Home learning? Stick ’em in front of the TV: How Hollywood blockbusters can be the parent’s friend
The Government has admitted that not all children will be back at primary school until September – and, that there may be further disruption to their education even then. So there’s no end to home learning in sight.
Surely plonking your child in front of a TV screen to watch one of their favourite films isn’t …educational? But, screen time is not always the enemy.
Education expert and former primary school teacher Becky Cranham of PlanBee shows you how to incorporate learning activities your youngsters can do while they view. You get to sort those urgent work emails while your youngster is happy – and learning. What’s not to like!
The Lion King: exploring the natural world
- Ask children to keep a tally of the different animals. How many can they record?
- Now challenge them to classify the animals into groups. How many different ways can you group them together? What criteria will they use?
- Older children could convert their tally charts into a graph.
- Extend their learning by asking them to create a report about one of the animals they’ve seen. Challenge them to describe the animal’s appearance, habitat, diet and features.
Toy Story: thoroughly crafty
Toys are a great jumping-off point for children to explore different materials and their properties:
- Ask children to note down what materials each toy in the film is made from. Which are made from plastic, metal, fabric, wool, wood, paper?
- Challenge them then to explore their own toys. Which are made from fabric, like Woody? Which have metal in them, like Slinky? Can they group their toys according to the material they are made from?
- Extend their learning by asking them to pick three of their own toys, each made from a different material, and ask them to write a story about what the toys might get up to when humans leave the room.
Harry Potter: all aboard the Hogwarts learning express!
If your child is a Potterhead, these films provide a wealth of learning opportunities, almost too many to list!
- Ask children to write down all the spells they come across during the film, and what each spell does. Then challenge them to make a spell book (complete with a contents page classifying the spells into groups, instructions and diagrams on wand movement, pronunciation tips, etc.) cataloguing the various spells used in the wizarding world. Children could also research the etymology of the spells, such as ‘accio’ meaning ‘I summon’ in Latin!
- Children could do a similar activity on the mythical beasts in the films, such as the hippogriff, Buckbeak. T should make notes about the name of each creature, their physical characteristics, behaviour and any other interesting facts. Once they’ve gathered the information, they can make their own information book or presentation about mythical creatures.
Mary Poppins: childcare of yesterday
- Ask children, ‘How do you know Mary Poppins took place in the past?’ This will lead them to look more closely at the clothes the characters wear, the activities they do, the transport used and the buildings they can see. Ask them to make a note of any clues they see during the film.
- When the film is finished, explain that the film is set in 1910 in London during the Edwardian era. Challenge them to make a poster showing how London (or the UK) was different in Edwardian times.
- Extend their learning by asking them to find out more about Edwardian times. Older children can focus on the Suffragette movement, which plays a big part in the life of Mrs Banks.
Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory: a moreish movie
- Ask children to note down every single piece of confectionary they see during the film. They should note its name and a description. When the film finishes, challenge children to create a shopping catalogue for Willy Wonka’s factory. The catalogue should include the details they have listed, a picture of each item, the price, and a description that encourages customers to want to buy each piece.
- Extend the activity above by giving children a small sum of money and asking them to choose which chocolate bars or sweets they would buy. How much would your selection cost altogether? How much change would you get? They could even set up their own Willy Wonka Chocolate Shop so the whole family can role play buying and eating all the delicious treats!
Frozen: what’s the season?
With such dramatic differences between summer and winter, this film is a great way to get children thinking about the seasons and how they affect people and animals:
- Ask them to create a list of words that describe both summer and winter as they watch the film. Encourage them to list as many things as they can, including what people are wearing, colours seen, people and animals’ reactions, what activities they are doing, etc. They could create a mind map or simply list their ideas.
Then challenge them to write an acrostic poem (in which the first letter of each line spells out a word):
- to portray both summer and winter.
- Extend their learning by challenging them to explore how ice behaves. You could challenge them to, for example, investigate what materials they can wrap a cup of ice cubes in to keep it frozen for the longest. Would newspaper or fabric wrapped around the cup keep the ice coolest for longest? Or bubble wrap or tin foil? Ask them to record their results in charts and graphs.
Inside Out: emotions and memories
- As they watch, ask children to write down the names of each of the emotions they come across. They could also note what colour the emotions are and how they behave.
- When the film is finished, ask them to think of a time they felt each of the emotions and write them down in an emotions diary. Can they think of a time their ‘Anger’ emotion was in charge? How did they feel? Why? How about their ‘Sadness’ emotion?
- The film also explores memories. Ask children to write down their favourite happy memories, their sad memories, their earliest memories etc. Can they draw a cartoon character that portrays each of these memories? What colour would they be? What would they look like? How would they behave?
Activities for any film
If there’s a particular film being played on repeat in your house, or you just want some activities for any TV or film time, set one of these fun challenges to give a new dimension to their watching habits:
- Turn the sound off and challenge your child to describe what is happening in the film. Ask children to imagine that theyare helping a blind person experience the film, so they need to use as much detail as possible for each scene. You may wish to play children a few short scenes using Audio Description to get them started.
- If the film has songs, challenge children to write out the lyrics for each one to create a booklet to hand out to family so they can all sing along next time you watch together!
- Once the film has finished, challenge children to retell the story in their own words. There are lots of ways they could do this: as a cartoon strip; as a digital book; as a written recount; as a series of drawings; or as a storyboard.
- Challenge children to write a review of the film. How many stars out of five would you give it? What was the best bit? Which characters were in the movie? Who was your favourite character? Alternatively, they could record a vlog review giving their opinion to share online with friends and family.