Movies in the Classroom

Showing movies in the classroom can be a controversial issue.  There are some teachers who believe it takes away from better learning opportunities.  Others who just don’t feel they have the time to spend (or waste) on movies.

But, movies in the high school classroom can have great benefits for our Movies in the Classroomstudents.  Please hear me out (and not just because I created two semesters worth of the hugely popular Movies vs. Books course for my reluctant alternative high school students who “hate” English class.  I made these kids slog through Frankenstein… and they did so happily! )

Movies in the classroom must have purpose to be beneficial to the students. With purpose, movies can add active learning and higher level thinking.  Plus, it helps to get students interested and engaged.  Movies do not have to be treated as a treat or a waste, but rather as an alternate medium for learning.  Reactions to a video can be a part of active learning, as students enjoy the process and can apply what they have learned.  (Some times a snippet will suffice.  Sometimes a longer section or whole movies is better– the ending of a story can change everything).

And the movie doesn’t have to be accurate.  Some of the most engaging discussions in my aforementioned Movies vs. Books was when the movie version was so far from the book, that the students are appalled (the 1931 Boris Karloff version of Frankenstein, for example).  And without any prompting from me they would being to discuss the differences, the characterization, mood, and more.

These discussions– active learning and student directed– are only one of the ways a movie can foster higher-level thinking.  In my classes, I honed my Movie vs. Book comparison activity for students to evaluate which version is better– any why?   Some of my students really struggled with supporting their preference at first (resulting in many revisions to this activity to guide and push them to do so anyway).  But they rarely complained about the work that went into making the comparison or taking a position– which is in contrast to the complaints about all the other work in the class.  (And yet, they would regularly sign up for a second term!)

It’s not just the ELA classroom where movies can be useful to begin discussions, get students interested, and provide a medium to apply what they have learned.  One of my science colleagues would show The Day After Tomorrow and have students explain all that was wrong with the weather, for example.  There are plenty of horrible inaccurate history movies to chose from as well.

Plus, shhh… movies are great for those highly distractable times, like before Winter or Spring break.


CDickson Profile PicClair Dickson, high school English teacher, likes free eTexts and Project Based Learning to stretch her meager budget.  Visit her store High School English on a Shoestring Budget to stretch your budget.

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Sunday Panel: Keep or Change for Next Year

Sunday Panel StickyWhat have you done this year that you want to keep for next year/change for next year?

profile pic2Tara, Science in the City:
I have worked harder this year to give students an overall picture of where we are going — where we are in the unit and what our goals are to the activities that we are doing. In my class we also do interactive notebooks, and I will probably do them again, as I have for several years. I’d love to hear from other people 🙂

OC_BEACH_TEACHER_revised_finalKimberly, OC Beach Teacher:
There is an old adage that says, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” After 16 years in the classroom, I have refined many of my lesson and strategies, so I don’t plan to change much next school year. For instance, it took me years to feel comfortable with literature circles, but now I feel like my students really take ownership of their learning. I have also benefited from several years with excellent teacher interns, who have brought new ideas (backed by the latest research) to my classroom. Nevertheless, next year I do plan to keep adding real-world nonfiction texts to my curriculum. Several years ago I started finding articles from newspapers and magazines that students find relevant. I connect these topics to classic literature in an attempt to help engage them in our mandated curriculum. And that’s what makes classics great; all the texts from the canon have themes that still matter in 2014!

new logo blogJackie,Room 213:
This year I started to use more formative assessment and plan to do a whole lot more next year, especially in the beginning of the term. I was always worried that high school students wouldn’t complete assignments that didn’t “count”. It was pretty easy to convince them, however, that in the end the assignments do count, especially if they use the feedback to improve for the work that does.
One problem with giving students more feedback is that it takes more time. I’ve been developing checklists to make the process faster for me, and I’m loving them. I constantly perfect and add to them so I can give lots of feedback by just checking a box. So, next year, I’m hoping my students get even more time to practice important skills through formative assessment.

