7 Recommended Movies for Discussion in Elementary English

english

Anne (Teacher) asks:

Do you have any recommended short movies for discussion in elementary English class?

Dr. Marion Blank answers:

This question is one that is close to my heart since I have long used movies as a key tool in teaching. Films represent an amazingly powerful and motivating force and when they are blended into the curriculum, the children’s interest and understanding is enhanced in so many ways.

Before offering specific suggestions, let me say that I have interpreted the phrase “elementary English class” to mean any topic children in the early primary grades might be asked to discuss or read (e.g., a book on the first trip to the Moon, the story of the Titanic, etc.)  In other words, the focus is on content and not on topics that might be raised in language arts classes such as the teaching of grammar, the expansion of vocabulary and analysis of words and sounds.

I have one additional prefacing comment. There is no need for us to limit ourselves to short movies. If and when full length films are not feasible, you can provide students with the necessary background information and then present segments of the full length film that illustrate key ideas that you want the children to learn. Consider, for example, the film Born Free—the story of a couple who raised an orphaned lion cub and then amazingly re-educated her so she could return to and survive in the wild. Many segments of the film could be used to illustrate a range of valuable ideas such as the different diets of domesticated and wild animals, the social repertoires of animals, the bonds between people and animals, the hazard of life in the wild and so on.

A key to the selection is to identify the topic(s) you want to illustrate and then present the segments that you think will both intrigue and inform the children.  Here are some that I have found to be very useful.

The Bear: a film that tells the story of an orphaned bear cub who befriends an adult male grizzly as hunters pursue them through the wild.

The Mercer Mayer Frog series: this material, available in the form of both wordless books and videos, shows the varied adventures a small boy has with his pet frog.

Empire of the Sun: the story of the transformation of a young English boy as he struggles to survive under Japanese occupation during World War II.

Shane: a western that tells the tale of a weary gunfighter who attempts to settle down with a homestead family, but a smoldering settler/rancher conflict forces him to act.

The Red Balloon: a wordless film that depicts the relationship of a little boy with his (almost human) red balloon and the adventures they have around the streets of Paris.

Fly Away Home: a tale about the restoration of a “broken” father and daughter relationship that is achieved when the father helps his daughter train a flock of stranded geese to follow their ultralight planes from Canada to a winter home in the south of the United States.

Miracle Worker: the story of Anne Sullivan’s struggles to teach the blind and deaf Helen Keller how to communicate—and the phenomenal success of her efforts.

As you work in this area, feel free to extend the range of films, or film segments, that you show. There is a reason why millions go the movies each week. In bringing that interest and motivation to the classroom , you offer the children a fabulous resource that will yield an amazing payoff.