As the end of the school year approaches, many of us will be thinking about special class treats to allow the children some well-deserved downtime (as well as allowing us the chance to pack boxes or strip walls). A classic activity to do just that is watching a film – but how can we be sure that we are choosing an appropriate film? Here are some great films in which characters have good and moral traits behind them that you can expand on in the classroom.
The Goonies (1985) For friendship, compassion and inner conviction
This is a wonderful story about a group of friends who go on an adventure, searching for a hidden treasure. Along the way, they discover a man who is not being cared for very well because he looks different. The kids choose to operate out of a position of love and not judge him by his appearance.
Charlotte’s Web (1973 and 2006) For kindness, love and self-worth
About an unlikely friendship between a pig and a spider, and available in two versions: the 1973 animated version and the 2006 live-action film. When Wilbur the pig's life becomes endangered, his unlikely friend, Charlotte the spider, has a brilliant plan to try to save him. There are many wonderful quotes from this movie, including this one: “No, my webs were no miracle, Wilbur. I was only describing what I saw. The miracle is you.”
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The Secret of Nimh (1982) For courage, grit and tolerance
This movie is truly heartwarming. It’s the story of Mrs Brisby, a mild-mannered mother mouse who will move heaven and earth to save her family from the Farmer Fitzgibbons’ plough. She faces many obstacles, including a ferocious cat and a mysterious rat. Through her sheer grit, she conquers them all.
Shrek (2001) For acceptance and loyalty
Shrek is a story that could be best summed up as not judging a book by its cover. Shrek and Fiona are both ogres. Fiona looks like a princess during the day, but her outer beauty fades at night. The moral of this story is old as the hills, but it is told here with freshness and wit: it’s what's inside that counts.
Up (2009) For tenacity, healing and friendship
A love story and a friendship story all rolled into one. Sometimes people who are hurt tend to shut out others. This movie shows a child turning a grouchy, old person’s heart towards all things good – including love and friendship. The meaning behind this one? Don’t give up – you’re never too old to realise a dream.
So, that’s my list of films, all of which have a moral and important character traits that our pupils should be exposed to. But, whatever we put on, we’ve got to remember, as teachers, that it isn't just about plonking them down and leaving them to watch a film, is it?
At the end of the year, when you're looking for different things to engage the class, watching a film might seem an easy option. But there are some things you can do to make it more meaningful, including:
- Allow a period of reflection and time for discussion about how children felt about the film.
- Get the pupils to write a review or prepare a movie trailer for the film or design a cover for the DVD case.
- The class could create a new character for the film and explain how that would change the plot’s dynamics.
Whatever you decide, don’t feel guilty about putting a film on at the end of term – it can actually be a really important tool for pupils.
Adam Black is a primary teacher in Scotland who, in the New Year's Honours list, received the British Empire Medal for raising awareness of stammering. He tweets @adam_black23