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Can a cinema be a classroom?

looking at a short video portrayal of a learning session in a cinema and drawing implications for film education in the cinema
Welcome everybody, good afternoon. It’s a pleasure to be here today. I’m a teacher at the Anglo-European School but today I am off duty, I’m your presenter, and you can call me Sinead. You should talk to each other about what you thought, you should talk to each other about your answers, and there’ll be lots of bits in French. Now, we’re going to try to pick up what he said to her in French. But there’s no subtitles. And then we’ve got a little challenge, what did the mother think he was going to say, basically?
Remember, there is a big vocabulary section at the back. I’ll give you a couple of minutes to do that.
Who knows what ‘belle’ means, just shout it out? Beautiful! How does the director create dramatic tension? Anyone got any ideas? You can say this bit in English or French. One of the ladies here? The film zooms in on each part of their face, which brings attention. So the close ups create tension, don’t they? Yeah. Yes. Anything else?
Thankyou, how did you do, did anyone get them all right?

For this Step, we ask ‘can a cinema be like a classroom’? In fact, should it be used like a classroom, or should the cinema experience be held sacred, like going to a church?

The clip that opens this Step is set in BFI Southbank in London, where the education department offers up to 70 events a year for school groups to come and study some aspect of film. You may have noticed that the focus of the session in the video is on learning French, for students studying the language. England, like most countries in Europe, has no formally mandated place for film in its national curriculum. This means that the most effective way of bringing young people to the cinema is by offering events where film supports education.

A typical BFI study day event will take a whole morning, more than two hours, working on the ways in which film can support language learning, with short interactive activities, in the chosen language. The presenter stands on stage, and manages quite a large group (up to 450 students) using her voice, a microphone, and the big screen. The students are learning the target language, and about French culture, which makes film an ideal vehicle. But they are also learning abut film language – see the focus on shot size, and audience engagement.

From the evidence in the clip, but also your own experience:

  • can a cinema be used like a classroom? Do you think it should be?
  • what limitations are placed on learning in a cinema, that aren’t present in a school classroom?
  • what can learning in a cinema offer that a traditional classroom can’t?

Post your thoughts in the comments box below.

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