Research Lesson Series: Part 3

In this post I will share how I use a film to teach researching skills. I hope the post generates some ideas for you.

I like movies. I think movies and other forms of media are powerful learning tools, even for research.  Over the years I have used films, that are based on a true story, to strengthen research skills. That aspect, based on a true story, gives you a focus for the research. What was the true story?

My favorite movie to use is the film, Searching For Bobby Fischer. The film is based on the book by the same name. The book is written by Fred Waitzkin, the father of Josh Waitzkin (a chess prodigy in the 1990s). The book is about Josh’s start into the world of chess, but more about what it is like to be a dad of a prodigy.

I have used the films, Remember the Titans, Peaceful Warrior, and the documentary, The Rivals to help with researching.  But many times these films have a different lesson focus than research.

Searching for Bobby Fischer is a great film to use if researching is a major part of the lesson for a number of reasons.

First, the students like the film. They become interested in what happened to Josh and the other characters. Part of the research is to discover what happened to the characters after the movie. Here is where the film becomes even cooler to use, not all the characters are real. Without giving away everything, a few characters are based off of real people but in the movie the characters are fictional! So, students have to dig to find out who the characters were based off of in real life. Cool, right?

Second, the film is based from the book by the same name, as mentioned above. When students start to discover what the true story is, you have a book to help them with some of the more difficult and unique parts of the story. Many times, I read from the book because I don’t have enough copies for every student. I don’t mind reading to them though. The book provides answers that are difficult to find.

The third reason I like using the film is because many of the online sources reference the movie, from Wikipedia to Josh’s official site. The movie’s success helps tie the story and the people together. In a way, the students know they are dealing with solid sources because of the movie connection.

The process of finding information is an important step in research, but it is not the only step. Movies also allow you to have students think about why the movie changes the story. This analysis is not the same as evaluating a source for bias, but it still fosters critical thinking. The book also helps in this area. There are major changes to moments in the movie that the book allows you to discuss the differences.

A movie that is based on a true story can be a creative way to reinforce research skills. Share with me how you teach research in the comment section.

About jboelhower

I am a husband and a father. I have been in the field of education for over 20 years.
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