Using Film to Teach Global Citizenship
In the last post, I discussed the ways we can use literature to encourage global citizenship in our classrooms . Film can be used in a much similar way, transporting students to a different place or time. To show a good film is to give students the opportunity to experience a piece of life through someone else’s eyes. If we use films written, directed, produced or acted by those from other countries, we’re also providing exposure to another’s point of view, one that often is vastly different from our own.
Our students are from a visually and technologically savvy generation. Amid Promethean boards, other smart board technologies, Ipads, and Imovie apps, watching a movie in class isn’t necessarily the ‘treat’ it used to be–some of our students are used to creating their own movies. Too often movies in class have become synonymous with nap time or busy work–a.k.a the teacher has work she/he has to get done, and doesn’t have time to teach. So, the idea of a movie itself might not catch a class’s attention, but that story that transports them to a country they’ve never seen, an ecosystem they’ve only read about, languages or music they’ve never heard, or art they’ve never seen–that can grab their attention.
Discussions of films like these are always a great exercise in critical thinking skills. Last spring semester we hosted a workshop on “Teaching About the Border Through the Lens of Film.” Dr. Liz Hutchison, UNM professor of History, brought up a number of important points to consider when we use film in the classroom–many that could lead to fruitful classroom discussions.
The following is a section from a hand-out she provided. It’s full of great questions, both for teachers to consider when choosing films, and to be used in class discussions about films. She specifies Latin America, as that is our focus, but these are applicable to any movie.
Film as a Source for Teaching About Latin America
- Origins: Why, when, and how was this film produced? Who paid for production and dissemination? Who was supposed to see it?
- Motives: What was the film-maker trying to accomplish by writing/directing/producing this film? What were the film-maker’s immediate goals (to persuade its audience, to document events, to effect political or other change, etc.)?
- Perspective: What can you tell about the film-makers’ values and assumptions by watching the film itself? What can you learn about his/her biography, historical context, or career from other sources? How does this affect the credibility or reliability of the film with respect to the events it portrays?
- Film: What major themes and topics emerge in the film itself? If the film claims to be “true,” what evidence or techniques does the film-maker use to convey the story or message of the film, and are these assertions believable?
- Information: What does the film say about the events, people, or time period under discussion?
Resources for using films in the classroom
I realize films like these can be hard to come by, but below I’ve provided links and information about programs that provide resources like these for free for classroom use. As both the focus of this blog and my area of expertise is Latin America, I realize many of the resources also focus on this. If you are aware of useful resources for other areas, please share those in the comments and I will add them to the list!
- The Roger Thayer Stone Center for Latin American Studies at Tulane University has an incredible Lending Library. It is “the most comprehensive lending collection of educational materials about Latin American topics available for classroom use. They library holds over 3,000 videos, slide packets, culture kits, curriculum units, games, and miscellaneous print items.” Films comprise a large part of their resources and they will ship the films to teachers nationwide free of charge.
- The Institute for the Study of the Americas at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill has extensive Film Resources that they, too, freely lend to educators nationwide. They also have a section devoted to films applicable to K-12 classrooms with education guides accompanying the majority of the films.
- The Center for Latin American and Caribbean Studies (CLACS) at New York University has partnered with two other NY organizations to create Indocumentales/
Undocumentaries, a US/Mexico Interdependent Film Series. The series provides educational resources and an interactive network to dialogue about the films involved, all of which focus on the complexities of Mexican immigration.
- Here at the LAII we featured a series of workshops around teaching about the U.S.-Mexico border in the Spring of 2012. As part of that, we created a site, The Border: Resources for Teaching, that compiles online resources available for teaching on this topic. One of the sections was dedicated to film. Potential films have been listed and hyperlinked to available trailers.
Hope this is helpful! As always, comments or suggestions are appreciated! I’d love to hear the names of your favorite movies that you use in your classroom!