Home / In the Spotlight / Harnessing the Power of Film in the Classroom by Jane Fletcher


In a world where the moving image is becoming increasingly dominant it makes sense to acknowledge film as the richest of educational resources, with the capacity to broaden young people’s horizons, enrich their learning experiences and raise attainment. Film has extraordinary production values in which art, science and technology meet.

The synthesis of art forms to tell compelling stories, and the enormous historic, literary, geographic, linguistic, cultural and social value and relevance these stories embody, which speak across age, class, gender and background, render film an invaluable tool for educators. This is a medium that is accessible to all, regardless of ability, with the power to bring to life aspects of the curriculum which some students may consider dull, portray themes from science to Shakespeare in a different light and inspire disengaged pupils.

Feedback from teachers that run school film clubs shows that regularly watching, discussing and reviewing films helps to develop a range of skills, which are valuable in their own right and are associated with wider academic attainment, including:

  • Independent thinking
  • Improved Literacy
  • Critical Analysis
  • Broader Cultural Awareness
  • Vocational aspiration
  • Confidence and social skills

Film to Support Literacy

One of the most valuable applications of film in education is its potential to support traditional and visual literacy. Encouraging young people to watch, discuss and review films, as well as developing film literacy is a powerful way to enhance their speaking, writing, listening and critical skills – particularly in the case of those who usually struggle or lack motivation in these areas.

Film to Engage and Inspire

Film, supported by high-quality teaching resources, is a great way of promoting discussion around many curriculum topics at all Key Stages, from Primary to Sixth Form. Whether screened in their entirety, or through the use of relevant, carefully-selected clips that show a particular situation or behaviour, films can help to engage pupils in deep learning, which aids in the retention of information, tackling difficult subjects and sparking debate about a broad range of issues. All of this contributes to raising attainment. In history, for example, films can be used in discussions to interrogate sources and to support subjects ranging from World War I and slavery to The Cold War, The French Revolution, America and The Mayans.

Watching and discussing a film like Paper Clips (U) is an age-appropriate way to introduce younger pupils to the Holocaust, while for older pupils films like In Darkness (15) or Shooting Dogs (15) are thought-provoking ways to raise the subject of genocide. Equally, pupils could be encouraged to reflect on climate change after a screening of An Inconvenient Truth (U) or Encounters At The End of the World (U), or immersed in another language and culture through a foreign language title to aid language learning, which from September 2014 will be compulsory for primary as well as secondary pupils. And in PSHE, films ranging from Dumbo (U) to Rebel Without A Cause (PG), Mean Girls (12), Maria Full of Grace (15) and In Real Life (15) are excellent ways to start conversations about sensitive subjects such as bullying, e-safety, underage sex, drinking and drug use.

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