Movie and Book Reviews for History Teachers | Student Handouts
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Film Reviews and Guides for History Teachers 
Books, Films, and Documentaries
Media Recommendations, Reviews, and Educational Materials for K-12 Teachers > Film Guides
American History Media World History Media
General Interest Documentaries Popular Films
Check Out Some of Our Reviews and Guides
  Grandmaster (2013)   Far and Away (1992)   The Pianist (2002)   Finding His Voice (1929)   Conquistadors: The Fall of the Aztecs (2000)  
Many educators show films to students, as well as have students read historical fiction, autobiographies, biographies, primary texts, etc.  There is an overwhelming amount of audio-visual and reading material to sift through for the uninitiated.  We have attempted to summarize a large part of the content that is available.  These recommendations are targeted at the upper grades (7-12, especially high school).
Documentaries: Documentary films and television programs are the most common audio-visual tools used with students.  Unfortunately, there is a lot of chaff mixed with the grain.  We review documentaries based on factors such as length, depth and complexity of subject matter, age appropriateness, and more.
Films: Many teachers show films in social studies classes.  Movies are a great way to illustrate historical events and time periods for students.  However, movies often skew historical facts.  Additionally, over time, historical films have grown more risqué in their subject matter.  We have reviewed our films based on suitability and other factors.
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Teaching Tip: These materials are too vast for any teacher to ever cover all of them in the course of a single school year.  Our answer?  We get students and parents involved in the learning process with: Family Movie Night!  Here's how it works: As we begin a teaching unit or textbook chapter, we find movies from our lists that we (a) don't have time to show in class but (b) believe would benefit our students' understanding of the subject matter.  Using our classroom web pages or blogs, under a "Family Movie Night" subject heading, we link directly to these books, films, and documentaries (individual review web pages).  Our families can then click on a link, read a brief review, and select a film.

The results are astounding.  Parents get to help their children learn while eating popcorn and enjoying a great film (even if the parents know next to nothing about the social studies course content).  Students learn while having fun.  Families bond by discussing these films.  Everyone wins.

Example: Olivia was studying the history of China in the 1900s.  Olivia's teacher linked her to To Live, an acclaimed film about a Chinese family spanning from the Nationalist Revolution through the Cultural Revolution.  On a Friday night, Olivia watched the film with her grandmother.  Olivia felt afterward like she better understood the material--like she had a "feel for it."  Following the film, Olivia's grandmother chatted with her for a good hour about the grandmother's memories of the Cold War, Nixon's visit to China, as well as modern U.S. economic issues related to China.  True story!  Watching a well-made, engaging, and historically rich film can and does give students (and grown-ups) a vast amount of cultural and educational capital.  And BTW...Olivia easily scored an A for all of her work in that World History unit.