Essential information for successful classroom screenings.
Choose your film
Choose a short film (around 10 minutes) or choose an excerpt which has plenty of interest for you and your group.
Why do I want to show the film?
- To stimulate discussion or support themed work?
- As a stimulus for writing, drama or music?
- A source of information for history or geography?
- To demonstrate a technique in science or P.E.?
- Or maybe it is to learn about [film language] itself.
- There might be lots more reasons.....
How well do I know the film?
Watch the film all the way through! Many people don't remember this first step and are then caught out by content or language they were not expecting.
Can I show a 12 film in primary school?
Actually there is nothing legally to stop you. But the best practice is of course to send letters home making it clear why you think the film is relevant and seeking permission to show it. (Similarly "Can I show a 15 or 18 rated film in a secondary school? Same law applies. Answer Yes)
Hone your skills
Impress your pupils with the same pausing, rewinding and fast forwarding skills you mastered at home!
Prepare the lesson
Select a film and exercise
If you have never used film with your class before, these two discussions are excellent ways to start analysing. And the 3Cs and 3Ss: Story, Setting, Sound, Colour, Character and Camera are a good way to generate discussion and get your pupils understanding the rich text of film!
The BFI developed the 3Cs and 3Ss – to help children remember the multi-faceted nature of moving images.
Analyse the film yourself
- Choose a technique from Reading Film that best fits your initial aims.
- Try the technique for yourself, and make sure it works for your chosen clip.
- Think how you will introduce the clip to your pupils and what learning activity you will follow it up with after the viewing.
Film clip length
You are using the film clip for a specific learning intention, so keep it short, less than 15 minutes usually works best. The interest of the pupils is less likely to wane after this. Better devote more time to exploring their reactions and understanding of the clip.
Once is never enough
Don't be afraid of repeated viewings. Each analyse technique will offer something new to your pupils' appreciation of the same film. Follow up a first viewing with a discussion. Subsequent viewings can be used to motivate and inspire other types of learning.
Prepare the room
- Watching films is first and foremost a listening exercise, (can the class next door do something quiet for the next hour?)
- If it is too bright, black out the windows, or at least switch off the lights.
- Plan the seating so that everyone is comfortable and can see the screen.
We also have more tips on great screenings on our site.
Prepare the equipment
- Check all the equipment before and on the day you are planning to show a film clip.
- Does your system have reasonable speakers? Good sound is important!
- Is there a remote control and does it work?
- Is your computer and interactive whiteboard enabled to show DVDs?
- If you are using internet content, have you checked that it works in school? Many school firewalls block sites such as YouTube, it may be advisable to download content at home onto a memory stick.
- If you are using presentation software like PowerPoint or Keynote have you checked that your video files work on the computer you will be using for your presentation?
Sometimes it can help to convert internet video files into another formats so they work smoothly with your computer. This also helps if you have problems "streaming" films.
Make sure you have all your materials ready for follow up activities. If you are seen scampering around the room during the screening, it can be very distracting for your audience.
Even with the most careful preparation, gremlins can still get the better of us and nothing works! Have something else ready just in case it all goes pear shaped.
Prepare the children
There are vast differences between watching for pleasure and learning to read films. Ensure the class have a clear idea of why they are going to be watching the film and what they are going to be learning from it.
Your class are an audience, so treat them like one! This doesn’t necessarily mean dressing up as an usher and serving ice-cream and popcorn before the film starts, but they are very accustomed to watching TV, internet clips or DVDs - so make their experience different.
- Offer insight and background into the film they are about to watch. This is dependent on their age, ability and what technique you are going to use. (remember the element of surprise is crucial to certain clips).
- Display and discuss any new words or concepts that will help their understanding or enjoyment.
- When needed differentiate and explain concepts like live action & animation; documentaries & fiction; genre; cultural differences etc.
- Many will be unfamiliar with complete short films like these. It might help to compare them with the concept of short stories or TV sketches.
- Warm their interest with brainstorm activities. eg. the skills a director needs, how to be successful in Hollywood, top ten scary movies, funniest TV shows, etc.
- Set the scene before the film. The more adventurous of you may want to get dressed up in a character that links with the film. Younger children, in particular, love this. Or use a hand puppet to introduce the film for you.
The visual stimulus of a film can fire children's imaginations - follow up activities tap into this motivation and the creative thinking inspired by the film and give ideas that can be used to improve the quality of pupils' writing.
I engage with a rich range of texts in different media - Curriculum for Excellence Literacy Outcomes
Playing films in educational establishments
As we understand the current interpretation of the law, a school can, in limited circumstances, show a film in a classroom environment for the purposes of education without infringing copyright. However, it only applies if the audience is limited to teachers, pupils and others directly connected with the activities of the establishment. It will not generally apply if parents are in the audience.
Most schools and local authorities have the freedom to use programmes recorded from the television etc; education establishments are usually covered through a blanket licence agreement from ERA.
The Copyright Designs and Patent Act 1988 (CDPA) includes a number of exemptions which allow limited use of copyright works without the permission of the copyright owner and in this example the school would be making use of Section 34 of the CDPA which states :
34 Performing, playing or showing work in course of activities of educational establishment
(1) The performance of a literary, dramatic or musical work before an audience consisting of teachers and pupils at an educational establishment and other persons directly connected with the activities of the establishment -
(a) by a teacher or pupil in the course of the activities of the establishment, or (b) at the establishment by any person for the purposes of instruction, is not a public performance for the purposes of infringement of copyright.
(2) The playing or showing of a sound recording, film or broadcast before such an audience at an educational establishment for the purposes of instruction is not a playing or showing of the work in public for the purposes of infringement of copyright.
(3) A person is not for this purpose directly connected with the activities of the educational establishment simply because he is the parent of a pupil at the establishment.
You can get more information from the Intellectual Property Office