We are always looking for ways to get our students more engaged with the texts we are reading. And we all know teachers who rely on the film version to motivate students (and sometimes reward students for plodding through the book). But turning out the lights and sticking in the movie (and offering the film as dessert) can be a recipe for trouble.
Frank W. Baker offers some great alternatives in a new post, “How to Close Read the Language of Film” on MiddleWeb. Apropos of To Kill a Mockingbird, he suggests offering students two publicity stills from the film and asking students to think about camera angles, clothing, and positioning, all in order to gain insight into the characters, particularly their power and their class position.
In effect, the film stills become stand-alone texts, challenging, rich with meaning and ripe for analysis, but also more inviting and less intimidating for students. Close reading these visual texts empowers students, prepares them for the media challenges we know are ahead of us with the Common Core, and is a richly rewarding exercise in critical thinking.
Imagine beginning your unit on Mockingbird with a discussion of either of the stills Baker suggests, so that even before they start reading, your students have a sense of Atticus’s relationship to the Maycomb community!
We strongly believe in the power and potential of media in the classroom and find Baker’s suggestions and tips really helpful.
Meanwhile, stay tuned for our thoughts on using informational videos to hook your students into complex literary and informational texts!