Teaching Tools

Developing Curricula

Developing Curricula

Posted by: San Francisco Film Society


Many filmmakers underestimate the impact that their films can have on student learning. Film may provide an emotional and personal context for the study of history, civics, and current events, and it can be a great illustrator of scientific and environmental subjects. In the realm of cultural studies, film can provide students with a window to people and places that they would not otherwise encounter. In our increasingly media-saturated culture, film studies can equip students with the tools to be critical and literate viewers in a digital landscape. 

The first step in creating curricular materials for your film is identifying your student audience. What age groups do you hope to reach with your project and with which subject areas do you hope to align? For advice about identifying the proper age range for educational screenings, consult the What is Grade Appropriate? article in this series. If you hope to reach students in the public K-12 school system, you may wish to incorporate the objectives of the new Common Core learning standards into your film's curriculum. This will make it easier for teachers to align your lesson plans with their other curricular obligations. For more information about the Common Core and to see where your film's subject overlaps with the standards, visit the Common Core website. For information about state standards for media literacy, visit the Media Literacy Clearinghouse

It can be overwhelming to think about all of the subjects that a film addresses. Identify 3-5 key areas where you hope students will delve deeper and extend their learning once the screening has finished. Focusing on only the most important themes will help you to keep your curriculum manageable and targeted. These themes may be topical issues that the film addresses, or artistic and technical decisions that encourage students to think about the filmmaking process. Remember that many teachers will be using your film to teach media literacy and critical viewing in addition to the other subjects that the film addresses. Media literacy standards are a good place to start thinking about Common Core and State Standards alignment. 

Where can students get more information about your film's subjects? Are there specific books, websites, other films, or organizations that you would like them to engage with? Compile a list of supplementary resources that students and educators can reference in their follow-up discussions and activities. Directing students toward external sources will help them to draw connections beyond the film's narrative. 

Finally, consider the presentation of your curriculum package. What format will your materials take? Can you offer short, topic-oriented segments of the film for classroom review and discussion? Will your curriculum include an online forum for student participation? What images would you like to see on your curricular materials? How will these images help students to remember and process the film's message? Are there quotes, or text blocks that represent the film? Can these be used in a visual design to reinforce comprehension? There are many ways to effectively present a curriculum. You may wish to browse our Featured Outreach Strategies to look at several different approaches. 

Depending on your project's goals and budget, you may wish to create materials yourself or choose to work with a curriculum developer. For more information about the curriculum development resources available through the San Francisco Film Society, contact education@sffs.org. For a full list of curriculum developers and outreach strategists, consult the provider directory at The Fledgling Fund

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