I can still remember the first time I saw a movie in school. I was in the sixth grade, and such luxuries were new to my school. I was absolutely agog. But those were the days when television was in its infancy. Now kids receive much or most of their information about the world through the TV or computer monitor. While the medium itself is no longer as intrinsically interesting as it was when I was in school, it is no less useful. A picture is still worth a thousand words. It would take a masterful wordsmith to create a mental image of the Grand Canyon equal to a picture. Who would argue with the power of movies to portray historical events? How could you teach theater in today’s classroom without at least showing a video of a play?
Still, though, kids are not automatically glued to the screen. While a 30-minute film about the origins of man might fascinate you, look around. Two kids are dropping off to sleep. Four or five are whispering, while at least half of the rest are enjoying their own reverie. Again, you need to keep them on task.
As with any lesson, begin with a few introductory comments and what you hope they will get out of it. As for incentive, a fill-in-the blank worksheet is ideal. Be careful when constructing it, however. Your students are very literal at this age, and the narrator won’t stop to give them time to write out long answers. Write sentences that closely parallel the script, leaving out a word for them to fill in. If your sentence isn’t very close or even identical to the words of the narrator, they will miss it. Remember, your goal here is not to create a challenging activity. Rather your goal is to force the kids to pay close attention to the video. It is entirely appropriate, however, to have them answer more involved questions on the content after the end of the presentation. If a typed and photocopied worksheet is not possible, then dictate a number of simple, short answer questions before the video.
Another technique often used is to have the students watch without any written work during the video, then answer worksheet or quiz questions later. While this does provide and incentive to pay attention, it is difficult for kids to remember the contents of even a short video, especially if it is of a technical nature.
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