therefore, FSA’s waste precious time!  Such hypocrisy! No, that’s not the story here. These are the items in the story that made MY antennae flash: – I protested when my daughter’s Grade 7 class watched almost a dozen Hollywood movies during class time… – “…something I have heard other parents complain about too (although no one ever agreed to be quoted, often for fear of a backlash). – I discussed my concerns with teachers, principals and a superintendent but was mostly brushed off.” These above comments are by a parent, who is the education reporter for the Vancouver Sun, Janet Steffenhagen.  Here’s THE story, the question!  Why are parents treated so dismissively? In a private school parents are not treated this way.  They are NOT captive audiences as they are in the government monopoly system. Sure, using market language, they are consumers, customers. For example, I’d much rather buy my postage at the 7-11 than the few postal outlets still existing.  Remember when there was no postal choice, just the government monopoly post office – poor service, snarly clerks, “take-it-or-lump-it” attitude… So why do the teachers, principals and superintendents act like they’re running a covert operation?  Why so defensive?  Isn’t this just the kind of behavior that invites further questions, like:  What are you hiding?  How many more time-wasters are there when every school moment is “precious”?  Why can’t you talk to parents as if they’re intelligent and just want some respect? I’ve had 40 years as a parent advocate and I picked up right away on this theme of rebuffed, “brushed off” parents.  Am I being oversensitive?  See my 2007 article on the topic:  “Teacher Bashing a Myth” and accompanying cartoon.…/cartoons JS responds: In fairness, it’s not that no one would give me the time of day. In fact, the elementary school teacher and principal were quite willing to talk to me about it, but saw no reason to change. (I wish I could remember the names of the movies  — one was Amadeus, some were Disney animations. And there was no “educational discussion” of the movies, as suggested above.) At the high-school level, the superintendent of the day told me it was not a good use of time and it would stop. But it didn’t.

  • Karin LItzcke says:

    In my experience movies are most often used to while away the last week or two of school before Christmas or summer holidays when I can only assume that teachers have run out of material to teach… or the steam to do it, for which I fault no one. Terms are long and hard. I think the arrangement of the school year – ten months of running flat out with two months of vacuum – is absurd for all concerned. I have had occasional problems with the movies selected and in some cases wished I had been asked for permission prior to certain movies being shown, as the repercussions play out at home. But mostly I would have no problem with watching movies in class as everyone needs a little down time. EXCEPT when I am insulted in return for my acceptance and tolerance by being subjected to a hysterical anti-testing campaign that claims that every second of class time is precious, or for that matter, that anyone is concerned about harming kids with testing when they seem to indiscriminately show them movies that cause night terrors.

  • John Puddifoot says:

    This occurred to me during the FSA debate too. The amount of time taken up by the FSA is small compared to the time the kids spend watching movies. The information that I got was that these movie periods allow for teacher release time. That is the teachers have other work duties to perform within the school, and showing the kids a movie allows them to get on with this other work. As to if the tasks undertaken while the kids watch the movie must be performed during hours the school is in session, that is anybody’s guess. Re which movies, there are certainly any number of movie adaptations of plays that would be very valid to show in schools. Shakespeare movies come to mind, as the plays must really be seen, and not just read, and some are a lot of fun too. This would help engage the class. However, watching these movies as “homework” would also work, and not take up class time. I don’t see much use for some of the films listed above other than entertainment though: they could choose much better titles with better educational value if they need these movies at all. That being said, I do remember at least two classes I took at the masters level in organisational behaviour at UBC where a major assignment was to evaluate the social dynamics in the movie. There was a specific list of approved movies, and we did watch them outside of class, but there is educational value in many films if coupled with correct teaching methodology. The analysis of some very mundane movies yielded some surprising insights into how organisations functioned.

  • Jon says:

    Ummm… maybe schools are -exactly- where children need to interact with these important elements of the popular culture. Where better to learn how to properly approach the stream of mediocre media shoved at the modern adult (not to mention teenager) than in a classroom by a professional instructor? The average student’s time is wasted ad infinitum in a typical North American high school, and it has nothing to do with movies. You can start with thirty person classes and the quality of teachers. You can keep going, of course.

  • Librarian says:

    This makes it seem like belonging to ERAC gives districts access to special materials that they can immediately use in the classroom. ERAC negotiates software and learning resources deals for districts and evaluates learning resources, including educational DVD and video. These DVDs and videos are available commercially; districts and schools still need to buy these resources. Also, an ACF license does not allow teachers to get movies from rental stores. Anyone can rent movies and show them. The ACF license makes it legal to show certain motion pictures in schools, under certain circumstances. Schools must have public performance rights to show videos and DVDs and the ACF license is one avenue for this.