Teaching 7th graders reminds me how much I loved walking in to the classroom when I was in school and saw the t.v. pulled to the front of the room, MOVIE DAY!! Of course, now I just have to turn the projector on, no pushing a t.v. cart around, but the kids still instinctively know that they will not have to listen to me in class that day. I can remember watching movies and wondering, even as a student, what is the point of watching this movie? I would guess that half of the movies we watched were in no way educational, that didn’t make movie day any less enjoyable though, but now that I am a teacher I have those moments where I would like to just put in a movie and not have to teach for a couple of days. Of course I want to make sure that it is educational though, hence my selection of movies all relating to one of the 5 Themes of Geography.
The easiest theme to teach using a movie is location. Any movie that goes to several different places is sure to teach students what a location is. I found however, that place is very hard for 7th graders to understand. 90% of the examples I get of place are either “McDonald’s” or “my house” simply because they don’t understand that I am not asking for a place, I’m asking for a description.
To teach these two themes together, I show Around the World in 80 Days (the Jackie Chan version, because he makes the students and me giggle through then entire movie). What is great about this movie is every time the main characters venture to a new location around the world, the screen goes to a map and pinpoints where they are and where they are going, location covered! This movie is also great to teach place because the characters are traveling around the world in a short period of time and it clearly sets up for students the differences from one location to the next using both physical and human characteristics. The Himalayan Mountains vs. the deserts of western United States, the streets of Paris vs. the streets of San Francisco. It helps students put into perspective that place is actually what makes one area different from others, not a singular place that you can go.
To extend our movie experience, I have the students create their own trip around the world. They include places that they would like to visit, and I make them include human and physical locations. If they want to stop and see Big Ben, then they also need to spend time at the Great Barrier Reef. And, they have to hit every continent on their trip around the world, even if Antarctica is slightly out of the way!
You can rent Around the World in 80 Days from YouTube here: http://www.youtube.com/movie?v=6lY9TKlRTkQ