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View through the lens

Watching films, as well as making them, can be a good way to tackle citizenship. Poppy Simpson, education developer at the British Film Institute (BFI), says: "Films offer a perfect way to explore citizenship because they often reflect contemporary concerns and tackle difficult social issues."

Young people watch film a lot, so it is one of the key ways that they learn about the world, she says. "It's tempting to show a film and then go into a general discussion about the issues that it raises. But it can be far more rewarding to look at it critically; to consider how it gets its message across by, for example, exploring key scenes or analysing the use of lighting, music and camera angles.

Media literacy is a vital component of effective citizenship, she says. "Young people need to learn how news programmes, documentaries and feature films can influence or shape opinion.

"The BFI produces collections of short films ideal for primary children, and which touch on a whole host of citizenship-related themes - from attitudes to disability, to the importance of conserving water, to the way our actions can affect our neighbours. The films come with teaching ideas and key questions - and because most shorts are less than 15 minutes long, it's easy to plan lessons."

Interviews by Steven Hastings.

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