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To Kill A Mockingbird is undoubtedly one of the most popular novels used in
American literature classrooms. Teachers also use the Academy Award nominated 1962 film in order to help students understand many of the themes of the novel. The film was deemed "culturally significant" by the United States Library of
Congress and selected for preservation in the National Film Registry in 1995.
students' film literacy raises their awareness of the power of the human mind to
interpret clues, and through this awareness students learn to think critically
and analytically as well as to engage in creative expression. Therefore, any
student who actively tries to understand a film is indeed involved in a process
of criticism and creative expression, which helps him or her to develop skills
to effectively read both films and other media products." 1
This web site is designed to help teachers and students look at the film
through a different lens. Using media literacy
as the central core for examining the film, it is hoped that teachers and
students will re-examine the film, using the language of film as well as the key
concepts of media literacy.
Screen Education: Why Study Film?
The study of film has been primarily relegated to colleges and universities that
had film programs. But now, middle and high schools see the value of film study
and analysis, primarily due to the recognition by the National
Council of Teachers of English (NCTE).
The use and study of
film has become more
commonplace in American classrooms and with the advent and ease of Video
Cassette Recorders (VCR), and now Digital Video Discs (DVD), teachers are comfortable using film as an instructional tool.
Teachers know well that students respond to film: their students are, for the
most part, film goers, and talk about the latest releases and what genres they
like best (i.e. science fiction, comedy, drama, etc.) Because many schools now
include video production courses, teachers and students are keenly aware of the
many facets of producing a non-print text, including editing, lighting and
post-production, just to name a few.
"Visual language is too much with us to be ignored. Films are too
powerfully popular with young people to be shunted aside or squelched. Films are
simply an overwhelming presence that won't disappear. The sincere teacher who
wishes to help students to observe and interpret their world cannot exclude
electronic media--least of all its voice, the film. Film study will absorb or
overcome various obstacles and grow." 2
The Novel/Film Relationship
- films have been made from novels throughout the history
- novels have consistently provided filmmakers with ready-made narratives that
have often resulted in prestigious, popular motion pictures
- films have been made from both literary classics and contemporary novels
since their beginnings, and still are today
- viewers bring many assumptions to novel-inspired films, particularly that the
film should be a photo album of the book
- films based on novels ultimately transform a story based in a linguistic
medium into a story told in a visual medium that his own distinctive
- explaining why the choices are made when transforming a literary work into a
visual medium can help students understand the strengths and unique qualities of
Students learn from film: 4
Films and video productions increase studentsí
experiences, much as written texts do, and they offer similar opportunities for
discussion. Films also provide rich opportunities to explore the similarities
and differences between visual and written language. Students may examine the
effects of visual language cues: composition, colour and light, shadow and
contrast, camera angles and distance, pace and rhythm, and the association of
images and sounds. They learn to identify point of view by following the eye of
What Do Students Know About The Film?
More than likely, your students have read the novel, or are about
to read it. You may be considering using the film in your classroom. To
begin with, you might explore with your students what they already know, if
anything, about the film. This guide is designed to help your students explore
the answers to these questions and more:
year was To Kill A
was happening in US history at the time the film was
was happening in US history during the time depicted
in the film?
wrote the novel? What do you know about the novelist?
does it mean when a novel wins the Pulitzer Prize for literature?
wrote the screenplay? What is the difference in
the novel and the screenplay?
many Academy Awards did the film earn? For what did it win?
was the producer of the film? What does a
was the director of the film? What does a
wrote the score or soundtrack? What is the role
of the composer?
role does music play in the film?
is a cinematographer? Who was the
cinematographer on TKAM?
Who was the art director; what is his/her role?
there a message, or more than one message, in this film? If so, what is it?
the movie stand the test of time?
The Importance of Screen Education
How Filmmaking Develops Higher Order Thinking Skills
The World In A Fresh Light: To Kill A Mockingbird (Film as Text)
Australian Screen Education, Issue #35, Winter 2004
Film Literacy, Clearing House, Sep/Oct98, Vol. 72, Issue 1
Critical Viewing Data Sheet
See bibliography for all source material cited here