Thursday, August 8, 2013

Watch this clip

I don't show many movies in my classroom; in fact, I don't remember the last time that I showed one all the way through outside of indoor recess. I'm far from perfect in this regard; we all have days when the only way to ensure our sanity is to watch thirty minutes of a documentary just to get a break. But at this point in my career, I am far more likely to show clips than I am to show an entire film.

This is, at least in part, influenced by teaching Shakespeare using the Folger Library's Shakespeare Set Free series. Various lessons have the teacher pull multiple versions of a scene for comparison. That's even easier today than it was when I first started teaching. A simple YouTube search turned up the following:

(Personally, I preferred Mel Gibson's performance, but I do love the Kenneth Branagh film Hamlet because it includes everything.)

While this is a lot more work than "read the play, watch the movie", especially if someone hasn't uploaded all the clips you need, it's a far more efficient use of class time, and encourages the in depth examination and analysis that we want in our classrooms. It's especially great when you can find wildly different interpretations of a scene. (I would, at this point, include the clips I used the last time I taught Twelfth Night, but I can't find them. I used the 2003 TV movie and 1996 British version with Helena Bonham Carter.) I adore Beatrice's "Oh, that I were a man" speech in Much Ado About Nothing; here are two very different ways of playing it:

It was actually a scene from the BBC's 2004 adaptation of Elizabeth Gaskell's North and South that started me thinking about video. I love the romance, of course, but it's the conflict between labor and management, and the role of economic speculation, that makes this film remarkably relevant today. (The relevant bit is the dinner party from 4:20 to 7:53.)

Last year in my classroom, we followed closely the terrible factory collapse in Bangladesh. Later we discussed the degree to which western corporations and consumers bear responsibility for something that happened so far away. As a Catholic school, it's also appropriate that we discuss as Christians our moral responsibility to those around us. The three-minute scene above dramatizes three distinct points of view that are relevant to any discussion of modern business practices. I wish I had remembered to use it with my students.

And then, of course, there's my favorite modern rewriting of Shakespeare. (Actually, we saw a traditional take on this play two years ago, and it was horrible. If you don't address the misogyny in Taming of the Shrew, or subvert it, then I don't want to see it.) The movie is too edgy in places for my classroom, but who doesn't love this scene? (Also, we had to run those stairs sometimes during cross country practice when I was in middle school. Brutal.)

How do you use video in your classroom?

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