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Multimedia Moment: Analyzing Film in the Classroom

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This post was written by Tom Bober, the Library of Congress 2015-16 Audio-Visual Teacher in Residence. Over the course of his year at Teacher in Residence, Tom will be writing regular posts exploring different aspects of audio-visual materials in the Library’s collection and their use in the classroom.

Viewing a film in class is a commitment of time and technology. Teachers want students to be active viewers, but most are more familiar with passively viewing film and video. How can teachers present film in a way that makes students more likely to analyze its content?

When previewing a film, consider the purpose behind viewing the film within the broader context of a unit or lesson, then determine whether students will view the entire film, or part of the film. Think of the film as consisting of moments — distinct events within the film. What moments do you want your students to look at more closely? In the 1903 film Princeton and Yale Football Game, there are three distinct moments or sequences: the players entering the field (0:15), a pan of the field and stadium (0:30), and highlights of the game (2:13).

Princeton and Yale football game / Thomas Edison, 1903
Princeton and Yale football game / Thomas Edison, 1903 (2:47)

If students are viewing the film to understand football equipment of the time and styles of play to connect to a larger unit on sports injuries, the final sequence, starting at 2:13, provides a starting point for student analysis. The sequence on the field is made up of several shots, units of unbroken film. In each shot, students can see the movement of the players within the play of the game. Sharing bibliographic data can give students context to answer where and when so that they can focus on other facets of the film.

Teachers can use or modify questions from the Teacher’s Guide for Analyzing Motion Pictures to guide student observations.

  • What details about the movement of the players do you notice?
  • Does anything about it seem unusual or unexpected?

Other questions can help connect their reflections to their own background knowledge: If someone created this film today, what would be different? Being able to view the film after the questions are asked can allow students to interact with the primary source while observing and reflecting.

Also consider technology needs. Watching the film in small groups or individually on computers or tablets allows students to analyze the film at their own pace and watch the film multiple times. Many may also want to rewatch a small part of the film several times, freeze the film on one frame, or “scrub” the film, moving the film back and forth using the control panel at the bottom of the player. If viewing a film as a whole class, show the film multiple times as students fill out the Primary Source Analysis Tool and rewatch shots of the film as time allows.

Annotated Screenshot: Princeton and Yale football game / (2:47)

Annotated Sketch: Princeton and Yale football game / (2:47)

Describing movement, transitions, and interactions in film, especially when interpreting those through reflection, can be challenging for students. During analysis, students may want to reference the time marker in minutes and seconds to talk about a specific frame or beginning of a sequence or shot.

Quick sketches or screenshots combined with text may be a more natural way to document what they see at points within the film. When sharing with the class, reenacting movement from the film may help a student show motion and interaction. Much like students may write on a printed primary source, video editing software allows students to add text or voice-over narration over a film to document their observations, reflections, and questions.

What films in the Library of Congress online collections could provide a rich analysis opportunity for your students?


Comments (4)

  1. The observed film by student help them for vision skill and today’s all institutes for teaching and learning uses audio and visual tools .
    They are very important for teaching but don’t help to increasing skill of thinking and writing and reading
    I think the students when the observe the film they learned many vocabulary and perhaps many image that don’t suitable for ages them

  2. I think the movies are a good form to persons learn. Especialy to persons that can momorize more things than another very quick just looking. Perhaps the dificult is to explain this learnings. If someone (students) have conditions to do it perhaps teachers haven’t condicions to understud and acept this. Yeah, i’m toking about me. My first learned is looking. Sorry about my english, I’m learning.

  3. Awesome Work!

  4. The cognitive input of visual Aids cannot be over emphasized. Every year i make some of my project students carry out research on Audio-Visual Aids and the results are outstanding.

    Visual Aids become practically more important in areas were access to a good science Laboratory is limited.

    As a lecturer, researcher and part time blogger visual aids have helped easily pass on points that would have seemed abstract to students.

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