The Dream Course: Questions and Suggestions

As I was sitting at the table last night trying to put together another few weeks’ worth of lesson plans, Mr. Chili wandered over and mentioned that I might want to restrict the number of films I actually show in class.

His point – and I think it’s an entirely valid one – is that students should come away from the class having learned something vuluable.  To that end, he thinks that a good portion of class time should be devoted to discussion and lesson and that film screenings should be limited to either pertinent scenes or films that aren’t readily available from Blockbuster.

While I get his point, I see a couple of problems with it.  First of all – and this doesn’t really matter a tiny little bit, but I’m getting it out there because it’s the first thing that occurred to me when Mr. Chili mentioned it – I’m pretty sure that your average student wouldn’t feel cheated by spending a significant portion of class time watching films.  *I* would, were I a student, but I’m not certain that the current culture would find an equal percentage of viewing vs. active instructional time a problem.

Second,  I’m not sure how to make less screen time work for a couple of reasons.  I don’t know if it’s reasonable to expect students to spend money to do their homework (an average movie rental is about 4 bucks in my neighborhood).  I don’t know if the films I’m asking the students to watch would be available in the kinds of quantities they’d need to be if a whole class were watching them at the same time (I mean, really; how many copies of Torch Song Trilogy do you think Blockbuster has?!).  While I don’t think that many students would object to watching movies as homework (I know *I* certainly  wouldn’t), I’d rather that they be writing as homework; if given a choice between a writing assignment and watching a film in class, I as the teacher would prefer the film (watching kids write is boring).

What do you think?  What would a reasonable percentage of class time spent viewing films be?  Is it feasible to just show clips of a movie instead of the entire piece?  (I’ve got a strong opinion on that, but I’m keeping it to myself until I hear what you all have to say.)  Would it be feasible to assign films for homework and run on the assumption that everyone can a) afford the rental fees b) find the film and c) watch it and pay enough attention to speak with reasonable intelligence about it days later?

This is a bit of a monkey in my works.  Help a Chili out, wouldja?



Filed under concerns, Dream Course, film as literature, Questions

11 responses to “The Dream Course: Questions and Suggestions

  1. Sooza

    After taking a brief look at the outline, I did think that there were a lot of films to watch, in a relatively short time frame. I think that you could get better value for time spent in the classroom with fewer films and more time for discussion.

    Using clips would diminish the impact and flow of the story. But I suppose you could if you have some compelling material that you wouldn’t want to skip.

    Hmmm. It might be interesting to combine two versions of a story, using the first part of one film and the second part of another film. Complicated? Yes, but it could elicit an interesting discussion.

  2. Are you overlooking other options students may have for obtaining the film to watch on their own time? (Does the college/university have a film library they could check items out from? What about the local (non-university) library?) The students could also watch the films in small groups if they’re worried about the rental costs, right?

    I had a gen ed (western civ) class that required us to watch relevant films (some of which weren’t readily available for rental in the area) and then right papers about them. All of this was on our own time. The main difference: We could, instead of watching movies and writing papers about them, read books and write papers about them, or play conquer-the-world games with the prof. As I recall, there was some kind of hour requirement, which is how the viewing/reading/playing was equaled out.

  3. what about setting up outside-of-class-time screenings? just a suggestion, since i don’t know how the logistics of that work with your schedule, plus with scheduling for the space. but in my film-related classes in university, we had our class time, then we had separate, “on this day at this time in this classroom” screenings to watch the films. if we didn’t go to the screenings, we were responsible for finding the movie and watching on our own. again, not sure it’s feasible, but it’s an idea.

  4. I don’t think clips would give the right feel with the topics that you are covering. They have to be taken in context of the entire film.

    I liked Lara’s idea of having a screening class so that the film is available to everyone or they can choose to watch it on their own.

  5. Keep in mind that I taught Social Studies and History during my internship, not a dedicated film/literature course. Also keep in mind that I was teaching high school kids, not college students.

    That being said, it was drilled into me over and over and over again by my internship coordinator, my cooperating teacher, Bowyer, and other teachers that video needs to be done in doses. Ask them to watch an entire movie in one sitting and you’re asking for them to get bored and distracted. Do ANY activity, for that matter, for too long a period of time and you’re asking for them to get bored and distracted.

    You’re going for specific themes with each film, right? Do the students have to see the entire film to get the theme, or will one or two or three scenes do the trick?

    As far as hard-to-find films go, how’s this for a suggestion: find them online, download them, buy a bunch of blank DVDs, burn the downloads onto the DVDs, and then handout the DVDs to the kids?

  6. I rather felt that the discussions were the important part. In Canada, we cannot legally show films in class as it violates copyright laws.

    I cannot label films as literature, anyway. I’d rather create films. Or have them write literature!

  7. I think that if you are discussing plot, character development, etc. just showing clips doesn’t really expose them to how that is accomplished in a movie. If, however, you want to focus on dialogue or setting, then maybe showing a clip or two will make your point.

    How long are your class periods? My classes are 50 minutes long (attendance, announcements, and everything else in 50 minutes!) and I find that class momentum is lost if I have to use three consecutive class periods to watch a movie. If your classes are short, maybe you could show the film up to a certain point on one day and the next day discuss what you have seen.

    If find that if I ask the students to watch the movies on their own, they seldom do.

  8. HiTeach

    When you are working with themes..after some discussion, could you let students locate films that they think fulfull or illustrate the theme and have them bring in a copy or make shortened copies to present to you or the class. That would be more interactive and most kids today are pretty good at downloading, editing, etc.

  9. Having taken a similar class when I was in college, my professor did as mentioned above with a screening time offered, which most students utilized. If not, students were on their own for finding the film, and they did. Naturally there were classmates who tried to read about the film online. I never went to the screenings and was always able to find a way to watch the films, even when I had to call around to locate a particular film.

  10. drtombibey


    I am a Doc instead of a teacher, but I tend to like anything interactive. For me, a short clip followed by discussion would be most likely to keep my attention. (Then again, one has to keep in mind I might have a touch of ADD.)

    Dr. B

  11. sphyrnatude

    I have to agree with the idea of having a screening time outside of class. The kids then have the option of coming to the screening or finding it on their own.

    If you are discussing things like plot development, or anything related to the characters (including ethics of their actions, why they do what they do etc., I think it would be important to see the whole film. A lot of subtlety and innuendo can get lost if you only show clips. On the other hand, if you want to discuss a particular part of the film (say a major difference in the way an event is presented or takes place in the film and the book) a clip would be sufficient…..

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