by Laurie Bellet
Video can imprint some lessons in ways that nothing else can. These priceless moments can however, lose power when videos are used too often or without careful forethought and preparation. The next few weeks of school-free hours provide a wonderful opportunity to record movies and television clips for classroom use. Here are some tips:
• Show clips (several minutes long), in order to introduce or reinforce your lesson objective. Parents do not pay tuition for religious school with the fervent hope that their children will spend the time watching video rentals.
• Choose your issue not your video. This way you are targeting your subject rather than conducting a film review. With a clear issue at the forefront, students are compelled to engage the idea, not to doze or chat. Be certain to introduce your clip and frame its context to maximize student understanding.
• Whenever possible, your clip should come from a contemporary TV show or movie. Avoid outdated films unless their power still ranks among the best of the best. A show need not be “Jewish” in order to demonstrate an ethical dilemma, a tough controversy, or to reflect Torah or Rabbinic values. Television programs such as Judging Amy, Joan of Arcadia and The West Wing always seem to provide fuel for classroom discussion. Even cartoons like SpongeBob can surprise you with the depth of the underlying content message. Always preview your show. Do not assume that content or language will be suitable on the recommendation of someone else.
• Although you may have a direction you were planning for your discussion, let the students take the discussion where they need it to go to find significance within their own experience. Your job is to moderate, clarify, and maintain a safe environment in which all students can be heard.
• Be certain to have textual citations to put your film clip into a Jewish framework.
• Always conclude your discussion with a reinforcement of the Jewish perspective and reflection on opportunities to utilize newly developed insights in situations at home and at school. With strategic lesson planning and clip selection, you will soon hear your students commenting on the Jewish values they find, independently watching television or viewing a weekend film.