English teachers embrace the power of film in the classroom

19 Nov 2015 in Into Film Club of the Month

10 mins
November's club leaders of the month Michael Daly, and Jacqueline Thompson
November's club leaders of the month Michael Daly, and Jacqueline Thompson

Our November leaders of the month are Michael Daly and Jacqueline Thompson, from John Paul Academy in Glasgow, who run a junior and senior film club.

Having led their film clubs since January 2014, English teachers Michael and Jacqueline have not only sparked pupils interest in film, but also encouraged them to explore the literature behind popular film adaptations. They have also been proactive in encouraging the young people in their club to start filmmaking by taking part in our See it Make it programme.

Read our Q&A with the duo below to find out how they get the most out of their clubs.

What films do you find really resonate with your young people?

At John Paul Academy we like to thematically group films so that pupils can make clear links between either films of the same genre, or films that contain important messages. This has worked very well for us, and we find that pupils are very keen to share their own knowledge of films and the conventions within them. It also lends itself to fuelling discussion and the generation of pupil voice; this is also apparent when we read their reviews.

On a side note, pupils get particularly excited about films which are very recent and exciting; films such as Jurassic WorldBig Hero 6 and Inside Out have been massive hits with our junior film club. Our senior film club respond better to films with a more poignant message; films such as Good Will Hunting, Chappie, and Unbroken.

A particularly successful venture this year came with our Back to the Future Day; where we screened the film on October 21st for both the junior and senior film clubs.

How do you think your film club has benefitted club members?

We feel that film provides pupils with a common ground and generates strong feelings and opinions. This provides an excellent foundation for pupils developing their ability to speak freely about how a film meets their needs and their expectations. Our junior film club includes pupils from S1 to S3, and as English teachers, we have noticed there has been significant improvements in both their literacy and their communication skills. The club also provides a great social opportunity where like-minded pupils can bond over their love of film.

What do you find fulfilling about being a club leader?

One of the most rewarding aspects for us as leaders has been witnessing the growth of our young people since we began our club in January 2014. To see their enjoyment and confidence grow each week has been truly satisfying. On a personal level we have enjoyed sharing some of our favourite films with the pupils, and seeing how our so called "classics" measure up with a new generation of film lovers.

How much of a say do film club members have in choosing films?

We pride ourselves on turning ownership of the club over to the pupils. This was very important to us when we decided to form our club. With that in mind, we run our club on a four-weekly rota, and each month, one of these weeks includes the highly anticipated "Pupil Choice." The only rule we stipulate is that the film must fit the theme we have been studying, and the obvious age requirements. We present options of different films to the pupils as we are strong advocates of personalisation and choice, which compliments the rationale of Curriculum for Excellence.

What plans does the school have for using film in the future, both in and outside the classroom?

As English teachers we fully embrace the power of film in the classroom. We are slowly and regretfully coming to terms with the fact that unfortunately young people do not read as much as we would like them to, but the study of film provides a medium that enables teachers to find a common ground. With this in mind, last year we aimed to focus our theme on 'Book to Film Adaptations', in the hope that this would encourage young people to explore the source materials for films.

Also we like to include the staff cohort in our film club, and the pupils absolutely love 'Teacher's Choice' week. This gives staff members the opportunity to come and talk to our young people about their love for film, and tell them about some of the films that have resonated with them throughout their lives. It makes the staff more personable and humanises them, and gives the pupil a different perspective of teachers out with the confines of the classroom. For each session a teacher would choose the film and give a short presentation about why this is their favourite film; for example a particularly intimidating member of our Pastoral Care team surprised the pupils when he selected Lady and the Tramp, and spent 10 minutes talking to them about how this film reminds him of spending time with his daughter.

What films do you find get young people really talking/reviewing?

Our young people are very keen to voice their opinions of a film; whether they are positive or not! This is something that pupils are becoming more confident with. They are willing to highlight negative aspects of a film, with reasoned and justified criticism. These analytical skills are something which we greatly encourage, and are keen to develop. We have noticed a significant improvement in the quality of pupil reviews and we attribute this to providing pupils with discussion time following the film. The role of S3 mentors is also something which we were keen to develop this year. These pupils have been with our club since its inception, and provide excellent role models for the younger pupils just starting out. The mentors work with small groups of the S1 and S2 pupils every week; discussing films and film techniques, and we feel that this has also benefitted pupils when it comes to writing their reviews. Particular types of film which have generated heated discussion include 'what makes a good horror film?' where the club looked at Arachnophobia, Woman in Black and Hotel Transylvania; to films with a more prominent social message such as Blackfish, That Sugar Film and Supersize Me.

How has film aided your teaching and the young people's learning?

Film is an important text within the English curriculum and we seek to utilise it at every opportunity. It also serves to provide a supporting context for other avenues of study; such as novels, functional writing and stimulus for creative writing. We are in the fortunate position that this year we were able to formally timetable our senior film club; which runs three periods a week as part of the schools commitment to Vocational Studies. Furthermore, thanks to the focus of Into Film within our department our Media Studies intake has increased significantly, which utilises a range of the resources provided by Into Film.

Do you have any upcoming filmmaking projects within your club?

We do! We are fully committed to entering See it Make it with our junior film club, and our seniors are already beginning pre-production on their concepts for Determined to Make Movies which launches in January. We also have an established working relationships with GMAC Film and Glasgow Youth Arts Hub, who are in the process of working with the pupils to develop their filmmaking skills.

If you could give one other piece of advice to any new film club leaders, what would it be?

The most important piece of advice is to make it all about the pupils. We feel our club is so successful because the pupils have really taken ownership of everything about it; from the films we watch, to the direction of discussion, to S3 film club mentors liaising with our feeder primary schools. Also, make sure to keep it fun, because learning should be. In our school film club has been constantly evolving. Over the past 18 months we have constantly tried to come up with new ways to engage the pupils and provide them with opportunities to pursue their passion for film with fantastic results.

This Article is part of: Into Film Club of the Month

Each month we celebrate one Into Film Club's achievements and talk to the club leader about how they approach their sessions.

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