Ogres Are Like Onions: Peeling Back the Layers of Film as Text
“’It‟s Movie Day!‟Lights go off, heads go down, and teachersfinally get some grading done.Using film in the classroom is better than this, ofcourse, but every time I wheel that VCR downthe hallway, I know what the other teachers– andmy principal– are thinking: „Is Golden showinganother movie? Doesn‟t he teach at all?‟ Allright, maybe they don‟t think that; maybe I onlythink they think that, which is just as bad. Whydo we still feel somewhat guilty about showing afilm in school? Maybe because everyone in theschool knows about that one teacher who showsall the Star Trek films to his classes three timesa year” (Golden)
• Why does it have to be like that?• We, like Golden, are proposing that it DOESN’T.
• “Great films are the modern vernacular equivalent of ancient classics, embodiments of the human capacity to imagine and create in a commonly understood language. Great art represents the highest use of the creative spirit and provides a uniquely aesthetic experience. What others have attained in poetry, prose fiction, music, theater, ballet, and opera, filmmakers now attain with the tools and techniques of cinema” (Nichols)
“OGRES ARE LIKE ONIONS!” PEELING BACK THE LAYERS OF FILM AS TEXT• Studying film as text embraces almost all areas of English instruction, including media literacy, student engagement, reading and writing informational text (through film criticism), differentiating instruction to accommodate varied learning styles, and developing a way of teaching students to analyze literature in a medium that not only piques and keeps their interest, but also prepares them for high stakes tests such as the EOC or HSAP.
• We’d like to get started with some film clips you might recognize…..• During this video, we invite you to do the following things:• 1. Record your initial response a few titles that resonate with you.• 2. Record any personal connections you make with those.• We’d like you to try to record at least three responses as or after you watch. Try to record a combination of both initial response and personal connections.
IF YOU DON‟T MIND….• We now invite you to share one or two (or all!) of your responses with someone near you.• What were your reactions? What feelings were elicited? What memories were stirred?• Take a minute to share with a neighbor.
• “Movies deliver a powerful emotional impact distinct from the impact of other media. This, too, relates to the ability of moving images to bring situations and events back to life on a screen as well as to aesthetics ” (Nichols).• In short, films are powerful. Why on earth wouldn’t we tap into and embrace that power?
• Brainstorm: What is your definition of a text?
EXPANDING OUR DEFINITION OF “TEXT” Consider these… 1. Text: A coherent stretch of language that may be regarded as an object of critical analysis 2. Text: A stretch of language, either in speech or in writing, that is semantically and pragmatically coherent in its real-world context. A text can range from a single word to a sequence of utterances and sentences in a speech, a letter, a novel, etc. (Carter and McCarthy) So, why not films? 3. “a text may be defined as a relatively independent and hierarchically structured linguistic unit which reflects a complex state of affairs and has a specific communicative intention” (Glaser) Again, why not films?
WHY USE FILMS IN THE ELA CLASSROOM? 1. For Engagement and Interest a. Piquing interest in a topic/skill, maintaining interest in a topic/skill through a medium in which they are likely already inherently interested b. “Even contemporary classics…often prove challenging, particularly for reluctant or unenthusiastic readers. And yet, we want them to understand these works because they have something important and enduring to say. Using film is a way to help them do this, whether with the filmed version of the same story, in whole or in part, or a companion text that complements the themes, characters, setting, or conflicts of that story” (pbs.org). 2. As Valuable supplemental and complementary texts to core novels/units a. To EXPAND a unit, rather than make it redundant 3. To both teach and reteach core English skills as defined by the Common Core Standard initiative a. Skills and concepts necessary to implement Common Core teaching in your classroom are easily accessed and honed through film study
WHY USE FILM IN THE ELA CLASSROOM?• ON a basic level, standards aside, we use film in the English Language Arts classroom for the same reason we teach beloved novels: • “I think in art, but especially in film, people are trying to confirm their own existences.” –Jim Morrison • They transport, inspire, educate, sadden, empower, cheer up, etc. They allow and encourage escapism. • Because “every encounter with a cinematic world is more like a guided tour, and every tour guide, or filmmaker, has her own perspective on the film world she displays for us. Viewers need not accept the filmmaker‟s perspective, but they cannot escape it either” (Nichols). • In short, films accomplish the same things emotionally that any treasured novel would. They simply must go about it a different way.
