Wednesday, February 27, 2008

goat song film study

Do you show movies in your class? Entire feature-length films?

Here's how popcorn and Goobers wiggle their way into my class.

We read Aristotle's "Poetics". We cry boredom. We sweat death. I up my bi-weekly therapy sessions.

Welcome to Mr. Rodoff's unit on Tragedy.

There's talk of hubris, whispers of peripetia, and chatter about catharsis. The students wish for more existentialism, and then I really know that the unit is off to a poor start.

To keep any hope of unit longevity alive, we make millenial jumps in time and read the James Hurst short story, "The Scarlet Ibis". There's a deformed little boy, a bloodied bird, and a dead sibling. An adolescent reading dream come true!

Not quite.

The purpose of the story is to establish the timelessness of the tragic terms from "Poetics", but most of my students don't 'see' the connectivity between two thousand year old terms and a short story from the 60's.

So if they can't 'see' the connection through the short story, maybe they'll see it through film.

But film is time. Film is commitment. Film is darkness and administrative doubt.

However, I want my students to 'see' the connection. No, not just see the connection, but get the connection. In my unicorn-filled dreamscape, my students take up residence in a state where they are innately thinking about tragic elements in everything they read, watch, and experience.

Enter Robert Redford's film, Quiz Show.

I take the time. I make the commitment. I welcome darkness and administrative inquiry.

There is no viewing guide, no note-taking, no quiz.

And at the end of the two day viewing period, I start discussing the film. I ask that they create a PNI list, independently and collaboratively. We hold wiki-based discussions. They ask questions. They bring up "The Scarlet Ibis". They make connections.

From 'I' to 'they'.

The power and magic of film.

1 comment:

Clay Burell said...

Don't you love it when that happens? And I'm with you on the power of film - especially when studying drama (and audio instead of reading poetry, too).

Went through something similar with watching Olivier's King Lear Act by Act before reading each act. Made all the difference.

Congratulations on the new beauties in your life. They're spilling over into your writing (which, by the way is every bit as artful to read as Taylor's, whose I love also).