Like close reading of text, close viewing of film media is carefully and purposefully viewing and reviewing a film clip in order to focus on what the filmmaker is trying to convey, the choices the filmmaker has made, the role of images, narration, editing, and sound, and what the film’s purpose might be. Close viewing ensures that students become critical viewers of film content and that they really understand what they’ve watched. Skillful close viewing is also an important foundation for helping students develop the ability to justify their claims in class discussions and writing assignments with specific evidence. The following sample protocol is meant for use with a short (five- to ten-minute) film or video clip.
After watching the clip, ask students to write down their general thoughts and reactions. You might prompt them with questions such as: What stands out for you? What resonated with you? What do you have questions about?
Note: Before moving on to Step 2, it might be helpful to go over a few of these basic recall questions with students:
After this viewing, a teacher could ask “film-dependent questions” to focus students’ understanding of specific moments from the film. These are questions that students can answer entirely based on information and evidence provided in the film.
Have each student or small group take notes based on only one of the following lenses to focus their viewing of the film. Each lens includes “questions” to ask oneself.
Have each group report on its lens and what its members observed. Ask each group to reflect on the following question: How was your viewing of the film affected by the specific lens through which you viewed it?
Bring the small groups back together and ask that students take turns responding to the questions below.
After viewing the documentary film Regret to Inform, students examine the impact of the Vietnam War on the lives of war widows from all sides of the conflict.