Web Site Offers Lessons Drawn From the Movies

By Sean Cavanagh — October 17, 2006 1 min read
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For years, James A. Frieden was fond of watching the movies he most admired—“Gandhi” and “Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Learned to Love the Bomb,” to name just two—with his three sons, now grown, not just as entertainment, but for the lessons they offered about civil rights, the Cold War, and other topics.

Teachers can use the Web site to expand their lessons. —Courtesy of teachwithmovies .com

Teachers can use the Web site to expand their lessons.

Mr. Frieden and his wife, Deborah W. Elliott, eventually came to believe there was a demand among parents, as well as school officials, for more structured lessons, and character development, through film. About a decade ago, the couple created “Teach With Movies,” an Internet-based service that offers ideas for lessons in history, science, health, ethics, and other subjects to teachers and other subscribers. Teachers have used movies in classes for years to reinforce lessons; the Web site, Mr. Frieden says, is designed to help them organize and expand on those discussions.

Subscribers pay $11.99 a year. They receive links to 270 movies, from such classics as “To Kill a Mockingbird” to contemporary works like “October Sky.” Links are provided to articles on historical and other relevant topics covered in the films, to Web sites, and to analyses of the movies. The movies are screened for content, and warnings are included on the site about sex and violence.

The site has about 7,000 subscribers, 80 percent of them teachers, Mr. Frieden said. He and Ms. Elliott gather suggestions for films from subscribers.

Mr. Frieden, a lawyer, has no direct connection to K-12 schools, except for occasional volunteer stints. He hardly considers himself a movie junkie. “I know more about the stars that my mother loved,” he confessed, “Greta Garbo, Clark Gable—than I do about movie stars today.”

The Web site is

A version of this article appeared in the October 18, 2006 edition of Education Week


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