Question – As any good teacher, I realize and understand that movies cannot, and should not, be used to replace other teaching materials (textbooks, direct instruction, etc.). However, as an artistic person, I also realize that there can be great learning taking place while watching a movie with students. My understanding of district policy is that G-rated material is generally approved, so far as there is a curriculum connection. Any material that is PG or PG-13 needs a request to show form signed from the principal and parental permission for each student to view the content. Any R, X, or NC-17 material is strictly prohibited. As far as my understanding goes, this is a blanket statement for every classroom in the district, with no distinction between grade or school levels; elementary rules are the same as junior and senior high schools. I recently created what I think is a brilliant literacy activity that includes reading strategies, character development, compare/contrast, cause/effect, and persuasive writing all done by watching a movie made from a book that my students read. Wanting to follow proper channels, I looked up the policy, sent it to my principal, who then checked with her supervisor, and we were told we could not watch the movie in class. The reason we were given is because the supervisor felt that it was inappropriate to show PG material in an elementary school (5th grade, by the by).
My question, then, is three-fold: Is this really the district policy? Is the policy really the same for all grade levels? And, if this is the policy, then why, when I followed the correct procedure, was I not allowed to implement my brilliant lesson plan? I don’t want to ruffle feathers, make waves, nor get anyone mad at me, and I’m not just trying to get my own way (I’ve already made plans to show a different, if inferior, movie of the same book that is rated G, and adjusted the lesson plan accordingly), I only want to understand.
Response – First of all, thanks for planning engaging, relevant lessons! I’m confident you’re brilliant lesson plan isn’t to show movies as a reward or just for fun (Finding Nemo was on in a math classroom I visited recently, not quite sure how it fit into the curriculum) but that you’re teaching explicit learning objectives in a multisensory educational way. Different media and technologies present so many opportunities – please share what you’re doing with colleagues.
As far as movie use is concerned, you are correct, but let us flesh this out a bit. The district policy does not differentiate among elementary and secondary and the rules are the same for all. ANY movie shown (and it cannot be rented, you need proper licensure to show it – movies rented or bought at the store are typically licensed for home use only) must have an explicit instructional purpose and tie directly to concepts or objectives in the State Core Curriculum. Only G-rated movies can be selected unilaterally by the teacher. PG or PG-13 rated movies must be approved in writing (there’s a form attached to the policy) by the principal, and a parent permission slip (also a form attached to the policy) must be sent home with every student in the class. Obviously movies with ratings beyond PG-13 cannot be shown. Sounds like you have been working hard to create an engaging class activity. I hope this helps clarify the policy.
Thanks to the Teaching and Learning Department for their help in responding to this question.