REEL CANADA ESL Event at Albert Campbell Collegiate Institute
by Richard Park (REEL CANADA OISE intern)
As a teacher candidate from OISE, I chose to complete my internship at REEL CANADA, partially because I’d always harboured a personal interest in cinema. In a professional vein, I’d hoped that I would be able to glean new means of infusing relevance and interest into science curriculum (my teachable subjects being general science and biology) through the medium of Canadian films. I feel that one of the greatest obstacles any teacher faces in a classroom is trying to get students to connect with the material being taught, as opposed to merely digesting and later regurgitating the content.
My first experience attending a REEL CANADA film festival was a decidedly positive one, as I was able to see firsthand how movies, riddled with educational extensions and teachable moments, can serve to ignite students’ interest. Early Tuesday morning, I set off with the REEL CANADA crew to Albert Campbell Collegiate Institute, located in Scarborough. The front foyer alluded to the diverse demographic that the school houses, as suspended from the ceiling were a wide array of national flags. In line with the equitable mandate of the REEL CANADA organization, the day’s feature showing was DOUBLE HAPPINESS, a film that carries themes and messages that cater to that morning’s ESL student audience. The feature film was followed by a conversation with Mina Shum, the director, with question, reactions, and comments from the students facilitated by Judith Cockman.
As an educator, I believe that films are an excellent medium for bridging the growing divide between the mandated curriculum and the personal interests of students. Many students feel disconnected from the classroom experience because they don’t find any applicability in what they are learning to their lives outside of school. However, films like DOUBLE HAPPINESS, saturated with values, symbols, and ideas that resonate with Chinese students living and studying in Canada, can serve as means for sparking thoughtful discourse amongst the students and teachers alike. The teacher liaison that coordinated this event with REEL CANADA said that she plans to incorporate the messages of the film into lessons with her ESL students. Reflective writing, classroom discussions, and vocabulary identification are all practical ways in which a fiction film, traditionally produced as entertainment, can be transformed into an educational vehicle for students learning English. Essentially, educators must continually strive for innovation and progressive teaching strategies in the classroom. Harnessing films for this purpose is just one way a teacher can make students feel like they are the star of the show.