Every teacher knows that sometimes you have a class that’s super motivated, while another class is barely hanging in there. There’s not necessarily a rhyme or reason for it, it just happens.
The solution? I won’t attempt to go into that at the moment, but you can do a variety of activities, see how things progress, and potentially show a movie (or assign it for homework) related to the material your class is studying.
When I can feel student motivation slowly waning, I go for the movie.
I don’t tend to show films during class time, but sometimes there’s that class where students keep withdrawing, energy levels are way down, and you’ve got to take action during the time you have them with you.
That’s when you show (or assign) one of the following fun, informative, and relatable movies (for communication or related classes, only!):
The Great Debaters: This is my go-to movie if students aren’t researching their speeches well enough, or not feeling a personal connection to public speaking, or its importance. After this movie, my students’ work ethic and level of research sky rockets. The experiences and relatability of the movie characters tends to change the energy and attitude of most students for the rest of the term (and hopefully longer!).
Thank You For Smoking: This movie is great for a Persuasion course, or the unit on persuasive speaking, ethics, or communication fallacies in any communication course. The movie is rated-R (which you might want to take into consideration), so I went ahead and had it edited for classroom.
Wall Street (1987): Another very adult, R-rated movie, which you might want to consider editing for classroom use. Watching this classic was actually an assignment for my online Ethics course (it was originally part of the online master course, so I was excited to see it on the syllabus!). The students were directed to find it online, and buy it for $2.99 on Amazon if need be, which means I had a few students lightly complain about having to pay to watch it. However, after reading in-depth analyses of the movie, it was clear that they were pleasantly surprised by the entertaining content, and possibly even enjoyed thinking about the way ethics played a role throughout the film in various characters’ behavior. I even had a student email me back saying he was officially happy he had paid $3 to watch it.
I’ve also considered assigning the following films at one point or another for the public speaking, communication, persuasion, and/or ethics content (Note: The movies with a star (*) next to them are those I haven’t seen, but I’ve considered based on what I’ve heard or read):
Wag the Dog
Twelve Angry Men
The Candidate (1972)*
The King’s Speech
All the Presidents’ Men*
If you want to see one of the assignments I created that can be used for any of the 3 movies I’ve shown in the past (I have multiple assignments that we use!), you can find it below.
(Used The Great Debaters, Thank You For Smoking, and Wall Street)
During and after the movie write your own comments and opinions on the following concepts as they relate to the movie and communication. You are welcome to use additional notebook paper if you need to:
The credibility of the senders and/or speakers
How the message/s are interpreted/misinterpreted
The channels that are used to send the message (ex. TV, newspapers, audio, visual, etc.)
Source-> message -> channel -> message -> receiver -> feedback -> source (it’s a cycle) — and any noise (internal or external) that interferes with the message
Verbal communication taking place
Nonverbal communication taking place
Additional comments are welcome! (You can use the back)…
Take notes during the movie for yourself, I won’t collect them. After the movie each of you will give a 1 to 2 minute impromptu speech about one of the categories above as it relates to the movie (note: if it’s a public speaking class, we may or may not do the impromptu speech portion). And an essay question about this movie will be on the final exam.