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Teaching with Movies: 20 tools for integration

Four times a year, I get the opportunity to work with 25-30 classroom teachers as part of an ongoing professional learning community. We chat about all sorts of things. Video games. Primary sources. Technology integration. Literacy standards.

Today, we spent the morning chatting with Don Gifford, KSDE social studies guru, about the upcoming state assessment and sharing strategies for encouraging discipline-specific writing skills. Evidence-based terms. Writing prompts. Good stuff.

The afternoon?


We started by spliting up into two imaginary groups – parents and teachers. Each researched the following question:

Should movies be part of the instructional practice in a social studies classroom?

Then a “parent” and “teacher” met to discuss the question using the Structured Academic Conversation strategy. The idea was jump-start a deeper conversation about best practice and the use of videos / films / movies in the classroom.

The group discussed lots of great ideas and suggestions but it came down to one basic theme – having a clear purpose for showing the video. That purpose could be a variety of things:

  • historical content / knowledge
  • bias / perspective
  • emotional connection
  • supporting evidence
  • compare / contrast time, place, or people
  • film as primary source

We looked at an older History Tech post and I’d figured why not re-post some of that with a few updates?


I’m probably encouraging the stereotype of social studies teachers / coaches showing movies every week so that they can read the newspaper, break down game film, or drink coffee. But I will always argue that the appropriate use of video clips and movies is great for kids.

So some resources to help break the stereotype:

Teaching History has some great articles and suggestions for using movies in your instruction. What Do Students Learn from Historical Feature Films provides information about how you can help kids analyze historical videos as historians. Teaching with Historical Film Clips provides a useful list for creating a lesson plan that integrates movie clips.

The people at Truly Moving Pictures also have a couple of handy tools. The first is a nice PDF guide for parents and educators that provides suggestions for activating positive emotions during viewing. They also have extensive curriculum guides for a variety of feel-good movies. Not all would work in a social studies classroom but there several such as The Express and Glory Road that could be used.

There are numerous print resources to help teachers:

There are lots of other useful online tools out there. Check out these resources for more ideas and suggestions:

How do you use movies and videos? What works for you?

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