Moving Images across the Curriculum

To use film or television in any subject simply as illustration or motivation is never enough. It misses out on the ‘patterns of language’ with which moving images communicate information, ideas and values.

A 1990s science documentary about the discovery of DNA and a contemporary news item on the same topic will both be valuable as sources of understanding about the impact of that discovery, but they will also differ significantly in style and ideology. Those very differences could also be part of what pupils need to learn about the development of genetics. A television travel programme about Central Asia and an action adventure film set in the same area will both illuminate pupils’ understanding of life, landscape and climate in that region but in very different ways. Pupils will need to understand and describe those generic differences in order to make the kind of comparisons that will enhance their understanding of the subject.

As a subject teacher you can develop pupils’ awareness of the particular and diverse ways in which moving images can show processes, tell stories, present arguments and describe places, as well as the ways in which they can mislead or lie. By doing this you will not only help pupils to interpret film and television more effectively, you will help them to understand the role of the moving image in constructing subject knowledge and, indeed, perceptions of what the subject is. This in turn may inspire pupils to use moving
images themselves in presenting their learning to others, whether for assessment or simply in order to consolidate and take ownership of what they have learned. In other
words, effective use of moving images can help you teach your subject better.

This section of Moving Images in the Classroom provides subject-specific guidance in the form of ideas and techniques for working with moving images in nine different curriculum subjects: English, Science, Design and Technology, History, Geography, Modern Foreign Languages, Art and Design, Music and Citizenship/PHSE. For each subject we have provided two grids. The first presents a rationale for including moving image related activity in your subject area. Learning objectives that situate moving images within the subject are mapped against types of activity and the kinds of outcome that pupils might be expected to produce. We have stressed non-written outcomes, including multimedia presentations, performance, and video production. Although these still present a challenge to the resources and budgets of some schools, increasing numbers are looking to these options and for some this section may help you make the case within your
school or department for resources and training that will support this kind of work.

The second grid for each subject selects some of the basic techniques described in Chapter 1, but this time sets them within the subject specialism. The exemplar activities and tasks are intended not only to develop subject-specific learning but also to enhance pupils’ effective use of moving image media within that subject. Not all the basic techniques are used in each grid, but the grids will, we hope, provide you with starting-points to develop your planning.

We have deliberately not specified age-levels against these activities. Most moving image related activities, as described at the level of generality necessary in these grids, can be undertaken at a wide range of age-levels and can be revisited at different stages. Differentiation is achieved through the type of text selected for the activity, the topic or subject matter to be studied, and teacher expectations of the level of analytical skill, viewing experience and independence of thought that pupils may bring to the task. Generally speaking, each grid progresses from relatively simple analytic tasks using techniques like freeze-frame, to more sophisticated activities which may be more suitable for older pupils.


Pupil … should… be taught to use the patterns of language vital to understanding and expression in different subjects. These include the construction of… texts that are often used in a subject (for example, language to express causality, chronology, logic, exploration, hypothesis, comparison, and how to ask questions and develop arguments).
The National Curriculum Handbook for secondary teachers in England, DfEE 1999, p40
Moving Images in the Classroom A Secondary Teacher's Guide to using Film & Televison. BFI Brithish Film Insititute 2000 Copyright British Film Institute
Image: Good Will Hunting, 1997 directed by Gus Van Sant