Our in-person and online tutoring service is a firm believer in making learning fun for students by tapping into interests. It’s no secret that kids love watching movies, which is why it can be a tool of enormous educational benefit, possibly in more ways than you might realize. If we’ve learned anything from the summer craze of “Barbenheimer” it’s that films can have an unusually broad range of appeal. You may have noticed many teens if you saw the biographical thriller, Oppenheimer, in the theatre. Would it be surprising to know they were genuinely interested in learning the historical story behind scientist, J. Robert Oppenheimer, and not just because their parents wanted to see it? It’s true! Read on for a deeper dive into the numerous advantages of cinema for elevating student learning and well-being in and outside of the classroom.
Our online and in-person tutoring service blogs often about educational ideas, including watching shows to encourage learning a second language or STEM enrichment. We have loved sharing some of our favourite nature documentaries, science and math series, and French shows on streaming platforms such as Netflix. The educational benefits to using these sorts of TV shows are as obvious as they are entertaining. In this blog, we are going to focus on the educational advantages of films, as well as some of the cautions and considerations that go along with it.
It’s always recommended that parents do their homework and research the titles in advance if there are reservations. Should you spot weaknesses in the film itself upon viewing, this can be turned into an educational lesson itself. With all this in mind, our in-person and online tutors feel strongly that you will find many teachable moments with movies.
Here are 5 benefits of films for overall student learning and development.
Support Student Well-Being and Mental Health
Movies are intended to entertain, but they also provide several mental health benefits for students and the adults who love them. Like adults, students are prone to experiencing feelings of stress, nervousness, and anxiety. A field trip to the cinema with friends or a family movie night at home is a great opportunity to be social and spend time with loved ones. The length of the average movie is 90 minutes, so a great window to unplug from the world to relax and rejuvenate. Feel-good movies can also inspire, motivate, and help boost moods. This all helps with stress reduction while providing a healthy opportunity for a much-needed break!
Strengthen Cognitive Skills
Are movies good for your brain? Cognitive abilities refer to the core skills your brain uses to think, read, learn, remember, reason, and pay attention. Movies that students enjoy can assist them in forming their long-term memory, maintaining focus as well as developing their problem solving and critical thinking skills. These are all key attributes for achieving academic success in school and in life.
Increase Language Development
Films can support linguistic skills by introducing children to new vocabulary, its meaning, and pronunciations. It can introduce ‘what if’ scenarios that fire the imagination while introducing new subjects in a more accessible way. It’s no surprise that many people watch movies to help them in learning a new language such as English, French, or Spanish.
Improve Understanding of Literature
The old saying is that a picture is worth 1000 words. There’s a grain of truth to this. Seeing something in context can make concepts and ideas a lot more memorable and understandable. This is why English and History teachers will often introduce movies in class that are based on books to enhance learning.
Seeing an adaptation in tandem with reading literature can help tweens and teens a lot, especially when it involves older literary styles and language. Little Women, Pride and Prejudice, The Great Gatsby, and Great Expectations are all adaptations of literature that might help make a more difficult read easier to understand by providing both more visual context and a slightly modernized feel.
Then there are movies many parents may remember like Clueless, which are based on classics with a modern lens, in this case Jane Austen’s Emma. This also provides many educational opportunities and teachable moments to compare the movie with book. The learning possibilities are endless.
Remember to check out Teachers on Call's Hooked on Books series for more recommendations on book-to-screen adaptations.
Connect to History and Create Awareness on Challenging Topics
One thing that film does very well is its ability to create a sense of immersion and immediacy. Certainly, in war films and documentaries, this is undeniable. Film, however, can also tackle complicated and more subtle issues in ways other media simply can’t. It’s a powerful construct to explore many social issues and themes deeper and more critically. Examples of topics can include discrimination, equality, morality, and philosophy.
Back to the “Barbenheimer” phenomenon, both Oppenheimer and Barbie were viewed and continue to be watched by numerous students. Many articles have been dedicated to the age appropriateness of both films, so parents do your homework first. Oppenheimer presents an opportunity through storytelling to learn about a significant period of history through the physicist, J. Robert Oppenheimer, while opening dialogue on the ethics behind science. Barbie has obvious star power with a bright exterior, quippy lines and visually stimulating scenes and costumes. Yet, this film offers a deeper meaning for those who go looking for it with messages of female empowerment and embracing your identity. Films like these offer opportunities to get an inside glimpse into what it is like to experience a new perspective they may not have otherwise!
Remember to Exercise Caution and Consideration
We always recommend doing your reserach first to determine if a film is suitable for the student audience. To start, you can check the maturity rating to help determine if content is age appropriate. As you explore, other challenges to consider may include if films have incomplete or biased information or are simply unreliable. There are often reasons, and not all maliciously intended. Frequently, it’s simply impossible to include every scrap of information. Even the most honest documentaries have a runtime limit. When in doubt, adults always have the option to watch with children should there be a need to make a game-time decision and turn it off if a child is frightened or upset!
Keep Calm and Carry On…with a Movie!
Do risks of possible inaccuracy or sometimes outright fiction mean film can’t be an educational tool? Of course not! The important thing is to be aware of these issues and share information about them.
For deeper and more critical exercises, there’s some great educational lessons that can come with examining these problematic films individually and exploring the very things that make them problematic. Why is a film skewed? What social messaging might it contain that is no longer appropriate? Do we have more information now than we did before? There is always a learning opportunity to explore with students.
Now grab some popcorn or your favourite treat and enjoy the show. We hope you have a wonderful, educational time at the movies!
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