Movies are such an important part of the way we tell stories and learn about the world around us. To help your children learn new topics, you can incorporate feature films into your regular viewing practices at home. Watching a movie together and talking about what you see on the screen is a wonderful family bonding experience. It can serve a dual purpose of helping your child learn something new.
In addition to using feature films to entertain your children, movies can provide an educational purpose. Looking for ideas on how to incorporate feature films into the way your children learn something new? You can leverage how your children already interact with this type of content to help them become lifelong learners. Whether you go to a movie theater together to watch a new release, borrow a movie from a local library, or use a streaming service at home, there are lots of ways to use feature films with children in an educational way.
Let’s look at eight tips for families who want to make the most of movies as a learning tool!
Pick High-Interest Movies
If you know your child is very interested in a particular topic, you can locate movies that feature it prominently. For example, if your child has shown an interest in basketball, search for a film where the main character faces a challenge in this favorite sport. Then, you can talk about the characters together and introduce concepts like grit and perseverance.
Even if your child isn’t a movie buff, they may have suggestions of titles of movies or specific topics they’d like to learn more about. You can use their suggestions to help you narrow down a list of movies to introduce to them. For example, if they tell you they want to watch a film that takes place in space, you might locate a science fiction movie that features this setting.
Reach Out to Teachers
Want to share a movie with your child but not sure where to start? First, ask your child’s teacher what they are learning in social studies or what books they are currently reading in their classroom. You can use this information as a starting point for searching for a movie that connects to classroom instruction.
Here are a few questions you might ask your child’s teacher:
- What topics have you covered so far in social studies this school year?
- Are you planning to read any chapter books together as a class this year?
- Is there a movie you think we should watch as a family to help build my child’s vocabulary and background knowledge around a topic?
Ask for Recommendations
There are many people who can recommend great movies to share with your children. A librarian in your community may have a few ideas, especially if your local library has a collection of movies to borrow. Even if you have access to a robust streaming service in your home, a librarian’s knowledge may still be helpful in selecting a new movie.
You might tell the librarian a little bit about your child’s interest or what they are learning in school to help them locate a movie title that connects to their educational goals. These questions can help spark the conversation:
- We want to watch more movies together as a family. Do you have any favorites that also teach a lesson?
- Are there any biographical movies in your collection that would help my child learn about a notable person in history?
- We just read [insert the title of the book]. Is there a movie version we can watch as a family?
To use feature films to learn something new, you’ll want to carve out time to watch movies together. Sharing this experience signals to your child that you view this time as important. When they see you leave your phone in another room and focus on viewing the movie together, they’ll understand that this is a time when you can experience a new world and maybe learn something new.
Pause and Ask
Watching a feature film can serve as a learning experience for your child. One way to reinforce this idea is to pause and ask questions as you watch. If your child is used to watching shorter-form content, like television shows, pausing throughout the movie is a great way to help them stay focused and talk about what they see on the screen.
You might ask a question like:
- What have we learned about [insert topic] so far?
- What surprised you about the setting of this story?
- How has this changed the way you think about [insert topic]?
Whether you’re introducing your child to a movie about a familiar topic, or exploring something entirely novel for them, try to make connections to prior experiences or feature films. Making connections can help your child see how all of their viewing experiences build upon one another. For example, You might start this conversation by talking about what the movie reminded you of or how it connects to something you learned about the topic in the past.
One aspect of becoming a lifelong learner is the ability to continuously ask questions about the world around you. Use a movie-viewing experience with your child as a vehicle for collecting questions for future research. For example, you might ask them to list some of the things they are curious about, or questions they started the movie with that are still left unanswered. You can use these questions to spark Internet research, choose a new book at the library, or influence your next movie selection.
Ready to make the most of feature films at home? Use these eight tips to incorporate movies into how your children learn something new. Feature films can help kids of all ages learn about high-interest topics or make connections to what they are learning in school. As you explore this medium together with a learning lens, you can tackle new concepts, ask questions, and explore the world around you!
About Dr. Monica Burns
Dr. Monica Burns, Ed.D. is a curriculum and educational technology consultant, and founder of ClassTechTips.com. She hosts the Easy EdTech Podcast and is author of EdTech Essentials: The Top Ten Technology Strategies for All Learning Environments.
Photo description: Rolls of movie film sit on a white table.