square logo Mrs. E:
I do daily warm-ups that I call “Bellwork”. I have always given my students one sheet that they were to do their bellwork on all week and they turn it in on Fridays. However, students lose their papers, are absent on turn-in day, etc. It was always a big pain for me. At the beginning of the second semester, I had all of my students bring a spiral notebook that they were to keep in the classroom. This became their bellwork notebook. Doing this not only cured my paperwork headache, but it also seemed to keep my students on task at the beginning of class. Many times I only had to say, “Where’s your spiral?” and an off-task student would be headed off in the right direction. I will absolutely be doing this again in the upcoming school year!

TPT ProfileSara, Ms. Fuller’s Teaching Adventures:
My students did really well in my English 1010 class with writing literacy narratives. I’m going to continue using this as their first writing assignment because it allows me to assess their writing as well as learn more about their relationship with reading and or writing. I also got a lot of great feedback from the majority of my students saying that they liked doing my daily journal entries. Several commented that it made them think and it inspired creativity. I was somewhat surprised that they didn’t view it as busy work! If you’re interested check out my journal prompts in my store.

LanguageArtsClassroomLauralee,The Language Arts Classroom:
I am happy that I provided class outlines before teaching. I gave a general overall – just a bulleted list. It kept me from answering questions and I know that it helps with organization. I need to incorporate more power points/ white board work. Making them takes time, and I am a bit picky when I buy them. I want to make a few this summer.

AlgebraSimplifiedIconDawn, Algebra Simplified:
With the recent switch to Common Core standards, I challenged my students to think deeper. This year my students hypothesized about math topics more than ever. What a thrill to facilitate the following process: students reflect, a student hypothesis is submitted to the class, the class disproves it with a counterexample, a new hypothesis is submitted, and the process repeats until the students actually unearth a key concept for the skill. (No, I do not teach honor students.) While time-consuming, this is definitely a keeper. On a trivial note, my repertoire of pithy responses to diverse class situations is expanding. I think it adds humor, but frankly it might just be student groans. A random kid’s loud hall behavior disrupts class. I turn matter-of-factly to my class and calmly announce, “Don’t do drugs.” Two more for my permanent list: “It won’t kill you; I promise. But if it does, I’ll have a cool story to tell next year” (normally used in reference to touching a calculator) and “It will buff” (stolen from one of my teenage students).

What have you done this year that you want to keep for next year/change for next year?

Friday Feature – Trashketball

I hate to admit it, but the truth is that there have been times during my 16 years as an English teacher when someone could hear a pin drop in the classroom. Although this might seem like a good situation, the silence wasn’t because my students were enthralled with their learning. In fact, an observer might have seen a few heads down on desks, and maybe even heard a little snoring.
But as most English teachers know, making grammar an exciting topic to learn can seem like a Herculean task. While grammar may be fascinating to fellow English teachers (we can talk about comma splices for an entire lunch period), most secondary students (and many adults) could care less about parts of speech, kinds of sentences, types of phrases, or innumerable other grammar concepts. And in the past, it didn’t help that I had resorted to boring lectures and worksheet practice.
However, happily this all changed a few years ago with the help of a student intern. He told me about a game that he played in his science class called “Trashketball.”


Image Copyright © 2014 Craig Costantino

It is brilliant! Students review concepts and shoot baskets into a trash can! My students love it because the game gets them out of their seats and motivates them with their love of sports. In our school, we have 90 minute class periods, and anyone who has had to sit for an hour and a half, can most likely commiserate with my students.
Additionally, the game encourages friendly competition because the teacher arranges the class into teams. This team approach is an excellent way to meet the needs of all students when they are arranged in heterogeneous groups. The rules also encourage students to work together on their teams to solve the answers; they can keep trying to find a correct answer even after they have made a mistake.
The game doesn’t require many materials, and my Trashketball products make it easy to play! I provide power point Trashketball games that include detailed rules and explanations for both the students and the teacher. Furthermore, each game provides a brief review of its topic and includes several rounds of practice exercises. My top-selling game reviews verbal phrases, but there are a variety of games to play addressing multiple concepts. Here are a few:

