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Documentaries in the Classroom


Another documentary filled with history, emotion, and visual splendor ran on PBS this week, this one about the photographers who documented "the face of Depression-era America." For Frank Baker that means another chance to help teachers use media resources for their lessons.

The longtime educator and media literacy consultant has created a teachers' guide for using the film, "Documenting The Face of America", in the classroom. It includes background, readings, preview and review questions for students, links to national standards in several subjects, and suggested assignments.

Baker, who's become somewhat of a guru on media literacy education for his efforts to prepare students for a media-driven world, has a number of suggestions for using documentaries—from An Inconvenient Truth to Ken Burns' different series on the Civil War, baseball, and jazz—to draw students into a lesson.

There are too many resources on his website to count, but they include topics such as teaching about the Olympics, the role of the media in presidential politics, and helping kids "see through media peddled culture of celebrity."


I have already used part of this in my 10th grade class for struggling learners (modern/world literature -- studying To Kill a Mockingbird). I do think it's too bad, however, that one of the narrators swears! I don't mind the language if it's necessary in the context (say, in a novel we're reading), but there was no need for it here. Otherwise, it's a wonderful resource.

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