Why Teach With Film?

Students become captivated learners through their own desire to be entertained and to take in information through the screen.

Films have long been overlooked as an educational tool. According to the Social Science Research Network, 30% of the general population are auditory learners and 65% are visual learners. 56% of teens see at least one movie monthly in theaters while 41% of teens watch an additional 2 to 3 movies at home with their families monthly. 

In an age when literacy means familiarity with images as much as text, and a screen has become a new kind of page, 21st-century students are more connected to media than any previous generation.  This offers educators unprecedented opportunities to engage students in learning about a variety of subjects and issues of global significance. Films, television, documentaries, and other media platforms can provide an immediate, immersive window to a better understanding of the world and matters affecting all of us.

We teach our students literature that originated from all around the world, but we tend to forget that what often spurs the imagination is both visual and auditory.  Films evoke emotion and can liven up the classroom, bringing energy to a course.  We believe in the power of films to open our minds, inspire us to learn more, provide a bridge to better understanding the major issues of 21st century concern, and compel us to make a difference.

When properly used, films can be a powerful educational tool in developing critical thinking skills and exposure to different perspectives. 

A teacher can incorporate film in these ways: 

Journeys in Film lessons are designed to be simple enough for the beginning teacher to manage easily, with all materials camera-ready. Many of the techniques for active learning used in the lessons can be adapted for other classroom uses as well.  And of course, all lessons are standards-based, so the teacher can readily incorporate film into an established set of learning goals.

  • Our lessons can be used independently of one another, so an English or social studies teacher can select just the previewing lessons that establish context and provide the student with the concepts needed to understand the film, and then use follow-up lessons to extend understanding.  
  • A pair of teachers could collaborate; for example, an English teacher and art teacher, could teach different lessons on the same film.
  • An entire middle school team could set aside sufficient time to have a “film festival” and teach a truly cross-disciplinary unit that would engage students with a wide range of learning modes and interests.  
  • Our lessons could also become the basis for an afterschool club or for a homeschooling unit. 
“I like Journeys in Film because it just doesn’t teach you like a book. It’s better when you can actually see it happening. Films give a first-hand view of places and stories.”

7th grade Chicago public school student