Making Curriculum Pop

Reflection on Catherine Gourley's "Teaching Through Film: An Interdisciplinary Approach"

Gourley discussed the importance of using film in the classroom and why students should learn how to read moving images teaching me more about film along the way. I am thrilled and excited to be able to use her strategies in my future classes.

First, she mentioned the usefulness of employing appropriate film terminology, some of which I wasn’t familiar with. I thought that terms such as composition, pacing & continuity, cinematography, and soundtrack were only for professionals who studied and created movies, not for young students. After Gourley’s lecture, I felt ashamed of myself for doubting and underestimating students’ abilities. Since I didn’t have much knowledge of film, it didn’t cross my mind that I could apply its terminology in my lessons. Gourley’s lecture helped me get a clear idea to teach concepts associated with moving images.

Nowadays, adolescents are growing up in a media-saturated culture. They communicate and obtain information online, and through film and television. Gourley mentioned that for students who have difficulty comprehending printed stories, film narratives can improve their “understanding of characters, problem-solving, symbolism, and cause-and effect links” Many people have the misconception that print text is a more accurate and precise way to teach kids. However, now that we live in a high-tech world, things are changing. Educators should use media sources to make lessons more interesting and creative for students.

When Gourley explained her “read the book, watch the movie” approach and gave us a sample lesson, I realized this was something I could use in my classroom. It was also something I was familiar with from junior high school. Question: What parts of the novel did the film get right or wrong? Which version did you like better? Do these types of questions sound familiar? They certainly do to me. Before listening to Gourley’s lecture, I thought comparing and contrasting between the movie and the book had limited educational value.

Gourley’s interdisciplinary approach also sounded very useful and productive. Instead of just showing parts of a movie, educators can give students the whole film to observe and study. They can learn beginning, middle, and end structure works within novel-based film about cause and effect in history films. In addition, they can concentrate on how and why movie directors “create meaning through visual and audio representations.”
Gourley used To Kill a Mockingbird and Duck and Cover to show how we can employ film to teach about American history in the 1950s.


Personally, I really enjoyed watching Duck and Cover. It was a Civil defense film that showed how to get ready for what was then considered a new danger, the dropping of an atomic bomb. The film showed kids how to duck and cover their faces if they saw a bright light or any type of atomic explosion. If I showed this to my students, they might think it was funny since there were some unusual since showing how kids ducked immediately. But from watching this film, they can actually see how people dressed, the environment, and some events that occurred during this time. They can learn firsthand about the history of the U.S. in the 50s and can discuss how and why the film was made.


Overall, Gourley taught us important lessons about why we should teach through film and how we can incorporate such instruction into the classroom.

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Comment by Sean Owens on May 4, 2009 at 10:49am
I found gourleys information useful as well. When she talked about her watch the movie read the book approach her presentation became much clearer to me. The TKAM film could be used to show how African Americans dressed and were treated during that time period. Student can critically analyze this text and notice differences between the movie and text.

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