Lesson: Film Review 1: Introduction to Film Criticism
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This first lesson is designed to help the teacher assess student prior knowledge about film criticism, uncover student conceptions (and misconceptions) about reviewing, and motivate students to research, write and publish their own review. It is our hope that the teachers will adjust the remaining lessons in this curriculum as necessary based upon the discussions and activity in this first lesson.
- To introduce students to key concepts of this unit: the film critic, the film review, value of reviews to the public, conventions of film reviews
- To make clear to the class that the upcoming unit will involve them writing a real film review – one that could be published – based on their own first-hand experience. (The reality of this experience is an essential part of the assignment, what offers an authentic assessment experience — not a standard classroom — experience.)
- To give students a window into what they’ll be expected to do in the coming weeks, so they’re in a better position to make use of what they’re exposed to along the way.
Appendix H: Film Review Rubric
1. Discuss: “Have you ever read a film review? Under what circumstances? What impact did it have?
2. Discuss: “Under what circumstances might they be most useful?”
3. Discuss: “Where are good places to look for opinions on films? How has this changed in recent years?”
4. Discuss: “What about a film review assignment might make it valuable to students in an English class? How are they aligned? How are film reviews related to book reviews?”
5. Introduce the film review curriculum and a brief outline of the anchor task. Explain that it will involve watching a film — or, alternately, a play or a concert. (See teacher note below.)
6. Some teachers may want to preview the film review rubric (Appendix H) with their classes to give students a glimpse of what they’ll be held responsible for at the end of the unit.
- Does the discussion indicate whether students understand where this unit is headed?
- Do students understand the purpose of this unit?
- Do they understand the value a film review might have not only to members of the public but also to the student producer of such a review?
- Do the students understand the general goals of the anchor task?
- Do students seem enthusiastic about the coming assignment?
Connections to Standards:
- This lesson builds on the Web Search curriculum from Unit 1 and generally works better following our Restaurant Review curriculum.
- You should familiarize yourself with the curriculum goals and anchor task before this lesson. Much of the information that will help the discussion is in the Appendices.
- The strength of this lesson depends in part on the authenticity of the publishing opportunity you can arrange for your students, and with the plethora of self-publishing online review sites, there should be little reason for them not to be able to publish their reviews. If successful, efforts on your part to assist in publishing students’ work — whether that be in a campus news publication, a local professional publication, a class blog, or an online film critique site (eg. Fandango, Internet Movie Data Base, The New York Times) — may provide students with motivation beyond that usually experienced in the classroom.
- The lesson also will draw strength from attempts to have students see new movies, preferably on the night they are first available. This strategy is useful because (1) reviews are most useful at the beginning of a film’s life, particularly in the first few days, when there is no collective opinion available about a movie; and (2) student reviewers are more likely to have an unbiased view of a film if they haven’t had a chance to read other reviews about that film; seeing a movie the day it comes out reduces the timeframe for exposure to competing reviews.
- Be sensitive to the likelihood that some of your students may not have the financial resources to watch a movie in a cinema or that they (or their parents, or administrators) might object to the idea that financial wherewithal should dictate who gets to participate in a school assignment. Assuming you’re not at a private school with unlimited funding to invite the whole class to a movie, you probably need some options to make this work, it’s a good idea to make a DVD of a film available to students who may want a non-cinema option — or, you might just show film in class and give students the option of reviewing that film or one of their own choosing from the local cinema. (Yes, there is a trade-off here in that you will be sacrificing the “newness” benefit mentioned above; we compensate by making sure the film offered is (1) a film the student has not seen before; (2) ideally has an anniversary coming up, providing a news peg for seeing (and reevalutating) the movie again.
- Another option is to have students review live performances in theater and/or dance — concerts even. That’s not a bad route, and it may even be possible for the teacher to arrange for the entire class to see a production all at once. If you do this, aim for one of the first performances of a run instead of the last ones to make the reviews more useful to readers deciding whether to see the show
- If you’re considering attending a student performance — could your whole class attend? — understand that it may be awkward for reviewers to publish negative comments about other students.
- Still another option is to have students review newly released video games.
- Coordinating all the details of this project may be complicated. Encourage but don’t require students to go to a film with a group of their peers from the classroom.
Time needed to teach:
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