Like our students, we love watching movies. They entertain us and allow us to escape, but they can also bring historical and social movements to life, teach us about the experiences of other cultures, and even help us better understand ourselves. While we could never support using movies in the classroom as a “babysitting tool,” we do believe that movies can certainly enhance our curriculum, stimulate discussion, and facilitate learning when they are tied to specific learning objectives.
Bringing movies into the classroom just got a lot easier thanks to a teaching resource called Teach with Movies. Here you’ll find a massive database of free lesson plans tied to a wide variety of movies. Teachers can browse alphabetically, by subject (English, social studies, sciences), or by age appropriateness.
Every film on the site has been carefully assessed for historical and artistic merit and accompanying learning guides explain the rationale for using a particular movie as well as its potential benefits and problems associated with it. Say, for example, you wanted to show West Side Story. Here’s some of the information you’d find:
Rationale for Using the Movie
West Side Story can be of benefit to students studying Romeo and Juliet as it helps them understand the timeless and universal nature of Shakespeare's themes. The film is one of the best of its genre. The story explores the meaning of romantic attachment, the danger of bad associations, the risks of revenge, the unpredictability and futility of fighting, the evils of prejudice, and the problems inherent in disrespect for authority. Students will be motivated to complete research and writing assignments based on this movie.
Objectives/Student Outcomes Using This Learning Guide
Students will gain awareness of how modern filmmakers adapt old stories to communicate ageless messages; they will be introduced to the musical as an art form. Assignments at the end of the film require students to exercise research and writing skills.
Minor. Disrespect for all authority is shown.
In addition to the learning guides, teachers will be pleased to find vocabulary builders, discussion questions, class projects, and a “helpful background” section that can be used to stimulate class discussions or serve as the basis for lectures.