We recently watched the documentary Virunga in class. When we watch movies we no longer take notes. We simply ask questions. For each movie each student gets a sheet that looks something like this. What I have found is that kids watch the movie and explore it from all different personal perspectives, instead of watching it for each fact that I have asked them to find. The questions they write still are centered around key pieces of content…my worries that the ket facts would be missed or forgotten went unfounded. Most importantly, I have found that they watch the movie at a deeper level than when I just provided a list of questions for them to answer. When we pause the movie they ask the questions, not me. When we come into class the next day, or if we stop the video early they have questions they want answered instead of answering mine. I have also found that the conversations also go wider than the content in the movie. They ask for facts in the movie to be put into a wider context. Some kids write as they watch, some write at the end of class. It is rare that we watch a movie straight through. We probably spend nearly half of each class not watching. Whether it is starting the class with their questions or examining extra sources, or stopping the movie to talk about what we just watched. And if their is research to be done after the movie, they already have a list of questions to start with.
After watching Virunga we researched who was involved in making the film and the students sent them their questions. Some got short responses, some long, some received no responses. It is so easy today to reach out to the people that are making the content your kids are digesting. From authors to videographers, let the kids contact the writers and producers and ask their questions to them directly.
Below is a trailer from the movie we watched, followed by a sample email response from one of the key people doing the investigating the events in the documentary and a twitter response from one of the producers.
I’m a student and in our class we just recently finished watching the movie “Virunga” and I was wondering about something. I was wondering how it felt to see everything happening in the Congo for yourself, to see all the people in fear of the M23 rebels and watching the military abandon them and especially how it seemed that the military only cared about itself, far more than the people a military is sworn to protect; so I was wondering how you felt, how did it feel to see everything happen right in front of you, and yet (this is just speculation, as I was not there) it seemed so difficult to bear and it seemed almost impossible to help any of the people. So I guess my question is, how do you feel having seen all of it first hand, and having to understand you can’t help everyone?