HOW NOT TO USE FILM (WHAT WE’D LIKE TO MOVE AWAY FROM) • The tendency to make a film‟s function in the classroom become “reward” • for “getting through” a unit or “getting through” a novel; for good behavior; in exchange for completion of other tasks, etc. • The tendency to use film time as a break from actually teaching • Lessons and activities using film should be just as rigorous for both student and teacher • They should require as much planning and effort in execution as any other stimulating lesson • The tendency of English teachers to default to the film-version of a novel • Supplement and/or complement the core novel/unit as well!
AN EXAMPLE OF FILM INTEGRATION IN THE ENGLISH I CLASSROOM• “It…works well as an introduction to film and literary analysis, since the characters, conflicts, and themes are obvious, but also meaty enough to support extended writings and discussions” (Golden 98).• As you watch the following film clip, we invite you to do the following: Record any and all examples of literary elements or figurative language used.
AN EXAMPLE OF FILM INTEGRATION IN AN ENGLISH I CLASSROOM • Data Sheets: • Simple, yet comprehensive snapshot of basic, standards-based, literary analysis skills • Given as a pre-assessment the first week of school (met with MUCH ADO from my students) on short story “Shame” by Richard Gregory, with pretty horrendous results • Enter: Literary Elements Review Unit (in preparation for study of Bronx Masquerade thematic unit) • Basic lessons on literary elements leading up to scaffolded, 3-day close study of the film “Shrek” • Students must view film ACTIVELY (stress this!) • Data Sheet broken up into four independent sections (handouts) • Students divided into small groups, each group assigned a section of which to take full ownership and responsibility, although students analyzed film for evidence/examples for ALL sections • “Jigsawed” all groups’ contributions and conclusions into a collaborative Data Sheet that students received copies of, referred back to throughout subsequent units
COMMON CORE STANDARD CORRELATION• CCSS.ELA-Literacy.L.9-10.5 (Language) Demonstrate understanding of figurative language, word relationships, and nuances in word meanings.• CCSS.ELA-Literacy.L.9-10.5a (Language) Interpret figures of speech (e.g., euphemism, oxymoron) in context and analyze their role in the text.• Depending on the task you have students engaging in during a film and the film you are using, this can be easily applied.
COMMON CORE STANDARD CORRELATION• CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.9-10.3 (Reading) Analyze how complex characters (e.g., those with multiple or conflicting motivations) develop over the course of a text, interact with other characters, and advance the plot or develop the theme.• CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.9-10.2 (Reading) Determine a theme or central idea of a text and analyze in detail its development over the course of the text, including how it emerges and is shaped and refined by specific details; provide an objective summary of the text.• “Contemporary thinkers on media literacy have argued that the same habits that a good reader brings to a written text are those that a critical viewer brings to a visual text; enhancing one effortlessly enhances the other. In both, a critical thinker predicts, makes connections, infers, asks questions, and interprets. In both, meaning is made through the details of character, theme, plot, mood, conflict, and symbolism. For both, we must guide students to be active interpreters” (pbs.org).
COMMON CORE STANDARD CORRELATION• CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.9-10.5 (Reading) Analyze how an author‟s choices concerning how to structure a text, order events within it (e.g., parallel plots), and manipulate time (e.g., pacing, flashbacks) create such effects as mystery, tension, or surprise.• “Film worlds seem autonomous and complete…It is important to remember, though, that these worlds are the product of a creative process and that they are seen and represented from the distinct point of view of their creator” (Nichols).• CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.9-10.7 (Reading) Analyze the representation of a subject or a key scene in two different artistic mediums, including what is emphasized or absent in each treatment• In other words, the skill of cross-medium analysis and criticism of the same text/scene is not completely abandoned by Common Core
A LAST THOUGHT…• “Irony in film is all about „puncturing the expectations of the viewer‟…we‟re not talking about surprise or twist endings in film…nor are we talking about satire. The best examples of irony in film are the ones hinting that the meaning intended by the director (or writer) is the exact opposite of what he or she appears to be presenting” (Golden 88-89).• Critical film analysis can be a rich, multidimensional, meaningful process for students.
