Response to a Documentary

1 teachers like this lesson
Print Lesson


TSWBAT view a documentary and take notes on 3 x 5 cards about significant words, phrases, or ideas.

Big Idea

Who is this about? What happened, and why? Where did it happen, and when?

Warm Up

15 minutes

This lesson starts with the class watching a documentary on the topic of segregation that we are studying in history.  Watching a documentary can be tricky because not all documentaries are equal. One guarantee, when students view "Teaching Tolerance" sponsored films, they're fully engaged ("The Children's March" book and video). By showing a documentary students learn about a topic then practice ELA skills by effectively participate in collaborative discussions about that topic, SL.5.1, contributing to the discussion and elaborating on the remarks of others- SL.5.1c.

The Children's March is an empowering look at how the children of Birmingham, AL were able to stand up to the laws of segregation, and change a whole city in 1963.

I give the kids background about segregation and Civil Rights and relate it directly to the Rosa Parks film we watched earlier in the month.  A significant point of discussion before viewing the film: the "N" word is spoken a few times. Some of my students haven't heard much of this terrible slur, others are familiar with in in music.  A few may even have been personally affected by it, though I don't know.  It's just important to talk about it.  Hearing it without this preliminary talk will shock and distract from the intent of the lesson. 

An article link is attached called, "How a March by Children Ended Segregation..."  This link also contains short videos that supplement the documentary nicely.

Viewing the Documentary, "The Children's March"

40 minutes

As the students watch the documentary (The Children's March Begins) they're instructed to keep singular notes about significant words, phrases, or thoughts that pop into their head.  These 3 x 5 cards will be used in an activity following the film (Writing Notecards During Documentary). I give them a five card minimum to write, but they complete an average of eight cards a piece, and we have plenty of data!

An activity like this is valuable without feeling intrusive. What I mean is I don't require them to write continually throughout the film because I don't want their focus be to the task of notetaking (Dr. King's speech holds the students' attention) Absorbing the meaning of the documentary is most important, and they appreciate this method of writing down notes in a way that's not laborious. (Cards the kids wrote during the documentary)


25 minutes

I pick sticks to put the kids into groups of three, then distribute the 3 x 5 cards randomly (Which ones did we get?)  I shuffle the data the kids collect during the viewing of "The Children's March."  Their job now is to put the cards they receive into chronological order. They use the Documentary 3x5 cards worksheet. With groups of three it's not difficult for them to get this random sampling into order, and repeats are just put to the side (Looking for duplicates).

They are surprisingly excited about receiving their cards. Everyone has written at least five so they know their own are out there.  I hear things like, "You have my card!" or "I remember this, but didn't write it down," and "Which cards did you get?!" (A lot of cards to sort through). 

In addition to placing the cards in order, they write down statements about each after they determine the order (Writing card statements).  If they need additional cards to meet timeline requirements, and this doesn't happen often, they ask to sift through a nearby group's cast-offs.

What makes this a unique activity is that the kids aren't just placing their collection of cards, or someone else's group of cards in chronological order (Decisions about card order) they are using varied cards from a shared experience (watching the documentary together,) and they are collaborating and discussing with their group to produce the best product.

We tape the cards onto the Smart Board, they read their data and sharing with the class.

They enjoy and are engaged in the activity. Chronological Time Cards Bulletin Board

Cards and statements pg 1

Cards and statements pg. 2


15 minutes

Depending on timing or needs, the comprehension questions about the documentary can be completed at another class period or as a homework assignment (The Children's March Comprehension Questions). I tend to do this at the end of the day because the movie is still fresh on their minds, but enough time has passed that they've had time to digest it but if we run out of time, it gives students the chance to have discussion about the film with their parents.

Regardless of when the comprehension questions are completed, when they are finished we discuss each one (Explaining one of her answers). The conversations that come out of this paper are important to have with the students.

Student Example 1 Comprehension Questions

Student Example 2 Comprehension Questions