Using Film in Classrooms

Using film in class shouldn’t only be relegated to the last day of term and tenuously linked to your scheme of work (like watching The Life of Pi in maths) There are so many ways film can be an incredible boost to your lessons and pupils’ engagement of them. One of my favourite memories of my English-teaching career was watching a group of self-confessed bad boys glued to David Lean’s 1946 classic adaptation of Great Expectations. Not what I was expecting; in many ways greater. It’s true that Dickens’ prose can seem almost impenetrable to many young (and old!) people, but consolidating our reading with a viewing really helped join the dots for so many of my pupils. It wasn’t a substitute though, more a TA to the papery teacher.

But that’s not where my use of film in class ended. I used to film pupils giving presentations and go through them together to offer tips on how to improve; I used to get pupils to film me and then go through them with my mentor to offer tips on how to improve; I used to film confrontations with pupils wearing too much makeup and then offer advice to their lips and how to remove. Last one wasn’t true. The point is that film in class is a fantastic resource which I’m sure many of you are already using to help enhance the experience and understanding of pupils across the key stages.

It’s an inconvenient truth that young people these days (for these days see the last 40 years) are far more likely to watch a screen than read a book, so why fight it? I’m not saying bring up a YouTube video for every lesson, but consider how film could bring an additional level of comprehension into your teaching and involve the whole class in your productions. You don’t have to be fresh from film school either – most new phones or laptops come with incredibly intuitive editing software and shooting from your phone now provides perfectly usable footage which is more than capable of capturing what you need. Did you know that acclaimed director Steven Soderbergh’s latest film, Unsane, was shot entirely on an iPhone? Well now you do. You’re welcome.

If you really want to treat your tutor group, make a short film when it’s your turn to head up the year’s assembly. We had a riot making these, using the 10 minutes from our tutor time for a week and then cutting together at the weekend. We would come up with a theme (usually some kind of religious moral – it was a Catholic school) and then tether the story to this, usually involving bullying, trainers or the Kardashians – the Holy Trinity. By the time we had finished in the summer, my year 7s had four films to take away from our time together and that’s a really special memento for them to take forward into later life. Perhaps they could even serve as an inspiration to the next Bigalow or Coogler – or Mrs Brown’s Boys… Please God no.