Introductory Notes and Spoiler Warning
Your own personal response to the films you decide to use in the classroom is an important basis for your teaching. You will be asking children for their own responses to these films, so the similarities or differences between your initial responses and theirs could be an interesting starting-point for discussion. It is also important for children to realise that you care about the texts you are bringing into the classroom and that it is possible for people to make a personal ‘investment’ in the texts that they like. This is an important basis for becoming literate in all kinds of text and for being able to articulate critical ideas.
So please DON’T READ THE PAGES ON THE FILMS until you have seen the films yourself! The notes provide detailed synopses, comments by each filmmaker, pointers towards things that you or the children might notice, and suggestions for themes to explore, but your own responses and ideas are equally important, and reading the synopses in advance will spoil your enjoyment.
The aim of these notes is to help you to focus on the films themselves in any classroom work that you plan to do. You may well want to offer activities that ‘move away’ from the film: asking children to talk, draw or write about what might happen after the end of the film-story, for example, or asking them what they would do in a similar situation to a character in a film. These are legitimate activities, but they should be undertaken as a follow-up to work that focuses on the film itself. This means that you should start by focusing on:
• what the children’s responses are;
• what features of the film enabled them to make the interpretations and judgments they have made;
• identifying the strategies used by the filmmaker to.. tell the story, provide clues about characters, setting and genre, what may have happened before and what may happen next, create surprises, generate emotional responses and/or moral judgments
You may feel that these will be too difficult for the children you are teaching. But you may well be surprised to find how much more confident they are in talking about films, than they are in talking about books. You are likely to find that many children will speak and write more fluently and use more sophisticated vocabulary when they are discussing a film, and that this will include some children you may have judged to be poor at speaking, listening and writing.
This is why we do not offer any indications of appropriate age-level for each film. You should make your own judgments about which films would suit the class you are working with. But again, do not be too hasty in judging a film to be ‘too difficult’ for the children you teach. You may be surprised by what children are prepared to watch and try to understand. Even if they do not understand a film fully on first viewing, they may well be happy to view it again to try and make sense of it. They are used to doing this with other films (for example, most popular family films include much that younger children do not understand at first).
Because we are proposing that you take account of children’s own responses to the films, we are not providing you with plans for teaching sequences with predetermined outcomes. We believe that work with film demands a more open pedagogic approach and that if you use the techniques described on pp 3-8 to start out with, you will be able to sustain high quality critical and creative work for a surprisingly long time.
The notes headed Things you might notice are not intended to provide you with a mechanical check-list of things that the children should be required to discuss. They highlight features of the way each film is produced that may help you to be more alert in listening to children’s comments and responding to them and in planning how you are going to present the film. They may also help you drive discussion forward if children are struggling to express ideas, or offer you key points to go back to in the class’s re-viewing of a film. Likewise, the Themes to explore section offers some ‘ways in’ that may be appropriate but you might not want to pursue them all, and you may find other themes emerging in your classroom or from your own viewing.
Once you have previewed one or more of the films and read the notes, you can start to consider the context in which you want to use it. Do not depend too heavily on written work as the only legitimate ‘end product’ of a teaching sequence that includes film. Children’s talk, drawings and, ideally, their own creative work with film, would be equally appropriate. Bear in mind that creative activities in animation can be very simple, and easier than you might expect to manage in the classroom. Your main objective in starting creative work with film should be to ensure that children have more than one opportunity to explore their creative powers in this amazing medium. These powers will be stimulated by repeated opportunities to view and talk about films such as these.