Watching a film doesn’t feel like working, but it can inspire children through rich imagery, use of camera shots, music, sound effects, silence and dialogue.1

Few things capture our imaginations like film. This year, ‘Top Gun: Maverick’ succeeded in bringing many people back to movie theatres after Covid-19 and has made over $1.4 billion at the worldwide box office.2 

For many English teachers, the final term of the year is synonymous with warm summer days, Christmas concerts, marking exam papers – and teaching film. Film is a fun and exciting part of the syllabus, and because teenagers already love movies, and engage with them willingly, it can be a meaningful and collaborative experience.

Many studies have shown that today’s children need visual stimuli to support their learning3 and because film is such a prevalent product of popular culture, it can play a key role in the English classroom. As a visual text, a film conveys detailed and complex information, yet the content is accessible to almost all scholars.

Some other reasons for teaching film are:

  • It often increases scholar engagement.
  • It enables scholars to gain a better understanding of, and empathise with, the life experiences of individuals and communities far removed from their reality.4 
  • It improves visual literacy in a visual world.
  • It helps develop critical thinking skills as scholars learn how to recognise how visual meanings are constructed to influence us.
  • It can be used to teach the skills needed to analyse other texts; these skills can then be transferred to the study of novels and plays, rather than the other way around.

A recent twitter thread amongst US teachers explored the complexities of teaching film. During the discussion some original ideas emerged regarding activities that could take place before, during and after watching a film.5

Here are a few of them:

1. Encourage scholars to make connections to life

Socratic seminars or fishbowl discussions

We are all inclined to project ourselves into the films that we watch and we can use this to encourage scholars to engage and reflect more deeply on the film being studied. Using prompts and questions that connect the film with the scholars and their experiences can provide a useful way to start valuable scholar-led discussions. These discussions can take place during the film, or in after-viewing activities like Socratic seminars or fishbowl discussions.5 (See below for some example questions.)

Creativity through one-pagers

A one-pager is a multimedia task that allows scholars to express their insights into a film (or any text) in a creative, free-flowing medium. One-pagers prompt scholars to select the most meaningful ideas from the film, make connections to their own lives, and display the ideas creatively with colour, drawings, and quotes.6  For more information follow this link:

2. Ask your scholars to construct an ‘anatomy of a scene’

The New York Times has a video series where directors and producers provide commentary on short scenes from the films that they have worked on. One of their examples is of Joseph Kosinski talking about directing a scene from ‘Top Gun: Maverick’. Here is the link:

Following this example, scholars could choose a scene from the film they are studying and look closely at the elements that make up that specific scene. They could include their own commentary on the sound effects, lighting techniques, camera shots and angles, setting and props and anything else significant.


Watch the interview with Martin Scorsese as he discusses the importance of visual literacy and the power of film. 

Martin Scorsese Interview (10.43)

Martin Scorsese is seen by many as the greatest director of all time. He has directed, amongst others, ‘Goodfellas’‘The Wolf of Wall Street’‘Shutter Island’ and ‘Gangs of New York’. He has won numerous accolades and awards.

In the interview, Scorsese states that the elements of film are used to ‘make an emotional and psychological point to an audience’. 

Consider a scene from the film that you are studying and discuss how the elements of film have been used in that scene to make an emotional and/or psychological point.

Important dates
October –  Mental Health Awareness Month
October – Global Diversity and Inclusion Month

If you are using the Achieve Careers English HL 2022 Programme, the following information is recommended to support the facilitation of conversations in the classroom:

  • Grade 8 ENG HL: Section 1 pp 22-23; Section 2 pp. 45-50
  • Grade 9 ENG HL: Section 2 pp. 51-55
  • Grade 10 ENG HL: Section 1 pp. 14-15, Section 2 pp. 48-49


  1. Bleazard, T. (2019) ‘How film can raise literacy attainment in the classroom’, [Online], Available:, [12 October 2022]
  2. Thompson, S. (2022) ‘Jerry Bruckheimer Reflects on Billion-Dollar Box Office Unicorn ‘Top Gun: Maverick’ [Online], Available:, [12 October 2022]
  3. Using Film in Education [Online] Available:, [12 October 2022]
  4. Schimmel, N. (2021) ‘Using films to encourage reflection and critical thinking in your teaching’ [Online] Available:, [11 October 2022]
  5. Merrill, S. (2019) ‘6 Ways to Make the Most of Classroom Movies’, [Online], Available:, [12 October 2022]
  6. Fletcher, J.Y. (2018) ‘The Magic of One-Pagers’, [Online], Available:, [12 October 2022]
  7. Teach with Movies [Online], Available:, [12 October 2022]
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