Pronoun and Antecedent Agreement       SAT PracticeAntecedent hhAkgr  nneeme
Pronoun and Antecedent AgreementSAT Practice

Or even get a bundle that can last 8 weeks!
CoverGrammar Trashketball Review Bundle

OC_BEACH_TEACHER_revised_finalKim, the OCBeach Teacher,  is a National Board Certified English teacher who is currently teaching American Literature and AP English Literature and Composition.  She shares classroom ideas and tips on her OCBeachTeacher Facebook Page.
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Active Learning: True/False Chairs

Really, could I help being nosy when I happened upon Master Teacher Lisa lining up chairs in the hallway? Were her students going to play musical chairs?  This I had to see.True False chairs pin image How fortuitous to come back early from lunch! My wait wasn’t long as eight students filled the middle chairs.  The end polar chairs had true and false distinctions and remained empty.  Each side of four comprised a team.  Each team was required to select a name dealing with money.  Credit Captains and Money Thug$ listened skeptically as the directions were explained.

Directions: The back-to-back pair in the blue seats would compete.  A true or false question would be read.  The first runner to sit in the correct answer chair would score a point for their team.  Each team would then slide down a seat so that a new pair was sitting in the hot spot.

The first student run was halfhearted, I admit, but the seasoned teacher simply smiled and continued as before.  By the third question, the spirit of competition kicked in, and the race was truly on.  Prior to the game, a student had to be admonished by the instructor to get their feet off the locker.  Now to create a clear path, teammates were saying, “Tuck in your feet.” Students in the hot seat stretched out their legs toward one chair and leaned forward. With no incentive, no carrot prize dangling at the end of the game, one of the Thug$ began chanting (very unthuggishly), “T-H-U-G, Thug,” each time a point was scored.   Students automatically slid down without being asked.   The student population you wonder?  A mixed ability CTE class of high school sophomores and juniors.  Where were the other students? Diligently playing a game with special cards in the nearest classroom. Differentiation and Active Learning — Teaching at its best!

Could this game be used in other content areas?
Well, would a large bank of True or False questions be useful to other subjects?  The questions were delivered orally somewhat limiting the complexity of the question. (Should the first three questions be fairly easy, almost sample questions to get the game going?) Why limit the chairs to True or False? Interpreting the discriminant Do you have topics that require snap determination? For example, in Algebra students must interpret the discriminant of a quadratic equation. There are three rather than two possibilities, but why couldn’t we add a middle section. Obviously a normal chair wouldn’t work in the middle, but a stool or square on the floor created by masking tape would. Students could make a snap decision about Linear Systems. There are three types of systems: consistent independent, consistent dependent, and inconsistent (or intersecting, parallel, or coinciding lines). Why not Evaluating Expressions? Create a series of expressions that simplify to either 0 or 1 [Ex: 3^0, 3^2-3(3), 0/(pi + 4)]. Another possibility is perhaps Simplifying Radicals. Are these radicals simplified as far as possible: Yes or No? For Algebra, a visual representation of the question seems imperative but easy to add.

new possibility

Could you expand to include four teams?

How could this game be used in your subject area?

Thanks Lisa for sharing!

AlgebraSimplifiedIconDawn is a secondary Algebra teacher in Maryland with a B.S. in Secondary Mathematics Education and a Masters in Information Science and Learning Technologies.
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Active Learning?

Active Learning Mash-up
Active Learning mashup
Mozilla Popcorn Maker is a nifty online tool that allows you to mash-up online videos. The above is my first finished mash-up. Let’s see if WordPress will allow me to share! Hint: Pause the video and let it render a minute before watching. This mash-up is live streaming four different videos.

