POV has featured a number of films that are ideal for introducing students to documentaries and media literacy. This collection offers educators a range of our most popular accompanying content, produced in response to requests from educators – from web features to discussion guides, lesson plans and reading lists. Note: Lesson plans are accompanied by streaming video clips.
Introducing Documentaries to Your Students: 7th-12th Grades:
This lesson helps students understand that documentaries are a type of storytelling that explores factual stories and issues using film or video. By the end of the lesson students should know the difference between fact, fiction and opinion, and be prepared to watch documentaries in class.
What Makes a Documentary a Documentary?: 7th-12th Grades:
It was once rare for a documentary film to be released in mainstream theaters, but that is beginning to change. Given the growing influence of documentaries, it is important that students have the skills to understand and analyze these information sources.
Social-Issue Documentaries – A Mini-Curriculum: College-Level:
This lesson plan was written by Patricia Aufderheide, Director of the Center for Social Media and Professor of Communications at American University. As documentaries have become increasingly popular, they have also become more significant voices in the media. Students in many fields — not only film and video students, but students in sociology, political science, international affairs and law — now aspire to make documentaries. They intend to build these documentaries into websites, use them in campaigns, exhibit them at film festivals and attach them to research projects.
Using Documentary Films to Spotlight and Redress Genocide, Corruption and Injustice: College Level:
Independent documentary filmmaking is leveraging its influence not only at the box office but also across cultures. Whether at the ever-growing number of film festivals, on Oscar® night or among social, political and human rights activists, documentaries have established an important niche in today’s diverse media. Documentaries provide a serious edge in our digital and global age, telling stories in unique, effective and often passionate ways.
Media Literacy Questions for Analyzing POV Films:
Because everyone interprets media through the lens of his or her own experience, media literacy analysis is about rich readings rather than specific “right” answers. These suggested questions are starting points for that type of analysis. They are designed for diverse films and audiences; choose the ones that best meet the needs of your situation. To encourage deeper readings, try using follow-up questions such as, “How do you know?”; “How could you find out?”; “What evidence from the film backs up your answer?”; “What else do you notice?”; or “What else do you want to know?
POV Filmmaker Interviews are a great way to delve deeper into issues of media literacy and the making of documentary films.