Film Club and Cultural Literacy

Here’s a TED talk about visual literacy through watching old movies, similar to what Martin Scorsese talks about here.

What do you think? I’m a big fan of showing old movies to kids, and I think showing them movies that are radically different from current offerings (ie. historical settings, foreign stories, subtitles, art films, experimental narratives, silent movies, etc.) serves to broaden their experience and knowledge of film and of the world.

So many movies today, especially ones made for kids, are such formulaic, pandering pieces of junk that I can’t help but worry that we’re limiting the very scope of their imaginations. As well as shredding their attention spans and ability to concentrate for long periods of time. Too fast, too loud, too violent. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again – watching old movies is a wonderful way of slowing down the frenetic pace of our lives and opening up a window to other times and places.

Related posts:

Watching Old Movies

Click on “Old Movies” in Categories over there on the right, to see all the old movies I’ve reviewed.

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Martin Scorsese on Visual Literacy

Here’s a great 2006 interview with the director, in which he makes the case for teaching young people visual literacy by watching and making movies. (courtesy of Edutopia)

With the increasing dominance of media imagery in our daily landscape, it’s important that our children learn how messages are put together, how their eyes are being directed, how their emotions are being played, and maybe even how to craft images themselves. After all, the rise of digital media has made image collection and manipulation available and affordable for everyone. The next generations are increasingly going to be confronted, pummelled, swayed and played by the media-makers, and basic visual literacy will help them negotiate this new landscape.

‘Back to Basics’ When Teaching Kids to Write

English: School room.

English: School room. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

If you are at all interested in literacy and education, you should find this article from the Atlantic really fascinating. It talks about correcting the pendulum-swing of faddish educational practices, and going back to teaching students how to write – how to build proper sentences and paragraphs and how to organize your thoughts into essay form. Nouns and verbs and prepositions and clauses and all that old-fashioned stuff.

It’s pretty convincing, and it’s quite interesting to follow the efforts of a staff of high school teachers in New York as they analyze why their students are unable to write effectively.

Unfortunately the issue is framed by some as a creative writing vs. essay writing battle. Emotions and self-expression vs. disciplined intellectual structure. I think the real sweet spot is in the middle, balancing both aspects of writing.

Summer Reading – Don’t Stress About It

This kind of thing makes me crazy. I followed a tweet to this link, presumably giving reading lists and tips to keep kids reading through the summer. Something I could get behind, and share with my readers, I thought. So what heads the page but the following dire warning:

MOMS & DADS, your kid could fall TWO YEARS BEHIND IN SCHOOL this summer!

Aaaah! What the….? Is that kind of drama necessary to get people to read your book suggestions?!

(Which I might add, seem cobbled from lists of Newbery award-winners and classics, with the blog author’s own books slyly inserted amongst and in between.)

A study is cited, but something tells me that there’s also a study somewhere about how students can get back up to speed in the fall, and presumably remember where they were in their reading.

Living in a high pressure kind of city, I am all-too-used to crazy marketing like this. I get countless brochures in my mailbox for private schools, tutors, summer camps, all trying to instill fear in me that I’m not working my child hard enough over the summer. Why should children get to take it easy and stop thinking for two whole months??

Umm, because it’s summer?!

Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for summer reading, and will do my best to encourage it. What I won’t do is set a goal of x number of books for the summer, and establish a daily quota of pages to read to get to that goal, as this site recommends. A perfect way to suck the joy out of an activity!

(And I’m not doing it to myself, either. No “you must read these books before you die” or motivational reading lists for me.)

Summer is a time for unregulated thinking, extracurricular daydreaming, and blessed downtime. Keep books handy, sure, wander into the library from time to time, and be a role model (carve out quiet reading time for yourself), but don’t stress out or they will too. As in don’t be a bummer. Chill.

Yertle the Turtle too political for BC school

Well this just depresses me.

Yertle the Turtle quote banned from B.C. school.  (c/o Huffington Post)

Think about the rather limiting definition of “political” here. It would seem to preclude any lessons about interpersonal power relationships, equal rights, humanitarianism, civics, ethics… Yeah, all bad stuff. The Golden Rule should probably get pitched as well.

Besides, what exactly is controversial about the quote? Is it or is it not true that those on the bottom (of socio-economic or any other kind of scale) have the same rights as those at the top?

And muzzling teachers. Always good for a school system. Bravo.

(The only thing to like about this story is how relevant Dr. Seuss still is.)

More on Gadgetry…

Further to my last post about the iPhone, here’s an interesting article from Commonsense Media: “My Kids’ First iPad”. It’s written from the point of view of parents who are “early adopters” of media, and you can follow links to lots of app recommendations, etc.

I do see one good comment below the article though, about the speed with which content is presented, which concerns me as well. The commenter advises computers be used alongside traditional reading material, which encourages kids to slow down and develop longer attention spans.

In general, Commonsensemedia.org is a great resource for all tech subjects in relation to raising kids – if you have teenagers for example, and are concerned about social media and privacy, or cyberbullying, or appropriate content controls, they are always posting advice and information on those topics.

All writings posted here are © Kim Thompson, unless otherwise indicated. For all artwork on this site, copyright is retained by the artist.