The adventures of a fourth grade teacher in East Central Illinois.

Watching Movies with a Purpose

I have used movies in my classroom with different frequency in different years. With my class this year, I haven’t used very many movies or videos. I have used a few though, but they’ve all been on days I was gone. So even though it is December and we are less than two weeks away from the end of the first semester, today was the first day that we watched a movie in my class while I was there.

We are wrapping up our unit on European exploration and are getting ready to learn about early American colonies. The movie I selected was a summary of exploration. I wanted to make sure that my students weren’t just watching and I wasn’t just hoping that they were gleaning important information from it. The DVD case came with a quiz with questions that actually supported what we have been discussing in our class so, with a few modifications, I was able to write up a worksheet for the students to complete while watching.

We went over the questions first and then the students watched the video. It was only 20 minutes long, but it was interesting seeing what happened as they had a specific purpose to guide their watching. For one thing, nearly every student was actually watching the movie. For another, they were nudging one another when a question was being discussed. Another great benefit was when students recognised names or places that they had been learning about in their independent research. (Each student has been learning about a different explorer and had to answer a list of questions that they came up with.) After the video, the students had five minutes to discuss their answers with a partner and then they turned in their work.

This was a very short, simple project, but it turned out to be quite effective! I wasn’t surprised, of course; having a clear, known purpose always makes activities, and lessons in the classroom more effective. This is why I have learning objectives posted in the classroom and why I tell students what we are working on and why we are doing it. Sometimes that purpose may just be that we need to take a break; other times the purpose is deeper and has multiple layers. But one thing is always true: if I can’t explain why I am doing something or why my students are doing it, then it shouldn’t be happening!


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