Movies, snacks, and a bit of English do not seem to be a very intimidating combination for a college course; it is rather closer to everyone’s dream class. English in Media, taught by Professor Michael Blackwood (Institute of Foreign Language Studies), demonstrates how to analyze film contents in various perspectives and encourages students to share their analyses with each other. With multiple chances to ponder upon diverse themes such as love and social stereotypes, the class allows students to take another careful look at not only the world displayed through media but also the reality of the current society.
Classified as a major-related elective course, English in Media aims to develop critical thinking, speaking and listening skills through interpretations and debates about films. To meet this goal the course is process-oriented and discussions are often held during the class. Students are designated into diverse role groups, such as “language master” or “society inspector,” and are assigned to analyze different factors of the films. Brief lectures and role group discussions, in which students of the same role group congregate and share their ideas, take place on the third session for each movie selected by the professor and the students.
▲ Media English Textbook
Provided by Professor Blackwood
Afternoon Teatime with Cookies and Drinks—Café Day
On the fourth session, or the Café Day, factions of students from different role groups are created. Since students analyze the film indisparate perspectives accordingly to their roles, each can effectively deepen the understanding of the overall film being studied. For instance, the “scene catcher” can bring up memorable or significant scenes while the “society inspector” scrutinizes different social groups that exist in the movie, all under the leadership of “MCs”, the discussion leaders. Through this division of labor, students can focus on their respective share of work. They are encouraged to bring up better discussion materials and to share unique, detailed ideas and experiences.
Students share what they have learned from the movie and ask questions about the parts they had a hard time comprehending. Often times, students manage to come up with clever explanations for their inquiry. To add on to the fun, each role group has to prepare different snacks so that students can enjoy varied cookies and drinks on Café Day. However, much is expected from the professor as students must turn in their role sheet or their analysis results as a “scene catcher” or “language master” and so on. The role sheets, which take up 20 percent of the total grade, are then meticulously graded according to their creativity and persuasiveness.
Much More to Analyze: Reaction Papers
Surprisingly, Café Days and role sheets do not signal the end of each film. The last assignment given for each movie is called a reaction paper. It is categorized into seven questions which examine themes of love, ethics, or the portrayal of minority groups, and etc. The reaction paper helps students reorganize their original thoughts and construct them into coherent paragraphs. Furthermore, students are led to reflect on current society and compare it with that of the film media, leading to criticisms of prevalent social problems such as gender inequality and violation of minority rights. From one film, one can not only examine the content of the movie but also connect the dots back to the contemporary world, consequently broadening one’s worldview.
Often times, students forget to contemplate on various themes such as ove or stereotypes because they are too busy with their own personal lives. Through this class, students will be able to establish their own opinions and arguments regarding various topics and develop a keener eye for viewing films and the world. As Professor Blackwood says, anyone who is willing to actively exchange thoughts is welcome.
Interview with Professor Blackwood
▲ Professor Blackwood
Provided by Professor Blackwood
GT: Why did you create such a course? What are you trying to teach through this course?
English in Media, which was originally called Screen English, was first opened way back in 1998. Back then, as today, students were often isolated within their own majors and did not have opportunities to meet students from other majors. Thus, we thought that students could benefit from a class where a major part of it would be the students themselves who bring their own experiences and ideas to words in the form of document and speech. I hoped to broaden students’ perspectives regarding the media sector and the world it depicts. Furthermore, I wanted to show that there are subtle motivations for the way that the mass media is presented to the public.
GT: What is your class objective or goals for your students?
I tried to motivate students to build up their confidence in writing and speaking English with others by discussing familiar topics such as family and friendships. However, at the same time, I wanted them to take a deeper look at those topics. By encouraging students to ask questions like “What is my role in society?” I wanted them to examine their own beliefs and discover unstated assumptions that they may have unknowingly held in their lives. Like Socrates said, “After all, the unexamined life is not worth living.”
GT: Last comments to your past and future students.
Well, I want to credit students and my colleagues for making this course what it is today. A lot of changes I made to my own section are a direct result of me seriously considering the suggestions made by the students. One example of an important cosmetic change to my class is the “café day” itself. In the beginning, it was simply a “group discussion,” but students said that calling it by a different name might make it seem less threatening; they were right.
"LIKE SOCRATES SAID, ‘AFTER ALL, THE UNEXAMINED LIFE IS NOT WORTH LIVING.’"