The Pros and Cons of Using Movies in the Classroom

Ginger Abbot

Feb 20, 2023
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The vast majority of students love watching movies during class, but for a wide variety of reasons. The film itself is the most important factor, but you also need to consider the different personalities in your classroom and how they will respond. Here are the biggest pros and cons of using movies in the classroom.

1. PRO: Garners More Interest

Kids are visual learners. They can’t always get the full picture of a person or event through a traditional lecture. A movie can give them clear images and make them more interested in the subject matter. This strategy is especially effective for complex subjects that have a lot of background information. It can also make dull subjects more interesting.

For example, before diving into a difficult math or science subject, an educational film can give students visual descriptions and real-world applications of the subject. Once students understand how and why they need to learn the subject, they’ll be more responsive to it when you start the lecture.

2. CON: Doesn’t Require Participation

Participation is a crucial part of a child’s education. Movies, of course, require no participation. Some students will go on their phones, do work for other classes, or fall asleep. You could make them take notes or assign homework after the movie, but it doesn’t guarantee that everyone will pay attention.

On the bright side, a movie will give you a good idea of which students aren’t invested in the class. Write down which students pay attention and which ones don’t. 

3. PRO: Provides Teaching Moments

Movies can leave many questions unanswered, which works in your favor. You can use those unanswered questions as catalysts for productive teaching moments. There is also the chance that a movie addresses unrelated, but important topics that students already learned about. These topics might pique the interests of students who otherwise wouldn’t participate in class discussions.

4. CON: Might Be Historically Inaccurate

All movies divert from historical records to some extent, but sometimes they take too many liberties. An inaccurate movie gives your students a false sense of the subject. When you teach them the real story, they will get confused and might mix up the details. Kids will believe just about anything, so you need to choose your movies carefully.

5. PRO: Addresses Different Learning Styles

The more even-tempered students in your class might respond well to lectures and textbooks, but many students are hyperactive and easily distracted. Movies can be more engaging for the latter group of students and get them involved in the discussion.

Plus, movies don’t spell everything out. Some kids will pick up on subtle details, while others won’t. It’s good to get a variety of reactions because it sparks debates without your instigation.

6. CON: Often Takes Too Long

You might think you set aside enough class time to watch the whole movie, but it often takes longer than expected. You might have to pause the movie to explain a confusing part. School announcements can be another interruption. It might take ten minutes just to get everyone settled into their seats and refresh them about what they watched the day before.

A long movie can take up three or four full class periods, setting back your other plans and assignments. If you’re to devote that much time using movies in the classroom, choose them wisely.

7. PRO: Low-Stress for Students

The school year has a few instances when students are focused on other things besides your class. A school dance, a big sporting event, or an upcoming test in another class are higher priorities to them than one of your standard lectures. A movie day can give them a break from their other school responsibilities and help lower their stress.

Student mental health is more vulnerable than ever, so you need to focus more on the wellness aspect of your teaching style. We’re not suggesting you coddle your students, but rather to give them a reprieve every once in a while.

Keep Your Students Engaged

Using movies in the classroom can keep students of all temperaments and learning styles more engaged. However, the film’s accuracy and time consumption might raise some issues. Choose your films carefully and only add them to the schedule if you think it will benefit the students in the long run.

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