Schools to Teach Critical Thinking with Movies

Teaching kids how to think critically is just one of the objectives of  a new series called “The Story of Movies.” This program, which is being spearheaded by film director Martin Scorsese and The Film Foundation is helping teachers expand their use of film in the classroom with a series of DVDs and curriculum guides.


On the critical thinking side, this kind of the program is designed to “help kids manage and decode the barrage of visual information they absorb in daily life.”

Other objectives include:

  • helping students place films in a historical context that can springboard into discussions on social issues
  • shedding some light on the filmmaking process, including the decisions made along the way

The first film in the series is “To Kill A Mockingbird” (1962).  Frank Capra’s classic “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington” (1939) is follow-on film.

mrsmithFrom a historical perspective, the timing of the release of Mr. Smith is interesting.  The movie came out in October 1939. The previous month, Hitler had invaded Poland and England. Then France declared war on Germany. The French made Mr Smith the last English language film to be shown before the Nazi-ordered, country-wide ban on American and British films went into effect.

Notable Quotable:

Liberty is too precious to get buried in books. Men ought to hold it up in front of them — even on the screen — every day of their lives, and say, “I am free — to think — to speak. My ancestors couldn’t. I can . My children will.”

— Jefferson Smith

Yeah, there are lots of learning opportunities available for this film. The following is a rundown of what’s in the Teacher’s Guide:


Chapter 1. What is a Movie?

Lesson 1. Technology and Story
Lesson 2. A Film’s Narrative Structure
Lesson 3. Our Film Heritage

Chapter 2. The Filmmaking Process

Lesson 1. The Director’s Vision
Lesson 2. Getting Ready – Pre-Production
Lesson 3. On the Set – Production
Lesson 4. In the Studio – Post-Production

Chapter 3. Film Language and Elements of Style

Lesson 1. How to Read a Frame
Lesson 2. How to Read a Shot
Lesson 3. Emphasis on Editing
Lesson 4. Putting It All Together – Analyzing a Scene

Chapter 4. Historical and Cultural Contexts

Lesson 1. How Films Mirror Society
Lesson 2. How Films Influence Society
Lesson 3. World War II and Frank Capra’s Documentary Films


Closing Remarks:

I hope teachers are given the liberty and freedom to incorporate these materials into their lesson plans.

Source: Edutopia

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