I was very interested about what you had to say about “How Movies Work for Secondary Students with Special Needs” by Joseph Coencas and your response motivated me to read the article. Like you, I was disappointed that this article “singled out people with exceptionalities,” ignoring that inclusive strategies work for all students. I dream of the day where ‘inclusive strategies’ or ‘special education strategies’ are simply just called ‘teaching strategies.’ I also chose to read this article as a strategy for all students rather than a strategy for some, but it worries me that some teacher would not do the same. It is disappointing that in 2007 articles and classrooms were still promoting and using segregation. As we have learned from Wanda Lyons, the inclusive education theory was introduced in the early 1800s and so it seems that inclusion should be an old practice, rather than an emerging field.
I am not so convinced that using movies in the classroom is a beneficial practice. However, I do agree with using short clips to supplement a topic because many students of all abilities are auditory and visual learners. I personally am both of these types of learners and thoroughly enjoy videos because they are engaging. I also enjoyed the idea of using movies to teach things like “plot, character, setting, narrative points of view, theme, style, figurative language, irony, humor, foreshadowing, symbolism, mood, and other literary devices” (Coeneas, 2007, p.1).
Too often, however, the teacher just puts on a movie and sits at the back of the room. They do not provide any instruction, areas to focus on, questions or worksheets. I worked for Campion College last semester as a tutor/mentor. Many of my students were struggling and came to me for help. I had over ten students tell me that they did not read Shakespeare in their class or any other book, for that matter. Instead, they watched the movie. This choice that their teachers made will impact their writing ability for the rest of their lives and after working alongside many of the English professors at Campion, they taught me that the increase of movies in classrooms has been one of the main reasons for decreased writing proficiency. Gallagher also mentions that students who are struggling need to read more, rather than less. I also work with a lady in the Campus for All program. Because of her moderate intellectual disability her teachers decided not to teach her how to read. In only three months, this student and I are already working on nouns, -es and –s endings, qu- words and much more. The progress she has made in such little time shows me that she could have easily learned to read alongside her peers, rather than learning to observe a film.
For students with varying abilities there are other options than watching movies. For instance, if you are teaching Romeo and Juliet to the class there are picture books and short stories on this play. Getting adapted reading material should be the adaptation for difficult readings, rather than a movie, in my opinion. However, I do like the idea of reading an act of Shakespeare and then reinforcing what is learned by watching the play. Audio recordings also work nicely to try to help students understand such complex pieces of work. I believe that your idea to couple movies with literature fosters this idea and would be beneficial. It also encompasses different learning styles and choice. I would suggest watching the movie after the reading so that students can create the story world with their own imaginations. I agree that “English teachers we need to expand our horizons and boundaries to keep our students engaged and excited about all forms of literature” but based on my jobs and volunteer experience I think movies need to be used with caution and of course, always with a purpose.
Thanks for taking the time and effort to create an engaging response worth commenting on. I believe this conversation could carry on between the two of us, as your response opened up my eyes to the coupling of movies with literature. However, word limits get me every time!