What forms of text do you usein your English Classroom?FORMS IN ENGLISH CURRICULUM
PONDERING FORM“The look of a painting, the flow of a novel,and the shape of a film all accomplish thesame thing: they produce the viewer’simmediate experience of a distinct world.Pondering its significance follows from activeengagement with form.”(Nichols, 2010, p.13)
FORMS OF TEXT IN THE ENGLISH CLASSROOM• Fiction • Non-Fiction • Poetry • Articles • Essays • Epic • Memoirs • Ballad • Academic Texts • Haiku • Sonnet ALL OF THESE HAVE SPECIFIC CONVENTIONS THAT WE STUDY • Novel ACCORDING TO THE SPECIFIC FORM! • Short Stories
OUR COMFORT ZONE“As English teachers we feel comfortable discussing the importantelements of a poem, short story, or novel because we have hadpractice and background in discussing the effect that, say, wordchoice, meter imagery, or point of view is supposed to have on thereader. We know that a poet, using a particular rhyme scheme ormetaphor is no doubt doing it on purpose, and we are able to guideour students to recognize the craft of the writer in doing so. Like apoet, a filmmaker uses various devices and techniques for adesired effect.” (Golden, p.1)
FILM STUDY W/ NORTH BY NORTHWEST• Look at the terms on your list.• View North by Northwest. cropduster scene.• Watch for increase in cuts, length of shot. Nondiagetic sound.
QUESTIONS TO CONSIDER• What does Hitchcock do to make the scene suspenseful?• How does he show Thrornhill’s vulnerability?• Why does he wait to use nondiagetic sound until the very end?
FILM AS AVEHICLE FOR WRITING Inspiring Writing with Film
WRITING IN FILM STUDIESWriting About Film Imitating Film Writing• Film Review • Script Writing• Film Critique • Settings• Viewing Journals • Descriptions• Literary Analysis Paper • Shot Movement• Comparison Papers • Dialogue • Storyboard Activities
REVIEW VS. CRITIQUEFilm Review Film Critique• Very Familiar Form • Critical Form• Public / Consumer • Critics/Film Fan Audience Audience • Goal is to analyze the film for conventions, form, quality,• Goal is to convince viewers writing, cinematography and whether or not to see a film. acting.• Created for viewers who • Created to further discussion and understanding of a film or the have not yet seen the film. discipline of film study.
From Review to CritiqueFilm Reviews are more familiar to students and therefore a great opportunity for scaffolding. More accessible/familiar Both Require: Higher-Level Analysis form for students. Close-viewing/ note- (higher-level thinking and taking. depth of knowledge) Familiar Audience Knowledge of Plot Less focus on synopsis, More focus on plot synopsis. more focus on analysis. Understanding of Theme More extensive writing. More brief.
CREATING AFILM STUDIES CURRICULUM An English Elective that Reinforces English Skills
Reading in the DarkJohn Golden (2001)• Great book for either English or Film Studies classrooms• Practical lessons and suggestions for using specific films.
Brian Smilanichwww.filmlit.ca• Great Suggestions for films to use as well as lesson plans and links to other web materials.
The Film Foundationwww.storyofmovies.org• Film Study resources• National Film Study Standards• Cross-Curricular Resources
Films List for MyClassroom• Films, Genres, Ratings, and Objectives• Keep in mind the culture of your school.• Keep parents informed.
BENEFITS OF FILM STUDIES ELECTIVE• Opportunity to reinforce English Curriculum. A Film Studies elective is• Improve Critical Thinking a unique way to raise and Media Literacy. expectations and increase• Promotes Arts and Culture. academic rigor in a• Provides Opportunities for subject that students will Cross-Curricular enjoy. Collaboration.
IDEAS TO CONSIDER IF WANTING TO CREATE ANEW FILM STUDIES COURSE• Get your Administration on board. • Get your Media Specialist on board • Ask them to observe you teaching • Promote course as Media a film lesson. Literacy • Make your objectives clear. • Get support for use of video according to copyright law. • Bring in National Film Studies Standards • Tie in ANY applicable Common • Get Guidance on board. Core State Standards. • Promote this class as an option • Conduct interest surveys with for those interested in the arts. students to show potential • Promote the course as an option enrollment. for visual learners.
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