I used to love showing films in class but that has changed. In my College Writing course, we read the novel Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson. I kept it under wraps that there is a film adaption of the novel to ensure that the students don’t watch the movie and skip the book. While the subject is a bit heavy or triggering for some (the novel is about a rape victim) I have used the novel to teach literary devices, vocabulary and comprehension. Once we finish the novel, I then reveal that we will be watching the film. While some students are interested, there are those who are not.
In the darkness of the classroom the familiar glow of bright smartphone screens reflect on their faces despite trying to hide their phones under their desks. At this point the film is paused and a warning issued. Yes, I’ve brought additional assignments, yes I will turn off the film. Please put cell phones away. Despite the disheartening need to reprimand the students, this works and students either commit to hiding their cell phones more diligently or actually take heed and put their devices away. I shook my head.
Watching a film adaption of a novel is a great way to illustrate many scenes students may have had difficultly with, or even just put faces to the characters. It bring the novel to life. Some students feel that watching a film in class is a free pass to sleep, work on other assignments for other classes, or completely mentally check out. For these reasons, I have students write a compare and contrast essay about the film vs the book. This assignment forces students to take notes, and most importantly pay attention. Another way to keep students focused is to keep half, or most of the lights on to detract sleepers, and cell phone usage.
In a perfect world, I would put on a film and students would be engaged and excited. They would be drawn in by the characters and interested in the film adaption of the book. This is not a perfect world, and while there are students who are that interested, many are not. I have also taken to showing films very rarely because the effort to enjoy such a luxury in the classroom doesn’t seem that appreciated.