When I was a kid, I thought that movies were made in an hour and a half and that they were shot in sequence. I was vaguely aware that there had to be a camera, but I imagined that it could change setups instantaneously. . . . It took a long time for me to realize that movies are made. I had to step back even further to notice that they are made of shots, that each shot is a unit in itself as well as part of the whole, and that it is possible for the way a film is shot to convey its meaning.
—Bruce F. Kawin, Ph.D., film historian, professor of English and Film Studies,
University of Colorado, as quoted in How Movies Work
Message Board: Share your teaching strategies and successes with other educators who are also using The Story of Movies teaching units. Ask a question, post a comment.
News and Features: Read short articles about The Story of Movies educational program.
Professional Development: Learn about techniques for analyzing and discussing films in the classroom. Download a presentation to help you better understand the Story of Movies' interdisciplinary approach.
Resources and Links: Looking for archival films for use in the classroom? Want more information about film preservation, classic films, or the filmmaking process, including interviews with filmmakers? Click here.
I’m not a film expert. Can I still teach The Story of Movies?
Yes! Teachers need not be experts in film language or the filmmaking process in order to teach The Story of Movies. Because of the interdisciplinary approach, much of the content will be familiar to educators — methods of characterization, the link between history and culture, the function of music, and principles of composition. The online teacher’s guides for each classic film provide overviews and background information to assist educators in facilitating discussions and presentations. The guide also provides detailed answer keys for all activities and screening sheets.
Is there a scope-and-sequence to teaching The Story of Movies lessons? Or can I just select the lessons I like best and teach those?
The Story of Movies has a specific sequence intended to maximize students’ understanding of the film as a work of art as well as a historical and cultural document. Each chapter is a building block. The lessons and activities in one chapter prepare students for the concepts they will learn in subsequent chapters.
Jumping around from chapter to chapter may result in poor student performance. For example, asking students to identify and analyze film depictions (an activity in chapter 4) will be very difficult unless they have a basic understanding of composition (an activity in chapter 3). Likewise, students must first understand what a film’s story is about (chapter 1) before they begin analyzing how the filmmaker uses lights, camera angles and sound in telling the story (chapter 3).
Where can I learn more about The Story of Movies interdisciplinary approach?
A fundamental principle of The Story of Movies is that students study a single film in depth. In order to interpret and derive meaning from the films they study, students tap their existing knowledge of literature, social studies, and history, as well as art, music, and science. The lessons have a ripple effect. In using these multiple disciplines to analyze the film, students deepen their understanding of these other subject areas. “Beyond Read-the-Book, Watch-the-Movie” is a presentation that you can download by going to Professional Development.
Can I show clips or selected scenes from a film for class study instead of screening the entire film?
A second fundamental principle on which The Story of Movies is based is that students should view and study the entire film first rather than only snippets. Why? Films, like novels, have structure (a beginning, a middle and an end) that creates meaning. We do not study a novel by selecting just the first three chapters. Films, like history, have cause-and-effect relationships. We do not study history by studying just three famous individuals or one cause-and-effect relationship. To understand a film narrative, you have to see the whole picture. What happens in act I affects what happens in act II and that, in turn, determines the outcome in act III.