Using film as a pedagogical tool in the classroom means treating films (or clips of films) as texts. Like other texts such as novels, plays or newspaper articles, films are constructed for a particular purpose and are aimed at a certain type of audience. All texts, be they written, visual or multi-modal, construct and present specific meanings that readers may interpret differently.
When using film texts with students, it is worthwhile drawing their attention to some key questions that will help them work out and analyse meaning within a film. Within the context of exploring the theme of bullying in films, it is particularly important for students to be aware that the world presented in the film is not real and that teachers enable students to evaluate the significance of the film’s message for their own lives in the real world.
In advance of introducing films that include bullying as a theme, you might want to start by talking about students’ expectations, knowledge and awareness of different representations of bullies and their victims in film.
- What films have you watched that deal with the theme of bullying?
- How do some of these films represent the bully and their victim(s)?
- To what extent do you think the films you have seen present an authentic representation of bullying? Does it look and feel realistic? Why?
Questions that will help students understand the constructed world of the film might include:
- What is the purpose of the film and who is it aimed at? What do you base your answers on?
- What devices are used to engage the audience?
- What do you think the central character(s) is feeling at key points and how has the filmmaker shown the audience their point of view?
- What is the setting and why do you think the filmmaker chose it?
- How does the soundtrack affect your viewing of certain sequences in the film?
- What do you think is the message of the film and how has it been communicated?
- What do you take away from the film on a personal level?
Remember, if you don’t have time, you don’t have to watch a whole film with your class. Working with your students on key scenes to explore how bullying is represented - how sound, lighting and editing might impact on how we view the content – can inform discussions about this topic in more meaningful ways than consuming a whole film uncritically.