Every year I try to have students watch all of Food, Inc. It isn’t an innovative way to end our study of Fast Food Nation. It’s not even a documentary on a new topic with vastly new information. But I’ve told myself that in this world of grade level calendars and common assessments, it’s important.
And yet, every year I get within twenty minutes of the end and “run out of time.” I panic at the amount of time we’ve spent “sitting.” Every year, when pressed by students if we will watch the end my responses are numerous. We have to start our next book. We need to prep for the upcoming battery of spring tests. We don’t have time.
Teaching in classrooms that have state tests and rigorous curriculum standards put many demands on our time. With these expectations, it can be difficult to “find” ample time for film. That being said, documentaries are a powerful way to teach students rhetoric, argument and bias. They can be the cornerstones of research projects and an important way to build student knowledge on a range of topics that they would otherwise ignore or neglect.
For the last several weeks we’ve highlighted resources like Good Magazine and Brain Pickings in response to suggestions for expanding student knowledge. This week we’ll focus on how to use documentary shorts fit into classrooms. And while it’s clear that this isn’t unchartered territory, the goal is to use smaller aspects of documentaries as a weekly staple in the Humanities classroom.