AlgebraSimplifiedIconDawn is a secondary Algebra teacher in Maryland with a B.S. in Secondary Mathematics Education and a Masters in Information Science and Learning Technologies.
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High School Students and Boundaries

My high school students don’t understand boundaries. The normal guidelines – recycling paper, returning dictionaries, taking turns – are followed, most of the time. They stumble over regular, unspoken guidelines. My analysis always turns into, why?

They are children.HS students and boundaries

Why can you have coffee in the classroom when we can’t?

High school students can be deceiving. They drive cars. They have sex. They have jobs. They spend money. They look like adults. But they are not.

Research and studies tell us that their brains are not fully developed. Some comments that challenge boundaries are from childhood naivety, a lack of experience experience. Science is telling us that this is combined – the underdeveloped frontal lobes we teachers studied in brain-based learning classes. The study fascinates teachers, but are parents and students onboard with the idea that this is science and not just a stage to be fixed – that it is part of brain development?

They explore boundaries.

I can wear this shirt – it follows the dress code.

Part of adolescents is finding your place, pushing boundaries. I did it in high school. Sometimes I got pushback and told to follow the rules. Other times I didn’t and got myself in messy situations.

Do all teachers and administrators give healthy boundaries? What does it tell students when we set a boundary, and fail to enforce it?

Society and parents tell them they are adults.

I pay union dues!

Many parents tell me that their teenagers are grown. That they treat them like adults. That teens can set their own curfews, create budgets, and make life decisions. They hold jobs and pay union dues, just like I do.

I personally have not parented teens. I can understand this approach though. Teenage years are difficult and parents are busy. They look like adults and some of them act more adultlike than others. Teens are still growing though and even if approaching teens as adults is easy, it is not correct. Parents may also be listening to messages from people with ulterior motives.

Marketers and advertisers devote time, research, and money to capturing teens. The easiest way to do this is to capitalize on what teens want: to be adult, to be respected.

If part of adolescents is pushing boundaries and parents and billboards encourage adulthood, why wouldn’t a teenager believe he is on equal footing with a teacher?

A combination: they believe they should not have these boundaries.

I am so tired of this s**t!

I have had too many students honestly believe that they are on equal footing with the teacher for me not to believe the boundary issue needs addressed.

No doubt, teens receive conflicting messages. Media targets them – frequently and with oodles of money. Parents are tired, stretched thin, and may believe that teenagers are indeed adults. Even educators are unaware of new research.

Where do these instances leave teachers? Aside from confused, some steps have helped me in my classroom full of teenagers.

1. Share stories from my teenage years. I did plenty of nonsensical (albeit embarrassing) mistakes as a teenager. When I share a clean and classroom appropriate example, I am met with understanding. Teens have empathy, and this shows them that I get it. I am not clueless about their lives that pull them every which way and send them confusing messages.

2. Teach science. Plenty of activities address this issue, and many are on TpT. In my ELA class, I can easily pull a science article and teach a nonfiction lesson.

3. Send home information. I send home blurbs and websites addressing new research on the teenage brain, specifically about teens and boundaries. Do all parents read these newsletter blurbs? No. A few do, and a few can start the change in beliefs about teens.

I have more questions than answers. Science is changing, teacher education programs are changing, and society will slowly follow. Setting and enforcing boundaries for teenagers is tricky.

It is easy to say have clear boundaries in the classroom, and teachers should; however, I think we would be remiss not to bring attention to these other issues surrounding teenagers and boundaries.

Teenagehood is a rough time and we should bring parents and society’s attention to the new science and struggles. Doing so should help future adolescents.

LanguageArtsClassroomLauralee Moss, a secondary language arts instructor, has taught for over a decade. She has a B.S. in English Education and a M.A. in Teaching and Leadership; visit her blog for more ideas or store for great products.
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