Teaching History through Film: Film Teaching Guides

Welcome! You have found one of a series of teacher resource guides produced through a collaborative effort by the Center for the Study of Public History and Public Culture at the George Washington University and Mediapede through a generous grant from the Woodrow Wilson National Fellowship Foundation.

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Currently, we have teaching guides for four films that are suitable for classroom teaching:

  • The Crucible: An adaptation of the Arthur Miller play about the Salem Witchcraft Trials of 1692.
  • The Last of the Mohicans: An adaptation of the novel by James Fenimore Cooper, about Indian-white relations.
  • Lone Star: John Sayles' 1996 film looks at how Tejanos, African-Americans, Native Americans, Mexicans and Anglo-Americans in Frontera, Texas interact with each other and deal with the actions of generations past.
  • 1776: This one will surprise you! A savvy musical about the drafting of the US Constitution.
  • The Truman Show: This film is the (fictitious) story of a thirty-year-old man whose entire life has been broadcast to a global audience as a TV show.

Each guide contains:

  • A brief summary the movie plot.
  • Recommendations for age appropriateness and summary of depictions of sex or violence.
  • Suggestions for how to break down the movie into classroom length sections (or how to use only part of the movie, if the teacher prefers).
  • Detailed discussion of each section of the film, including potential topics to highlight, depending on whether you are focusing on political history, social history, or media literacy.
  • Suggested discussion questions and classroom activities.
  • Internet Links or suggestions of relevant materials such as speeches or photographs, that will allow the students to compare the two versions of history presented in the different kinds of sources.
  • Specific film analysis and media literacy activities.

Feel free to use these guides, and to reproduce them for others. This project is still in process, so we would also like your feedback.