Monday 12 May 2014

Film Studies - Home Education

Film has a big place in our home - I tend to go for the classics - John likes to keep up with all the action blockbusters, we both have a soft spot for Woody Allen, Wes Anderson and Alfred Hitchcock. 

It felt natural to us to incorporate 'Film Studies' into our home education curriculum. Our method will sit well with children from 5 - 10 Small is 7, she has always been home educated, read a bit more of our approach here

Within the context of home-education: a good movie, much like a good book, can be a general teaching tool for history, politics and sociology as well as a way of learning story structure, music appreciation, art and design, performance arts and technical arts.

Our film list is based on classic movies from AFI and BFI top 100 lists, with a few additional films chosen for their educational content. All the films are either U or PG rated, they are not just kids films - you'll find a list of suggestions at the end of this post.

We do 'Film Studies' once a fortnight.

The lesson consists of:

Discussing the chosen film - We'll talk about the setting, the subject matter, sometimes we'll use our timeline to talk about when it is set or when it was made, we might mention the director or actors if Small is familiar with their other work.

Watching the film with reasonable concentration - I don't insist on Small sitting still and occasionally we have some toys sitting on the sofa to watch with us.

Filling out a simple worksheet - Questions like: Which bit of the film made me happy, which part of the film made me sad, how did the films theme music make me feel, my favourite character in the film. The purpose of the worksheet is to encourage a recap of the story, to communicate opinion, and to practice writing skills.

Further Discussion - I find it very important to have more discussion after the worksheet is done. We can tackle any questions the film has raised, we can do further reading into topics covered in the movie, we might look at the map or the timeline or sing songs... it all depends.

Teach with Movies is a brilliant resource and includes links to study notes on many films.

Below is my Film Studies list for under 10s - As I have already mentioned, our movie list is based on the AFI and BFI recommendations, plus another few that have relevant themes, are well written, acted and directed. I tend to focus on films that can be appreciated on several levels, older children and adults being able to look deeper into the subject matter.

Small is very patient and reasonably mature 7YO and she can happily watch, enjoy and review all the films listed but you might need to pick the ones you think your child can manage, you might decide some aren't suitable for your child.

The following list contains amazon affiliate links to every movie, (If I've done the coding right)  I've tried my best to find the original cinematic releases of the films - most are £5 or less, some are silly expensive, some of them you are better off buying a box set... or just wait till they come on TV.

An American Tail (1986)
Bringing up Baby (1938)
Casablanca (1942)
Citizen Cane (1941)
Duck Soup (1933)
E.T (1982)
Fiddler on the Roof (1971)
Great Expectations (1946)
Indiana Jones - Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981)
It's a Wonderful Life (1946)
King Kong (1933)
Lord of the Rings - Fellowship of the Ring (2001)
Mr Smith Goes To Washington (1939)
North by Northwest (1959)
Singin' in the Rain (1952)
Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1937)
Some like Hot (1959)
Star Wars - A New Hope (1977)
The 39 steps (1935)
The Philadelphia Story (1940)
The Sound of Music (1965)
The Third Man (1949)
The Wizard of Oz (1939)
Toy Story (1995)

Small also watches plenty of movies in her free time, her current favourites are Mirror Mirror, Nim's Island and Despicable Me 2.

If your not sure if the movie will be suitable, search for it's IMDB 'parents guide' for details of any scary parts, bad language and nudity. - Thanks to Joel for raising this as an issue.


  1. Raiders of the Lost Ark a.k.a. nazi face-melting nightmare fuel?

  2. Yes... Small looks away at that part (Indie is shouting "don't look" at the time, which helps) It doesn't look particularly realistic as it is just a wax face, plus it is a Nazi's face, so fair game. Also, we watch all movies together, and we can always stop if we notice it is too frightening.

    The movie is rated PG.

    As I said, these are movies we find suitable for our kid, and not all parents will agree. I've added a suggestion in the post that folks might want to check out the parental guides on IMDB before showing movies to their young ones.

    To be honest I find the flying monkeys in Wizard of Oz more frightening... "Fly my pretties, FLY" ... and I refuse to even be in the same room when 'Dr Who' is on after my own Angel nightmares.

  3. Aye, I wasn't being critical - the comment was intended to be light-hearted. :-) I remember finding that sequence pretty scary, although strangely I didn't find the (literal) heart-wrenching scene from "Temple of Doom" frightening at all.

    I remember as a young kid watching "The Good, The Bad and the Ugly" (for the title sequence and music mainly), "Young Frankenstein" and "Blazing Saddles" regularly. It was only years later that I found out the first was an 18 (!) and the Mel Brooks' films were full of innuendo and (in the case of the latter) repeated use of the N-word.

    "Walk this way, master"...
    "Abby something... Abbey? Abbey? Normal?"
    "Its pronounced FrOnken-stEEn"
    etc. etc.


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