CREATING A NEW ENGLISH SENIOR SEMINAR: FILM AS LITERATURE
By Jenna Goldenberg, Director of Teaching and Learning
All Greenhills seniors enroll in senior seminars that engage them in the intensive study of special topics that serves as the capstone to students’ previous work in upper school English courses. The portfolio of seminars grew this year with the addition of a new course, Film as Literature. This course was created through the collaboration of English Teacher/Associate Director of Diversity, Equity, & Inclusion Kelly Williams and Math Teacher/Dean of Students Tom Ward.
Film as Literature treats film as an object of analysis from both a visual and narrative perspective and explores the relationship between the art of film and storytelling. Students analyze feature-length films, short films, and isolated scenes, and create their own visual content. Williams and Ward designed the class to engage students in discussions and written analyses to help them acquire the skills to be more conscious and critical consumers not only of movies but also of social media, advertisements, television, and other visual media. They curated films for the class from a wide variety of genres and kept a diverse representation of screenwriters, actors, and directors at the forefront. Examples include the recent films “Everything Everywhere All at Once” and “Moonlight.”
In designing this new course, Williams and Ward each applied their individual expertise and passions. Ward contributed his knowledge of filmmaking and visual techniques and Kelly contributed her expertise on narrative structure and story development. This collaboration allowed them to integrate their respective skills to create an innovative course that engages students in an intellectual experience that centers different viewpoints and analytical frames. Additionally, Williams and Ward designed their lessons and projects in ways that prioritized student choice and agency.
Students drive class discussions by asking questions and sharing different understandings of the various films they are watching. Groups of students also had the opportunity to study one concept related to film analysis, such as continuity editing, and then teach the class about how their topic helps audiences interpret film in a new way. Additionally, every student also contributes to a class blog that allows them to analyze films of their choosing and enables them to read each other’s perspectives. Students also have the opportunity to become creators themselves, such as through a mise-en-scène project, in which students were challenged to tell a story with just one still image.