Teaching Tools

Preparing Your Class to Host a Teaching Artist

Preparing Your Class to Host a Teaching Artist

Posted by: San Francisco Film Society

To enjoy the full benefits of bringing a filmmaking or visiting artist into your classroom, make sure that the learning does not begin and end with the guest’s visit. The more consistently engaged you and your students are with media-based work between sessions, the more intensive and integrated the program will be.

Before the Program Begins

• Expectation setting: Before the start of the program, have a classroom discussion about what students expect from it. Make sure that students understand the end goals of the program and what it will mean to have a filmmaker working with them in the classroom on a regular basis.

• Grouping: Classroom teachers have a far better understanding of their students and how these students work with one another than a visiting instructor will. Since filmmaking projects generally require small-group work, classroom teachers should have a basic sense of how student groups will be divided. This may shift throughout the program, but working this out in advance will give both a visiting filmmaker and the teacher an opportunity to consider and discuss classroom management issues in advance. (Hint: organize students in groupings that will be dynamic—avoid allowing them to work with their best friends. The filmmaking process has room for every personality type, and the wider ranging the skill sets in each group, the better. For more info, see our article on Roles in a Film Production).

Between Visiting Artist Sessions

• Presentation: Between sessions, have students discuss or present on what they learned in the prior session and what the plan is for the next session. Review new concepts, terms and vocabulary.

• Writing: Encourage idea development by having students work on creative writing assignments related to the topic of their project.

• Reflection: Journaling can become an ongoing activity, and questions can be geared to encourage reflection on any element of the project—from content to teamwork.

• Watching: Watch a movie or TV show with the class and analyze it—get students thinking more critically about media making and practice constructive criticism.

• Independent Research: Work with what students know or like. Have students look for and present on examples of media they watch in their down time. This can be as simple as a commercial or a YouTube video. Additionally, students can look for current events in news sources for any stories relevant to the project topic, where applicable.

Note: Make sure to communicate with your guest instructor—they will likely have ideas about what will be a good review or prep activity.

After the Program

• Remember that any community partnership is a professional development opportunity for both you and your partnering instructor. Schedule time to meet with the teaching artist to debrief on the program and to exchange ideas. 

• You may want to teach small filmmaking lessons in subsequent classes; if so, the filmmaker instructor is a valuable resource! He or she will also benefit from your feedback regarding teaching style and classroom management.


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