Movies to Move Your Classroom (An Education Partner Spotlight: Barbara Joseph of Shreveport, Louisiana)
By Rachel Fraade, Lawrence Magdovitz ISJL Education Fellow
We all know the feeling: your teacher dims the lights, turns on the screen, and you know you are in for a treat. For many students, watching a movie during class is special because they know it is a break from the rigors of academics. But it does not have to be this way. There are ways to use movies to educate students, rather than simply allowing their brains to take a vacation. At this past year’s ISJL Education Conference, participants were lucky to learn how to do just this from an expert—Barbara Joseph of Shreveport, Louisiana. Barbara provided us with a number of tips, and a great handout, to help us teach through film.
There are a few key pointers from Barbara’s session. First of all, students under fourth grade are often too young for longer videos. It is important to assess your students’ attention span; if they cannot sit still, they will not gain much from the film. Before the film, make sure students turn off all devices so they are fully present. Give them background information that may help them better understand the movie. As the film goes on, it is often helpful to pause and rewind. Rather than watching the movie the whole way through, it can be highly effective to break it up—even into multiple class sessions. Discuss scenes, answer questions, or re-watch complicated moments. After the film, debrief. You may give a handout to students, hear how the movie relates to their experiences, and listen to their analyses. They may need to process, and you can provide a space to do so.
Of course, even with these tips and tricks, not every film is rife with educational content. You may have some favorite Jewish films to sample – I regularly turn to “An American Tail,” the story of Fievel Mousekewitz – but we also have a list that you can draw from. In the 9th/10th grade curriculum, Lesson 8’s Appendix H has a two-page list of movie names, their ratings, and a brief description. You can also consult television shows, Jewish music videos, or clips from sites such as Bimbam.
One key to dynamic education is using a wide variety of sources to teach. This is why our curriculum includes books, crafts, and songs; it is why we use VAK coding and creative activities. Movies can be an exciting and informational piece of this puzzle. If you use the tips we learned from Barbara Joseph, we feel confident they will be!