WATCHING A film such as The Lion King may not seem an arduous classroom task, but a primary teacher from Cambridgeshire says that pupils singing along to it are actually working on their textual-analysis skills.
Rowena Watts examined the effectiveness of using film as part of the curriculum with two classes of 6- and 7-year-olds. Her aim was to promote creativity.
"The tension between creativity and a highly structured approach creates a challenge for teaching innovatively," Ms Watts said, but she believes this tension can be circumvented by screening films in class.
At first, her pupils struggled to reconcile popcorn-munching experiences of watching films with schoolwork, but they quickly learnt to concentrate and pay attention.
Ms Watts said: "Pupils watching a filmic text are likely to become involved in a dialogic activity, just as readers of books interact with the text. Young children almost burst with ideas: 'Look at that!', 'It's coming in!', 'Look over there!' "
By listening to these exclamations, teachers are able to witness children's thoughts and responses to a given text. And they can use filmic images to trigger thoughts, memories and interpretations.
Ms Watts believes this process is about "creative reading": developing an individual response to a text.
"By generating this response, the creative teacher is developing a creative learner and empowering this learner to develop divergent problem-solving skills when making meaning from a text," she said. By valuing pupils' responses to a film, teachers validate their responses to other media, such as written words.
Ms Watts said: "If reading is about making meaning from texts ... then learning to read a film should in turn enhance children's development of higher-order reading skills of printed text, helping them understand inference and deduction through a more accessible and familiar medium."