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English - Films are not a lazy option

What it's all about

I teach 22 English lessons a week. Half begin with a pupil asking, "Are we watching a film?"

Watching the film of the book is now accepted as a way to supplement textual study. But it can be a passive activity, so I've been experimenting, writes Fran Hill.

When my Year 9s (S2s) studied The Tempest, we watched sections of the film starring Helen Mirren as Prospera, leading to spirited debate about whether a female Prospero was credible.

While studying Of Mice and Men, read the chapter in which Lennie visits Crooks' room. Watch the corresponding film scene without the sound. Pause the film at important points and ask the pupils to select from the text which line they think the character is saying and why. You can also explore the soundtrack by playing the sound without the picture, asking pupils to guess which scene it accompanies.

It's useful to compare the six sections that John Steinbeck chose for the book with the film's scene-by-scene structure, evaluating why some scenes were added, omitted or altered.

Directors economise on a book's dialogue. While studying To Kill a Mockingbird, pupils can highlight the dialogue they predict will be used in the film, then watch to see how accurate their predictions were. This works well in the court scenes and could be just as helpful when studying The Crucible.

I'm coming round to the idea of film-watching. And I'm not averse to a bit of popcorn myself.

What else?

Help pupils to understand film music with Graham Hickey's introduction. Or for a basic introduction to cinematography, try TESEnglish's PowerPoint on camera shots.

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