Tag Archives: Movies in the Classroom

12 Movie Shorts, Animations, and Documentaries

 For Teaching and Promoting Social Emotional Learning

I have taught a media literacy elective to seventh and eighth graders for fifteen years. During that times, movies were a fuel for reading, writing, collaboration, critical thinking, and communication. Students analyzed Disney films for their portrayal of sexism, ageism, classism, and racism. Students took on a cause that they were passionate about and created public service announcements and short documentaries to raise awareness and call to action.  Students analyzed the features of the classic Twilight Zone episode and the current Stranger Things to identify elements of suspense and storytelling. But you do not need to be teaching an academic class specific on media literacy to bring movies into your classroom as a teaching tool for social emotional learning. Utilizing short films in any classroom can provide mini lessons and conversations to address social emotional learning with children and adults. 

Currently, I am kicking off the week with “Movie Mondays” in my middle school literacy lab where students view a short film and extract themes and key ideas the first fifteen minutes of this academic support class. These films become teaching tools to support close reading skills, critical thinking, and social emotional learning. 

Here is a list of a dozen short films available on Youtube, TedEd,  and Vimeo that promote SEL themes and topics. Be sure to preview the films before you show them with your students. You know better than I do what is appropriate for the students in your classroom. 

Being “different,” Accepting Others who are Different, and Building Empathy

1. I Have a Visual Disability and I Want You To Look Me In The Eye – NYT Opinion – This short documentary is part of the New York Times Op-Doc series and was created by James Robinson, a filmmaker from Maine He uses his personal experiences to shows what it feels like to live with several disabling eye conditions. “Using playful graphics and enlisting his family as subjects in a series of optical tests, he invites others to view the world through his eyes.” This video is a powerful essay on  seeing and being seen, how we treat others who look different.

2. A Conversation on Race – New York Times Series – Started in 2015, The New York Times created eight videos that included testimony of people talking about race, ethnicity and gender. These short films focus on identity in America.

Perseverance & Promoting Growth Mindset

3. One Small Step by TAIKO Studios – This animated short film tells the story of a young girl and her quest to become an astronaut. Viewers see her perseverance, dealing with set backs, and then reaching her goal.

4. Hair Love by Sony Picture Animation – Hair Love, an Oscar®-winning animated short film from Matthew A. Cherry, tells the heartfelt story of an African American father learning to do his daughter’s hair for the first time. The movie also addresses cancer and how a family copes when a parent is sick. There is no dialogue and the images themselves are powerful for making inferences.

5. Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance Angela Duckworth’s TED Talk – University of Pennsylvania professor and author, Angela Lee Duckworth describes her job teaching math to seventh graders in a New York public school. She quickly realized that IQ wasn’t the only thing separating the successful students from those who struggled. Here, she explains her theory of “grit” as a predictor of success.

6. The Boost Students Need to Overcome Obstacles TED Talk by Anindya Kundu – How can disadvantaged students succeed in school? For sociologist Anindya Kundu, grit and stick-to-itiveness aren’t enough; students also need to develop their agency, or their capacity to overcome obstacles and navigate the system. He shares hopeful stories of students who have defied expectations in the face of personal, social and institutional challenges.

7. Pip Goes to Guide Dog School By Southeastern Guide Dogs – In this animated short, Pip enters canine university in order to become a guide dog. Although he does not meet the guide dog standards, he shows grit, diligence, and tenacity to become a guide dog. Despite not passing the guide dog test, once outside in the “real world” Pip shows his strengths and ability to be a lead dog.

8. Instructions for a Bad Day – Shane Koyczan – Shane Koyczan is a powerful Canadian poet. His poems address topics of bullying, self regulation, cancer, death, and perseverance. Also check out these other poems, “To This Day Project ” and “How to Be a Person.”

Designing a Better World + Encourage and Guide Positive Social Activism and Social Awareness

9. Man vs. Earth by Prince Ea – Prince Ea is a spoken word poet and his videos on YouTube address key themes of acceptance, social action using the power of language to communicate his message.

10. Plastic Bag directed by Ramin BahraniPlastic Bag is a short film where a Plastic Bag goes on an epic journey in search of its lost Maker, wondering if there is any point to life without her. The Bag encounters strange creatures to be with its own kind until it ends up in the North Pacific Trash Vortex.

Communication, Emotional Regulation, Compassion

11. Modern Love, A Kiss Deferred (Animated)The New York Times – A 12 year old girls life and love are turned upside down during the war in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Learn the joys and challenges faced when the war breaks out.

12. How to Be Alone by Sindha Agha New York Times Op Doc – How do you handle being alone? This documentary was created during quarantine and COVID. The director shows viewers how she is dealing with isolation and loneliness, her longing to interact others and lessons learned from arctic explorers.

