Tag Archives: movies

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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Mash Up March: Genius, Google Stop Motion Animations, & Screencasts

Kukimbia means running in Swahili. Kukimbia is also the name of a documentary directed by Spencer MacDonald and Eva Verbeek showcasing the dedication and culture of three Kenyan runners:

Paul Koech
Specialty: 3000 meters steeplechase
2004 Olympic bronze medalist
Three-time winner IAAF Diamond League
Personal Best of 7:54.31 minutes – third fastest of all-time

Micah Chemos
Specialty: 3000 meters steeplechase
2013 World Championships gold medalist
Four-time winner IAAF Diamond League

Leonard Komon
Specialty: long-distance road race
10K & 15K World Record Holder
Fastest half marathon debut ever


<p><a href=”https://vimeo.com/173574639″>KUKIMBIA: A Journey Through Kenyan Running Culture</a> from <a href=”https://vimeo.com/ambedo”>Ambedo</a&gt; on <a href=”https://vimeo.com”>Vimeo</a&gt;.</p>

What’s Your Vision? In the future what do you want to be? These two questions are asked of the runners presented in the documentary, and are also questions posed to viewers. The documentary showcases perseverance and dedication. It juxtaposes the landscape of Africa, animals in the wild, starry night skies, and lush greenery against the villages, people, and daily life for the runners. The colors throughout the films, the types of shots, transitions, symbolic pictures against the voice overs and music help to convey ideas about what makes the Kenyan running culture an international success.

This documentary gave me the idea to have my own students choose a visionary they are inspired by: Albert Einstein, Thomas Edison, Steve Jobs, Elon Musk, Coco Chanel, J.K. Rowling, Martin Luther King, Jr., Walt Disney, Taylor Swift, Malala, Gandhi, Shawn White. Once students choose a person they deem a genius and visionary, they will research to find out more about them, their education, their inspiration, telling quotes, and accomplishments.

Based on the information gathered on the biography note-taking organizer, students create a Google stop motion animation movie showcasing this person, this genius. To make animated movies in Google Slides, students make multiple slides and incorporate .gifs on the slides.

The following directions to making a Google Slides stop motion animation are from Eric Curts, Google Innovator and author of the blog Control Alt Achieve.

  1. Create your Google Slideshow as normal.
  2. Insert images, shapes, text, and other items as needed.
  3. To save time, make copies of slides and make small changes to the items on each slide to simulate movement.
  4. To make certain slides last longer, make multiple copies of the slide.
  5. When done, use “Publish to the web” option to get playable link for your slideshow.
  6. Adjust the “Publish to the web” link to shorten the time between the slides to make them appear animated (from 3000 to 2000 or 1000 – depending on which speed which works best).
  7. Share the link with others to view!

After students create their biographical Google Slides stop motion animation, students write a script to add a voice over describing the key quotes and accounts of this visionary. Using a screencasting tool like Screencast-O-Matic, students can blend their stop motion animation with their voice overs and musical interludes. Once the videos are completed post online to share with others.

Based on your content area, grade level, or unit of study, this activity can be adapted and revised to best meet student needs. This is a great activity to use as an introduction to Genius Hour and Passion Projects. Or can be completed for a biography projects for history, science, mathematics, or side quest about great writers. Teachers can create a checklist of items students should include in their video including a key quote, symbolic images, and music to convey the theme. Viewing Kukimbia with students can lead to a discussion how filmmakers use specific craft moves to support their purpose and message before identifying the project requirements.

 

 

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Same Old Story

In November of 1989 Disney hit gold with The Little Mermaid, a coming of age princess story about a teenaged (mermaid) girl who is miserable living at home with an overbearing and controlling father, absent mother, a desire to see the “whole wide world” and what it has to offer, contrary to what she had been told.  So, she sneaks out of the house and explores her surrounds, stumbles upon a handsome prince, falls in love, and only the boyfriend can help make the blow to her father that she is leaving home a little easier, but not really.  In the end, the girl is independent from her father who comes to accept this and she is transferred over to a new man, younger man, who she is madly in love with. Of course, they live happily ever after.

Formula straight forward, right?  

Disney tapped into this formula for many of their princess movies that followed: Beauty and the Beast, Aladdin, and Mulan.  At the same time, these girls/princesses were shown as readers, warriors, care givers, independent, and wise.  Hey, it was the 20th Century, post-1970s to be exact, so why not offer a pinch of women’s rights into the story-line mix.

Here we are 2013.  I now have two little kids and probably see more kids movies than adult movies.  Sitting in the theater yesterday, it hit me as we were watching Dreamwork’s The Croods: this is the same old story.  Set in pre-historic times, we have a family with a teenage daughter who feels trapped and confined by her father and his beliefs.  All she wants to do is “leave the cave.”  So, late one night she sneaks out of the cave, drawn by some light — which happens to be controlled by some guy (his name is Guy).  She follows and develops feelings for Guy and her father is angry, upset, and even jealous at times. Yes, she is strong (physically stronger than Guy), independent, adventurous, and angry at her father throughout the movie. BUT, it’s a guy who she develops feelings for who helps her to see the new world.  In the end, everyone loves Guy and they all live happily ever after on a tropical beach.

As I sat in the dark movie theater I thought, “Hey, I’ve seen this before.” It’s not only The Croods that has tapped into the old Disney princess story formula.  Last year’s Hotel Transylvania produced by Sony Pictures also borrowed the same story line using vampires, ghosts, and goblins.  Even Disney Pixar’s Brave used the age-old princess formula to tell the story of an Irish princess, Merida, who rebels when her parents tell her it’s time for her to get married. Yes, there are more parts to the story that I am leaving out but when we strip it down to its bare bones, it’s the same formula.

The girls in the current movies are sassy, independent, and roll their eyes at their father constantly.  I sit in the theater thinking, is this a ode to daughters saying go out into the world with your boyfriend and be happy. We trust you (and your new guy) in the end. OR is this the same confining message to girls to go out into the world, explore, and find your way but the fact of the matter is you still need a man with you, behind you, supporting you?

In my Media Literacy class I have a unit on deconstructing Disney.  We study the critical lens of race, class, age and gender.  Some of my students say, we are reading too much into the movies and others offer many examples or racism, sexism, ageism, and classism throughout the movie.  One of the objectives of this unit is to teach critical thinking skills.  I want my students to understand that there are multiple messages in the media that we consume and we need to be active viewers of media to understand the complexity of these texts.

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