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Celluloid lessons

The benefits of using film in lessons are becoming increasingly recognised.

A work unit on The Truman Show for an English GCSE assignment was particularly successful recently and could be used to cover issues in other subjects, such as RE and citizenship. We looked at the video cover to analyse how the distribution company attracts its target audience. This work includes issues of celebrity as well as an understanding of graphics, layout and language. We also analysed the opening five minutes of the film to see how narrative and character are established.

The film raises issues which may be more suitable to other lessons, such as the use of product placement, of which the film takes a satirical view, and consideration of free will and determinism. With my lower-ability set I did not use these words at first, but we came to them when we had debated the issues: should Truman stay in his comfortable world even though every aspect of his life is a construct and every minute of it is filmed? Or should he take his chances in the harsh world outside? This allowed for role-play before the formal discussion and culminated in a written assignment. There are several websites relating to the film, which give additional ideas. The unit proved popular with pupils and engaged their interest in a range of issues stretching beyond the boundaries of the actual coursework assignment.

Karen Lockney, head of English, Dallam School, Milnethorpe, Cumbria

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