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Guest post: Why use film to teach literacy?

Ahead of the free online course “Teaching Literacy Through Film”, Jennifer Johnston, Programme Manager at Into Film, discusses the benefits of using film in the classroom to raise attainment.

A teacher in a classroom using film to teach literacy

Teaching literacy through film at Park View Academy, Leeds

In a world where the moving image is becoming increasingly important, educators are increasingly interested in using film as a serious learning tool.

This is a medium that is accessible to all, regardless of ability, with the power to bring to life aspects of the curriculum that some students may consider dull; portray subjects from science to Shakespeare in a different light; boost young people’s literacy, creativity and critical skills; and inspire disengaged pupils.

Film can open up a world of creative possibilities

When we use film as a text worthy of interrogation rather than perceiving it as a “treat” or a passive means of consumption, we open up a world of creative possibilities for teaching and learning.

When children interrogate film – analysing and deconstructing visual and sound elements such as setting, images, music, and how the camera is moving or its position in relation to the characters – then we really start to open up the world of literacy to our learners.

As Colm Hackett of Hazelwood Integrated College, says:

“Using film to teach literacy promotes a more democratic and inclusive method of teaching. We, as teachers, have to meet the challenge of engaging all children. As they are already a visually literate generation, this is the best way I have found to do so.”

The educational value of film

The latest, independent evidence highlighting the educational value of film comes from a team of film educators who spent the last academic year working with teachers in Leeds to show how film can be used to improve attainment and progress in reading and writing.

The Leeds Partnership Project: Improving Literacy Through Film (2014/15) recorded a number of improvements in pupils who were regularly engaged in film watching and filmmaking, including: 96% improvement in average points’ progress in reading; 60% improvement in average points’ progress in writing; and 75% improvement in attitude to learning.

The report tallies with Into Film’s own findings, in which 96% of teachers using film in class said it increases pupils’ levels of engagement; 74% said it improves their critical thinking skills; and 70% said it boosts literacy. These skills are both valuable in their own right and also associated with wider academic attainment.

Film deserves a place in every classroom

Add to this feedback suggesting that watching, discussing and reviewing films helps to develop independent thinking, broader cultural awareness, vocational aspiration, and confidence and social skills, and it seems clear that film deserves a place in every classroom.

Want to know more? Join the free online course “Teaching Literacy Through Film” from the British Film Institute (BFI) and Into Film now.

Category Teaching

Comments (24)


  • Karen Benson

    I feel that when becoming an educator, the films would be a great tool to embrace students into their comfort zone. Children with low standards would have the knowledge for success.

  • Karen Benon

    I feel that having access to film is very important when becoming a future educator that will motivate all children. It is a tool that teachers could relate to with students with low standards. They need encouragement to help with success.

  • Ikenyiri Joseph

    I’m interested in this course as a childhood educator. The use of these films matters a lot to me.

  • Ikentiri Joseph

    I’m interested in this course as a childhood educator. The use of these films matters a lot to me.

  • Steven Kaikai

    I’d love to take part in this course so I can produce learning materials for children in my country including my own children as well.

  • Kasturi

    I need to know where can I access films which are both educational as well as entertaining too. Can we get some links please.Thanks

  • martha harsanti

    I teach EFL in low-motivated classes with very limited experience and interest to films and literature. We are in a remote place of Indonesia and life here is very very simple. No theatres nor bookshops. I wonder if this program may be applicable to such condition of teaching.

  • Sheila Gallagher

    I would be very interested in taking part in this but wonder if it is possible to do over summer? I think this would be highly beneficial to embed as part of teaching.

  • Afia- Akrasi Twumasi

    I would like to know if the course content can also be applied to younger children, as the given age limit is 5 years.
    I have used a lot of films teaching much younger children in the past, and it works quite well.

  • Richard

    I am really looking forward to this course. I’ve been using film clips for some time in our work with adult offenders, and it has great value for us and them. There are a lot of parallels between our work and teaching and I am keen to hear and learn from the experiences of teachers.(The average reading age of our group members is usually 11-13.) Also to offer my own.

  • Gerry lane

    Given that our society relies so heavily visual images to represent their world, I think it is crucial that a part of student learning is developing the tools to deconstruct and analyse the ways in which images are used to construct their world for them. I completely support what Jennifer Johnston says.

  • Antonia Farrugia

    In my position using film is the most interesting and interactive tool, since I teach students who are low achievers.(complimentary students)Movies are a great resource to discuss and improve oracy in all students. Comprehension questions about the movie are also of great benefit and interactive learning to my students, since they have very low self-esteem and low ability.

  • Maria Luisa Genta

    In my opinion using film is a smart way to support a traditional teaching system. Movies (or – better – the educational use of selected films) might be a great didactic resource in order to involve students in an interactive learning process. So teachers are able to develop learners’ communication skills through an integrated approach to a wide range of matters. It depends on the subject, of course, but a good variety ot topics and teaching strategies makes the learning process more efficient and attractive.

  • Yvonne Manda

    Being a Deputy Headteacher I am interested in learning how effective literacy can be taught through film.I believe using this tool will benefit me as well as my school.

  • Monica Birchall

    That seems to be a very interesting course. As a language teacher, I have always thought that films can be a meaningful learning tool. It can bring real language to the classroom and also curriculum that some students may consider boring, dull, as well as boots literacy knowledge and critical skills.

    This is a very interesting multimedia teaching and learning tool that is already part of children’s life.
    I am looking forward to participating in this course. There are so many films to choose from! It would be good fun!

  • lioncatcher

    I as a teacher to be support your ideas about using films to teach literacy. Because as you mentioned we use films to keep children’s interest. Films are always very exciting and they never bore us. We are living in a highly developed period, as a result we mustn’t limit our pupils only using books. The records you showed are very satisfying. While I was reading the article I as a learner English understood again that watching films to learn English is a very beneficial tool. Because I myself don’t want to learn new words from books. It’s very boring. I learn pronunciation of words, and in every film of course has at least 50 new words. Because films are taken from life I can learn more common and essential sentences and phrases to use in conversations.
    I’d love you to consider some aspects that you didn’t mention. I’d like to know exactly which films you recommend to use as a tool of teaching. Because there are many types of films and some horror and violent. I consider that these types of films aren’t suitable for young pupils.

    • Nihal pamuk

      I exactly agree with you. I’ve found it quiet convincing to use films but which ones. When I decide to choose a film I have a great difficulty in finding the right one. I hope we can find a solution.

  • Phuong

    wow. awesome! i’m looking forward to attending this course

  • Mansur yanusa

    I’m Looking so great to have new idea to study online

    • lioncatcher

      I agree with you.

  • Baraka mfilinge

    Thanks so much for giving me new idea. I now I got more easy method of learning and teaching, that’s of using films.

  • Catherine Maryon

    Hi, came across this via your course at Future Learn. I would like to ask a question about that: would it be an appropriate course to do to develop ideas about film and literacy for adults? I have a particular implementation in mind. Feel free to email me! Thank you

    • Yvonne Manda

      Am an adult educator. Kindly email me all the necessary information you have on the same

    • Helen Johnston-Morris

      I work with adult learners too so that sounds interesting.