Better Days – A Film Class Journey 5

After four class periods of preparation and lots of background research, finally, today we began watching the film.

After 15 minutes of Free Voluntary Reading, I began doing “Picture Talks” with students.  These pictures are screenshots of the important scenes from the film.

First, I pointed out the location, time and the setting.  The infamous annual college entrance exam (gaokao) in China, which takes place on June 7th, June 8th and June 9th.  Anyone dreams to go to a college will only have one opportunity each year to give it a shot.  Typically, two kinds of students who take gaokao each year.  The ones who wish to get into a top tier college but failed last time and the new graduates who are fighting for a spot for the first time.



Analyzing the lighting in this film is a quite fascinating process.  Zeng, Guoxiang uses different lights to express moods, positive outcomes or negative turns.  In the beginning, Chen, Nian, and Xiaobei are shown in bright and warm light.  However, when Chen, Nian began to recall her past, there is a clear contrast between the present and the past: bright or dark.

Then, I brought students’ attention to one Chinese character, “理“,(STEM).  In China, high school students generally are divided into two tracks: humanity and STEM.  Our film takes place in a tutoring center for repeaters who are in STEM track class 10.

“What is their life like as a high school senior?” I asked and then pulled out a typical schedule for them in China.  From the schedule, students are required to get up at 6:30.  After all day classes after classes, they are allowed to go to bed at 11:00 pm.  However, many students would stay up more or get up early to milk a few minutes of extra time to study.

I also explained to students how each classroom was set up in China.  Once a student enters a high school, he/she will be put into a cohort.  They are with their cohort day and night until they graduate. Many of my students were wide-eyed upon learning such a drastically different educational system in China.

So the teaching techniques are used here:

Picture Talk, Movie talk, Personalization, and inquiry.

The basic procedure is:

  1. Present one screenshot at a time, use the “See-think-wonder” routine to observe, discuss and think critically.
  2. After sharing all the screenshots from that selected segment, play the video clip with sound on so students can get a holistic view.
  3. Mute the sound of the same segment, the teacher narrates what’s happening on the screen.

By Haiyun

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