Have a favorite animation, movie short or documentary that promotes social emotional learning? Share your ideas in the comments section.

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Jumpstart Your Lessons With Some Movie Magic

This past weekend was the ISTE Creative Constructor Lab where educators gather to tinker, try and create media-rich projects with cutting-edge technologies. I am honored to be part of the amazing educators presenting during this virtual lab to share ideas that inspire creativity, innovation, and invention.

The last day of the conference I presented about the power of incorporating short videos and movie making to promote student engagement. Educators were encouraged to try one of these fun movie magic projects and make a quick video to share with the CCL community! Here are some of the movie projects shared:

I. CLONE YOURSELFEver wanted to know what it would be like clone yourself multiple times and do fun things together? 

Materials:

  • iPhone or iPad
  • Ghost Lens app 
  • A tripod or a place where the camera can be propped up and not moved AT ALL.
  • Tape or something to mark the floor
  • A person or very cooperative pet

Directions:

  1. Plan out your split screen by taking a piece of paper and splitting it into two. Assign what one clone will do on one side of the frame and what the other clone will do on the other side.
  2. Practice and time it out to see how long it will take. You will need to do both sides, film it at different times, it will look like it’s happening at the same time.
  3. Place the camera on a tripod or propped up where it won’t be moved!
  4. Divide the frame into two or three by placing markers on the floor (tape is a good idea). We recommend starting with one marker in the middle of the frame to divide the image in two. *Note: Marker is there so the subject knows where not to cross. If you cross, you will disappear so be careful!
  5. Open up the Ghost Lens app.
  6. Choose the template where it divides the image in two vertical sections.
  7. Film yourself twice.

Idea Starter:

  1. Start sitting on one side of the frame reading or doing an activity. 
  2. Look up at one point frustrated and go back to doing your activity. 
  3. Now film the second half by coming in from the other side of the frame being noisy and trying to get the attention of your clone. You can either walk out or stay in the frame giving up.

Helpful tip! Go behind the scenes of The Parent Trap (1964) using the split screen technique to clone the actor, Hayley Mills, as identical twins. Watch it HERE.

II. BOSS BATTLE VILLANSIn gaming, a “boss” is a villain who the hero must defeat to save the day. Think of the monster at the end of each level in the original Super Marios Bros. who must be defeated before moving to the next level. 

Materials:

  • Digital Device
  • Snapchat app 
  • A tripod or a place where the camera can be propped up and not moved AT ALL.
  • Any necessary props

Directions:

1 . Plan out who is your boss battle character. You can choose to browse the different filters on Snapchat under “Explore” to find a “boss” students will battle.

Need more inspiration, check out @thebesteducator on Instagram to see the awesome bosses he has created for his 5th grade students. 

2. Collect necessary props or costumes to create an engaging profile.

3.Practice and time your boss introduction. 

4. Film and and share your intro boss video when students compete in their next boss battle. 

Gamification Note – Boss Battles are fun ways to prepare your students for tests and quizzes and assess their learning. They are meant as a way to review for formative assessments during class, and students answer questions out loud in the classroom.
Boss Battles can be created as a whole class game on Google Slides or Powerpoint or can be individualized self paced Google Forms set up as a Quiz. 

III. MOVIE MAKEUP MAGICEver want to learn movie-make-up magic to create fake bruises and more? Check out this tutorial to learn how to create bruises, cuts, and gashes that will scare your friends and family. Try them out on your yourself or your family members and create a portfolio with four or more examples of your work. 

Here are some other videos to help you with your own makeup special effects: 

  1. Black Eyes
  2. Bruises I & Bruises II
  3. Zombie Tutorial

IV. BACKWARDS MAGICSome of the best special effects are done just by reversing movie footage without any CGI or green screening. Using this trick of showing footage in reverse creates some of the most jaw-dropping moments you will ever see. How would you like to defy gravity? Make an object fly into your hands, or have your hair instantly dry after being totally wet?

Materials:

Directions:

  1. Plan out a movement where the end is the beginning and the beginning is the end. *Check out the “Backwards Movement Ideas” below for some ideas.
  2. Grab a prop(s).
  3. Open up your app, film your movement, and then reverse it.

Backwards Movement Ideas:

  • Shake off a hat from your head and make sure to film the hat landing on the ground. *The hat will fly from the ground onto the head.
  • With parents observing, jump from a low stool to the ground *You will look like you are floating up onto the chair.
  • Film a few seconds of yourself with dry hair looking into the camera then have someone, or yourself, pour water over your head. *It will look like the water is pouring back into the container and you become instantly dry.
  • Write something on a piece of paper *The pencil will “eat” up the words or drawing.
  • Now come up with your own!

Backwards Magic in Action!

Watch this lovely story about a lonely man trying to connect with someone in a backwards world in the short film, Love in a Backwards World

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