Teacher Q & A

As a teacher myself, I know you may have questions about how to implement this course. I’ve tried to offer some answers here. If your question isn’t answered here, send me an email at sarah.lerman.schrag@gmail.com.

What grade level is this course appropriate for?

This course is most appropriate for an 11th or 12th grade course, or an undergraduate course. It was designed with high school students and high school systems in mind, but it could be adapted to fit an undergraduate course.

This material interests me, but I don’t have the time to teach an entire course on it. How else can I use this material?

All of the materials here can be adapted for a timeline that is shorter than a full semester. For example, if you teach an AP course, you could plan a post-AP exam unit using 2-4 weeks of the course. You could pull a full unit, or use one film from each unit. While the queer utopias unit cumulatively builds student knowledge throughout the unit, the other three units do not build knowledge from weeks 1-4 that are essential for examining the films in the 3rd or 4th week of the unit.

How should I introduce students to the study of film?

While this course is modular and adaptable, the first week, on But I’m A Cheerleader, introduces students to the formal language of film and to the practice of performing a a close-reading scene analysis, so I recommend starting with this film, or altering the plans so that the first film you teach introduces formal elements of film. Materials included in the But I’m A Cheerleader plans include a handout on film vocabulary, a note-taking sheet for film screenings, and a model of a close-reading scene analysis. These materials are designed to be useful to students throughout the entire course.

How should I approach my administration about developing this course?

California, Colorado, Illinois, New Jersey, and Oregon now mandate LGBTQ-inclusive curricula in K-12 social studies and history courses. If you live in one of these states, you may be able to garner administrative support by referencing these laws. GLSEN has also conducted research on the benefits of LGBTQ-inclusive curricula for LGBTQ students; this could be useful information to share with administrators.

Administrators may still have concerns about mature content, particularly in film. I have included content warnings throughout the course materials to note content that students may find triggering, as well as content that administrators may be concerned about. This course is designed to be adaptable; if a particular film may pose problems in your school environment, you could consider substituting it for another film, such as those listed on each of the unit response paper assignments.

I’m concerned about the text complexity of this course. How can I adapt this course to suit my students’ reading skill levels?

As with everything in this course, feel free to change anything that won’t be useful to your students! Some modifications you could consider include:

  • scaling back the readings from 2 to 1 per film so that students can approach the readings more slowly and focus on identifying claims and evidence, or cutting the length of readings more than I have
  • providing pre-annotated copies of some readings with key language defined in the margins, or with particular paragraphs summarized in advance
  • replacing some readings with more popular press writings, such as film reviews in newspapers
  • adding additional lessons that involve guided reading of some texts, so that you can help students practice reading scholarly texts
  • opening class with brief lectures in which you summarize some of the more challenging readings

How can I help students learn to write effectively about film?

Each unit contains at least one text that I think does an excellent job of close-reading a film; these can be used as models for students in scene description and analysis. Those texts include:

  • Comedy Unit, Appropriate Behavior: Chloe Benson’s review of the film
  • Drama Unit, Moonlight: E. Patrick Johnson’s essay, “In The Quare Light of the Moon: Poverty, Sexuality, and Makeshift Masculinity in Moonlight
  • Drama Unit, Carol: Victoria L. Smith’s article, “The Heterotopias of Todd Haynes: Creating Space for Same-Sex Desire in Carol
  • Documentary Unit, Tongues Untied: Leah Anderst’s article, “Calling to Witness: Complicating Narrative Empathy in Tongues Untied
  • Queer Utopia Unit, Ma Vie En Rose: Michael R. Schiavi’s article, “A Girlboy’s Own Story: Non-Masculine Narrativity in Ma Vie En Rose”

In addition, Timothy Corrigan’s book, A Short Guide to Writing About Film may be a beneficial resource for you to read or share excerpts of with your students.

How can I help create a safe environment in my classroom for LGBTQ students?

GLSEN has lots of excellent resources for educators. In particular, their Safe Space Kit is a comprehensive guide to help teachers educate themselves about how to be an active and effective advocate for LGBTQ students, including how to intervene in bullying and harassment, how to respond if students come out to you, and how to promote a culture of inclusion in your classroom.

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