Classic Movies In the Classroom

  • May 13, 2017

Classic Movies_Classroom

Timeless cinema, like the kind featured on Turner Classic Movies, offers students a unique opportunity to “experience” history.


IT’S TRUE. Old movies are like time machines. They can transport us to a world that existed long ago—affording us an opportunity to both see and hear people who lived nearly a century before today’s students were even born.

And it’s a little bit humbling to consider that we, today, are the first people in history to have such an opportunity.

I was struck by that thought just recently while watching a movie from 1931. It depicted what was, at that time, the workaday world of New York City, yet now, some 86 years later, it read like a completely different culture. The people of 1931 certainly looked like us, but they spoke differently, dressed differently, and even interacted with one another differently. They seemed to place a high level of importance on things like courtesy and manners. And the most advanced technology on display was a radio!

In terms of years, I was as far removed from the people in that movie as they were from, say, people in the Old West, and yet I could watch them, listen to them, observe them in a way that they themselves could not possibly have observed their own predecessors. This allowed me a level of insight on the past that was never possible before motion pictures.

Imagine if filmmaking had existed in the ancient world, or during the Middle Ages. How much more personal would our understanding be of the folks who lived during those eras? Sure, thanks to the work of archaeologists and scholars we have period art, craft, and literature from which to glean insight, but we will never actually see those people who lived so long ago, much less hear them speak.

Thanks to movies, however, the people of 1931—their mannerisms, their norms—are well within reach, and observable. This got me to thinking about how a teacher might put classic cinema to use in a classroom.

Turner Classic Movies, channel 256 in your DIRECTV SCHOOL CHOICE channel package, is television’s premiere showcase for timeless cinema. The network screens films of every conceivable type dating back to the earliest days of the medium—drama, documentary, period pieces, comedy—all with something to offer those who are curious about how things used to be.

From the safety and comfort of your classroom you could send your students on a fact-finding mission to the early 20th century, to observe and make notes and then digest their findings as a group. What were people like in those days? How did they conduct themselves? In what ways were their lives like ours, and in what ways did they differ? The exercise can be expanded by having students discuss their observations with elderly people, to get context, and “eyewitness” corroboration of their findings.

The relevance of a project like this to history and social studies is obvious, but you might also consider its application to English, journalism, and creative writing.

Granted, your students might be disappointed to learn that the movie they’re going to watch is “old.” But tell them it’s a time machine and you might just capture their interest.

—Stephen Vincent D’Emidio

FREE Field Trips to See He Named Me Malala!

  • Sep 09, 2015


In collaboration with Participant Media and Fox Searchlight, the Malala Fund is offering middle and high school students and teachers in select cities across America free field trips to October screenings of the new documentary, He Named Me Malala.

These complimentary trips can even include transportation to and from the movie theater, along with insurance and other services related to your trip. But funding is first come, first served while funds last, so act fast!

The film, which is rated PG-13, tells the story of Malala Yousafzai, who was just 15 years-old when she was targeted by for assassination by the Taliban for speaking out on girls’ education. Having survived that attempt on her life, Malala has since gone on to take her campaign global, becoming the youngest-ever Nobel Prize laureate and winning millions of supporters along the way.

You can watch the trailer for He Named Me Malala below.

NOTE: Curriculum and discussion guides will be available to all participating teachers to facilitate post-screening lessons back in the classroom.

To register for the field trip, visit Students Stand with Malala.

And to learn about other great free educational resources, be sure to bookmark this site and follow DIRECTV Goes to School on Twitter.

—Stephen Vincent D’Emidio


Free Online Film Course from Ball State University and Turner Classic Movies!

  • May 21, 2015



Want to spend some time becoming an expert in classic cinema this summer?

Turner Classic Movies (TCM) and Ball State University have partnered to bring you Into the Darkness: Investigating Film Noir, a free online study of the hard-boiled Hollywood crime drama set to run concurrently with TCM’s “Summer of Darkness” programming event, airing 24 hours of films noir every Friday in June and July.

The course is open to movie lovers of all ages, and will be taught by Richard L. Edwards, Ph.D., Executive Director of Ball State’s iLearn Research and a recognized film noir expert. “As an educator I am excited to coordinate Ball State’s learning opportunities with TCM’s programming efforts to present students with a rare opportunity to engage with the material and genre,” Edwards says. “With ‘Summer of Darkness,’ we can bring together a worldwide community of film noir students, to investigate and discuss these great films in depth.”

Turner Classic Movies is DIRECTV channel 256.

For more information, or to enroll, visit the Investigating Film Noir web site.

And to receive information about other great educational opportunities like this, be sure to bookmark this site and follow DIRECTV Goes to School on Twitter.

—Stephen Vincent D’Emidio


Celebrate Teacher Appreciation Week by watching the inspiring documentary TEACH and submitting Teacher Stories on

  • May 06, 2014


“Their well-being, their future, really depend on how well I prepare them for the next level. “

Matt Johnson, a teacher at Denver, Colorado’s McGlone Elementary

If you’re reading this, chances are you’re a teacher, and I’m willing to bet that the quote above resonates with you. Because like the teacher who said it, you have a profound grasp on the role you play in shaping lives. And every day, you carry that sense of mission and responsibility into the classroom.

Do you ever wish that more people recognized that? I do, and that’s why I’m recommending that you do two things:

1) Tell every student and former student you know about a cool new contest called Teacher Stories (info below).

2) Host a community screening of the groundbreaking documentary TEACH, from Oscar-winning filmmaker Davis Guggenheim (An Inconvenient Truth; Waiting For Superman).

Watch the “TEACH” trailer.

Hosted by Queen Latifah, the film follows four dedicated public school teachers over the course of  the 2013 school year as they navigate challenges, talk about their experiences and demonstrate the kind of tenacity and creativity it takes to make education work, sometimes in-spite of the circumstances.  It’s a rare, intimate look inside the reality of what you actually do every day, and as calling cards go you couldn’t ask for better.

The film’s creators want to help you host a screening of TEACH at your school. Why not take this opportunity to gather staff, parents, community leaders and others for an evening of helpful discussion and healthy relationship-building? There’s even a free discussion guide that will help you start the dialogue. As I said, you’ve embraced the mission. Here’s a good way to help the community embrace it as well.

For information on hosting a screening at your school, visit the official TEACH web site.

And while you’re there, be sure to check out Teacher Stories, a contest open to anyone 13 years or older who’d like to do a little bragging about a teacher who made a difference in their lives. Every eligible story submitted will go toward raising a $50,000 donation to U.S. public schools, and your entry might even win a direct cash prize for your school.

—Stephen Vincent D’Emidio