Movies with a Mission, to Learn over the Summer

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As an educator, I am all too familiar with this scene: students drag themselves to school on the first day in August remembering very little of what they learned the previous year. I know their former teachers went over these concepts ad nauseam; why don’t they remember? Many argue that summer is to blame. It seems that summer has become the classroom’s worst enemy. While the two-month break is a great time to relax and let kids be kids, the truth is that it can be a dangerous time for education. Teachers work hard to instill core skills and understanding during the school year and the break seems to wash it away.

Movies, a Fun way to Engage over the Summer

Luckily there is a fun, engaging way parents can promote learning during summer. Educational videos exist for all ages to review and add on to student learning from the previous year. For elementary school, basic song-driven movies can serve as a creative way to remind young students of what they learned. The classic series Schoolhouse Rock comes to mind, but Sesame Street and Little Einsteins have the same benefit. Many young children naturally have a musical learning style and reciting songs or mantras can help them retain information. Plus, a refreshment of basic content is crucial during the long summer months.

To encourage a deep dive into content, many movies can help broaden students’ understanding of a topic. For example, Disney’s Wall-E could pair well with a unit on conservation and sustainability. The goal is for students to take this learning back to the classroom and make connections to new content. The Iron Giant is another film that expands on what elementary students may have learned about history, especially the Cold War.

Example Movies for High School Students Over the Summer

Middle and high school students can also greatly benefit from educational shows and movies over summer. Adolescents can be notorious for neglecting to flex their educational muscles when they have time off. It is especially important for older grade levels to maintain stimulation. For these older students, movies serve as a way to form a deeper understanding of a text or concept. As an English teacher, I am impressed when a student is interested in a film adaptation of a novel we read (after we have read it, of course).  There are countless wonderful book-based films to guide the student including To Kill a Mockingbird, Romeo and Juliet, Frankenstein, and The Great Gatsby.

Watching educational movies can promote multi-lens views of an event or idea. Looking at ideas from several angles before passing judgment is a major element of critical thinking. Any educator will tell you that critical thinking is a skill that is heavily weighted in the Common Core Standards in all states. Movies like The Truman Show can be eye-opening and can encourage students to think critically about the world around them. The Help, a movie that employs African-American and Caucasian narrators to analyze the Civil Rights Movement in the south, falls into the novel-adaptation category. This movie instills a powerful lesson on “walking a mile in someone else’s shoes”.

Movie Worksheets

A great way to keep students on topic during these films is to provide movie worksheets. You can do a google search, but often the worksheets you find are behind a paywall or you must log in first to download. There are some sites out there, but the one that seems to be the best has pre-made Movie Worksheets for free. They have hundreds of worksheets for with no log in required. The only real issue is many of them do not have answer sheets but at least its a start. They have some major films that can be used in the classroom such as: Hidden Figures Worksheet, SuperSize Me Worksheet, What Darwin Never Knew Worksheet to name a few

Teachers consistently encourage parents and students to take an active role in education. The summer months are a great opportunity to do that. The next time you are deciding which movie to watch on a Friday summer evening, choose a movie with a mission: one that will refresh or expand education.