Literacy goes to the movies

15th July 2005 at 01:00
So what is literacy in the 21st century? As the assessment regimes become ever more sophisticated in tracking pupil progress in reading and writing, we need to ask whether it should be defined by narrow and easily testable measures. If school scores go up, people will say literacy has improved; if they go down, literacy will have too.

A British Film Institute conference this week argued that literacy should extend beyond books and reading. Film, which has been with us for more than 100 years, also teaches children about narrative, character and emotional truths. Our report this week on Moving Image Education (page 15) indicates that, while the application of film to literacy teaching in primary schools is at an early stage, there are enough indications to confirm some promise.

Not only have pupils' language skills shown a "marked change", but there have been other spin-offs in better teamwork and growing confidence among pupils.

The BFI call this week was especially timely. As with books, it has published an exemplary list of 10 films every child should see by the age of 14 (TESS, last week). As we reported last week, we also asked teachers to do the same and the two lists are remarkably similar, with favourites such as ET, Billy Elliot and Kes featuring on both. These have the capacity to instil a love of culture and reading in pupils as much as books, and should be given their due place.

However maligned media studies may be, it has a role in inspiring pupils who are less "conventionally literate", as the BFI puts it.

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