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Using movies in homeschooling

October 17, 2019 - Thursday 4:10 AM by Grace Gaston Dousel

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My family loves watching movies. Cinema tickets are part of our regular budget. Owing to my days as a mass communication student in university, I believe that film-viewing is a good way to learn. However, parents and teachers should be discerning as to what movie is appropriate for their learners. As a homeschooling family we have always included movies as part of our curriculum and we have had many interesting learning moments in movie theaters.
Here are some ways movies can be used in homeschooling:
1. Narrating. When my kids were younger, I would let them narrate back to me what they remember from the movie. This was a very good way to check their comprehension, develop their oral language skills, foster sequencing abilities, and sharpen their skill in taking note of details.
2. Summarizing. Narrating back a story is essentially summarizing it. Summarizing is re-telling in your own words what has happened. Summarizing is an important skill because it is a basic and oft required exercise in higher education. Among the first papers to be submitted in college are a summary and a book review. Both need the skill of being able to retell what one has read.
3. Sequencing and organizing ideas. When a child can clearly retell something she has seen in a logical and organized way, she has developed a skill essential to writing. Someone once said that writing is thinking clearly in print. The ability to communicate in a clean sequential and organized manner is a skill that needs to be developed as early as possible.
4. Critical thinking. Because they narrate using their own words, they not only become adept in language use, they also learn to formulate and stand on their own convictions. They also learn the art of expressing their own opinions. The narration exercise doesn’t usually just end with retelling the story. It leads to thinking through the events and evaluating the way the problem was resolved in the plot of the movie. The kids also present their solutions to the problem and the reason why they think their solution is going to work.
5. Using descriptive words. Recalling the movie and discussing it afterwards help the kids use descriptive words. Accessing what their senses of sight and hearing have perceived enhances vocabulary building, especially the use of descriptive words. This is essential to writing.
6. Valuing. Children have the opportunity to interact with their parents as family values are articulated in light of the movie they have seen. Post-viewing discussions can be a very good venue to inculcate in kids what the family truly considers to be true, good, and beautiful.
7. Creating. A film can serve as an inspiration to create something more: a project, a painting, a song, a poem. In Bloom’s Taxonomy of Learning, creating is the highest order of thinking. It is a very good measurement of learning if a child is able to create something original because it means he/she has achieved other skills as well, such as knowing, identifying, describing, understanding, analyzing, and synthesizing.
8. Communicating. Talking about a film is not a problem for the verbose child. But it could also be a good take off point for conversing with the more reserved kid. Questions like “What did you like most about the film?” and “What do you think about what the main character did to solve the problem?” can give you access into the inner thoughts of the silent child.
9. Appreciating art and music. The artistic and musically inclined children can be inspired to focus on the cinematic elements, the production design, the costume, and the musical score of the film. Kids with very keen artistic and musical sense would surely notice a thing or two and would be more than happy to share their thoughts whenever asked.
10. Defining culture. Some say films mirror culture. Others say it defines culture. Whichever the case may be, movies are an excellent way to learn about culture, your own and others’ because films are always created in a context and these contexts are shaped by culture. Discussions about films can easily lead to conversations that can be culturally educational, informative, and even transformative.

The next time you choose going to the cinema as a family activity, turn it into something that will lead to a deeper connection with each other because you are learning together. To ensure this, I suggest that as parents, you choose movies that are age-appropriate. Do your due diligence and research about the film: behind the scenes stories of the filming process, what inspired the filmmakers to make the movie, what preparations did the actors make to be part of it, whether the film was based on true accounts or purely fictional. Your kids (especially the teens) would appreciate the stories behind the story! Read reviews of noteworthy critiques. You may also want to go to the extent of previewing the film before bringing your brood into the movie theater. Aim to watch earlier in the day so you could have a meal or milk tea (for families with teens) where you can just naturally talk about the movie you have just seen.
And of course, make it your goal to enjoy as a family!