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Journeys in Film has been widely recognized for its effectiveness and vision for using film in the classroom. Since 2003, a small team of professionals has trained and supported thousands of educators through individual, school, and district professional development workshops and outreach programs.

The Journeys in Film curriculum has been taught in thousands of schools and other educational organizations nationwide and around the world.  The film-based program has also been used in after-school and summer school initiatives, faith-based groups, community service learning projects, correctional facilities, and clinics and health outreach programs.

To date, Journeys has published twenty-three comprehensive curriculum guides and thirteen discussion guides for secondary schools, college classes, and community screenings.

The clearest measure of our results can be found in the testimonies of students and educators who have experienced our program, as well as that of experts in the field or media who have been moved by our methodology.

Results-Based Methodology

The Journeys in Film curriculum follows a proven methodology that has demonstrated significant results – middle school students exposed to the curriculum reported a change in how they view other cultures and the importance of accepting others who are different from them[1].

More specifically research[2] has found the curriculum to be effective in the areas of:

  • Increasing positive opinion of other countries
  • Increasing willingness to meet people from other countries
  • Broadening an understanding of the quality of children”s lives in other countries
  • Shifting perceptions that American customs are superior to those of other countries

Evaluation results compiled by Ameritest, an Albuquerque-based media research and analysis firm, showed positive shifts in measures related to the acceptance of cultural differences, interest in meeting youth from other countries, as well as an increase in basic geography skills. These gains were attributed to the use of compelling visual media, its human story, focus on youth, and the experiential, personal nature of the Journeys in Film lessons.

Teachers have also reported that the Journeys in Film program was beneficial to their students[3]; reported student gains in “empathy” and “acceptance”; and progressive increase in “curiosity” about the world beyond their own cultural groups as well as the ability to make distinctions that are more refined e.g., not confusing Iran for Iraq.

How We Develop Lesson Plans

After choosing suitable titles from an array of quality age- and content-appropriate foreign films, Journeys in Film identifies and recruits leading content scholars, curriculum writers and cultural specialists to develop a curriculum that includes lesson plans in science, math, social studies, language arts, cross-cultural understanding, media literacy, and visual arts.

The Journeys in Film curriculum writers use a “backward-design” process that follows several steps:

  1. Identify main ideas or Enduring Understandings
  2. Establish Essential Questions that will guide the lesson
  3. Determine key knowledge and skills the students should acquire
  4. Determine the evidence of learning students should present at the end of the lesson

Each Journeys in Film lesson begins with several Enduring Understandings and Essential Questions, which are followed by notes to the teacher on background information and a list of assessment tools incorporated into the lesson.  Finally, the lesson provides instructions for the “how-what-when” of classroom activities.

These lesson plans are the cornerstone of Journeys’ work, reinforcing academic standards while teaching young viewers how to watch a film and challenging them to examine how their own experiences influence their perceptions of others. They are excellent tools for today”s educators who often say that they feel inadequate to teach subjects in a multi-cultural context.

What We Include

  • Pre-Film Viewing Preparation and Subsequent Lessons
    Teachers prepare their students to view a selected film with two or three “pre-viewing” (or preliminary) lessons that explore the geography, history, and religion of the country and/or culture and provide context to help the student understand and absorb the content of the film more readily. Remaining lessons plans in other core subjects can be taught in any sequence, collectively or independently of each other, in their entirety or selectively.
  • Creating the Setting for Film Viewing
    Journeys in Film recommends showing the selected film in a group setting, ideally on a large screen in a school auditorium or media center. The experience of group viewing on a large screen can affect the results of the program. It provides an important sense of a shared community, and students, by their own admission in evaluations, say they engage more readily with the film, subtitles and content when viewed in such a setting. Smaller media screens can be effective for smaller groups of students; however, unobstructed view of the subtitles is required for effective film viewing.
  • Federal and State Standards
    Journeys in Film has used the compendium of standards produced by the Mid-continent Research for Education and Learning to develop our curriculum. This organization has synthesized standards produced by the states and by professional teaching organizations to create the excellent McREL Online Compendium of K-12 standards. Each lesson in the Journeys in Film units was written to meet one or more of the standards and indicators listed by McREL. Our lesson plans are also aligned to the new common-core standards. It is a relatively easy task for teachers to read through the standards listed and identify the corresponding state standards.
  • Interdisciplinary Approach
    As a general rule, we believe that the teacher can best decide what methods of film viewing and lesson implementation are appropriate for each specific class. However, we recommend an interdisciplinary (or cross-curricular) approach in order to make the greatest impact on the student; Journeys in Film curriculum guides make this easy to facilitate. The program also allows a group of teachers to share their efforts and class time for a truly comprehensive, immersive experience, instead of one or two teachers giving up one or two weeks of class time in this current climate of reaching benchmarks and quotas.  Consider devoting an entire day or even several days to one film and its respective curriculum. Cancel all classes, prepare students by having already implemented the pre-film lesson plan(s), view the film together as one entire student body or in large groups, and design a round-robin rotational method for the remaining lesson plans that are deemed as “core” or essential by a school community.
  • Maximizing Use of Foreign-Language Film Subtitles
    One unique aspect of this program is exposing youth to subtitled foreign-language films, a positive experience since films made in other countries are infrequently seen by mainstream American filmgoers. Teachers should modify the viewing experience to ensure that each group of students can be as engaged as possible. Teachers could pause the film at poignant moments, break the film into two or three viewing sessions, and read the subtitles out loud to students lacking the necessary level of English reading proficiency. School program sites using older students as mentors to read subtitles out loud have reported demonstrated benefits such as student teamwork and self-confidence building.
  • Students with Special Needs
    Slow readers may be a bit panicked at first when they learn they are to see a film with subtitles. However, most students grow accustomed to reading subtitles quickly and soon are even unaware that they are reading. Being engaged in following the story of an appealing film gives the reluctant reader an incentive for reading subtitles.  Film as a medium has so many other techniques besides words to help advance the story – visual images, sound effects, music, camera angles, etc.  All of these will help students understand the story.  If a class is still unable to follow the subtitles, they could be read aloud or difficult vocabulary words could be pre-taught. The film could also be shown in sections.
  • Measuring Changes in Student Attitudes
    Measuring change in student attitudes toward other cultures was a priority in developing the Journeys in Film program. We recommend using a tool such as the Bogardus Social Distance Scale with both pre-viewing and post-viewing administration for comparison to measure attitude shifts among students.

[1] Albuquerque Pilot Project Research Findings, 2007

[2] National Pilot Project Research Findings, 2004-2005

[3] Teacher Focus Groups