Using film in a Teach First setting

03 Apr 2017 BY Kate Rooney

4 mins
5 people in film club watching screen
5 people in film club watching screen

We sat down with English teacher Kate Rooney, who is taking part in the Teach First programme at a school in London, to find out more about the scheme and how she's included film within her teaching practices.

How long have you been doing Teach First?

I am in my second year of the two-year Teach First programme, teaching English at an academy in Hackney, London. As with all Teach First schools, it's a low income area. You receive training beforehand and through the year. The first few months are quite overwhelming - there's lots to learn but you develop quickly.

I have a degree in Film and Literature and was keen to bring film into the classroom. Many English teachers use film a bit, but I wanted to use it in a more dynamic way, to really engage my students.

Teach First is about reaching students of all abilities and backgrounds, and encourages dynamic, innovative teaching methods, and film is very accessible, and fits in well with those aims. It's also a great way to bond with your students - I would definitely recommend it.

Kate Rooney, English Teacher

How did you introduce film into your Teach First practice?  

Next term we're studying Gothic literature, so I gave an introduction in which we watched a BFI Gothic trailer and discussed what we think Gothic involves. We also discussed the films Nosferatu and La Belle Et La Bete. This helped spark the students' interest and introduce them to the conventions of Gothic in terms of setting and atmosphere before we even started reading the texts. I cut out stills from those and other films, which the pupils used to make their own Gothic film storyboards. They put the images together and wrote about them using language relevant to the Gothic theme. They have started generating ideas and will now have a visual reference for when we begin to talk about the written texts.

We also watched The Tempest (2010), and had character grids for them to review what was happening as they were watching the film. We did the same with Richard III, which can be quite a confusing story on the page. We usually watch a film in small chunks; after a few scenes I'll pause it and ask questions. This helps students to track the characters and remain engaged with the story.

What has been the impact of using film?

Towards the end of last year I took over part of our school's film club (which was oversubscribed) and ran a smaller group with about 12 pupils. It was democratic - we would vote on the films we'd watch together. 

The British Council Shorts were a great way to start the film club as we could watch them all in one session. We'd have two sessions of film watching then one session of review writing. Three students won Into Film's Review of the Week competition, which was a genuine surprise, as they're not students that usually win awards. It really boosted their confidence.

I've taught quite low ability year nines, and using the Richard III film really gave them a good sense of the characters and the story. The Gothic sessions we ran were fun and helped to engage students in the topic before starting on the texts.

Kate Rooney, Teacher

Kate Rooney, Teacher

Kate Rooney teaches English at a school in Hackney, London, as part of the Teach First program.

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