Teaching History with Film: Strategies for Secondary Social Studies, 1st Edition (Paperback) book cover

Teaching History with Film

Strategies for Secondary Social Studies, 1st Edition

By Alan S. Marcus, Scott Alan Metzger, Richard J. Paxton, Jeremy D. Stoddard


198 pages

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Visit any school in the United States and chances are that you will find at least one of the social studies teachers showing a film about history. Along with the textbook, movies are one of the most prominent teaching aids in the history classroom. Yet, when middle and high school history teachers look for models of the effective use of motion pictures in history classrooms, the cupboard is surprisingly bare. Teaching History with Film provides a fresh, engaging, and clear overview of teaching with film to effectively enhance social studies instruction. Using cases of experienced teachers to illustrate accomplished history teaching through the use of movies, this text provides pre- and in-service teachers with ideas for implementing film-based lessons in their own classrooms and offers a deeper understanding of the thorny issues involved in using film to teach history.

Each section of the book focuses on how teachers can effectively support the development of students’ historical film literacy through topics such as using film to develop historical empathy, to develop interpretive skills, and to explore controversial issues. By developing the skills students need to think critically about the past or what they think they know about history, the lessons in this book illustrate how to harness the pedagogical power of film to provide the tools necessary for rigorous inquiry and democratic citizenship.

Special features include:

  • "Reflection on the Case," following each chapter, analyzing and discussing the strengths and limitations of the teacher’s approach as well as providing strategies for using and choosing films specific to the educational outcome
  • Sample unit outlines, descriptions of class texts and films, worksheets, essay questions, viewer guides, and exercises for the classroom throughout
  • Discussion of the practical considerations facing classroom teachers, including juggling time restraints, issues of parental permission, and meeting standards


"…Teaching History with Film provides useful guidelines for a thoughtful, sophisticated use of film to serve a range of instructional purposes in the secondary classroom. In doing so, it offers teachers and education faculty a helpful resource in effectively using a medium that has long been a staple of the history classroom."--The History Teacher

"The book is a valuable resource of ideas and possibilities when contemplating how to teach history in the secondary classroom. The authors do a fine job of including real teachers’ thinking around approaching their curriculum. In advocating for the thoughtful use of film to help students learn about broad themes, big issues, and pertinent topics spanning the passage of time, Marcus et al. show how history has the power to connect us all, past and present."--Teachers College Record

"This book offers a provocative and emerging effort to incorporate film into social studies curricula."--Theory & Research in Social Education

"Having read Teaching History with Film, we can no longer think of film as the too-familiar Friday standby…Carefully drawn classroom contexts, attention to the research base (much of it the authors') and a solid grounding in theory make it clear that teaching history with film has benefits commensurate with its challenges, especially in regard to highly controversial topics. This book is an outstanding contribution to the literature on teaching and learning history."--Linda S. Levstik, Professor of Curriculum and Instruction, University of Kentucky

Table of Contents

Part I: Using Film to Teach History

1. Introduction

2. Issues in Using Film to Teach History

Part II: Using Film to Develop Empathy

3. Empathy for Caring

4. Using Film to Develop Empathy as Perspective Recognition

Part III: Using Film to Develop Analytical or Interpretive Skills

5. Movies as Primary Documents

6. Using Film as a Secondary Source

Part IV: Using Film to Teach About Controversial Issues

7. Using Film to Teach about Contemporary Controversial Issues

8. Using Film to Teach Controversial Issues in History

Part V: Using Film to Visualize the Past and Film as Historical Narrative

9. Using Film to Visualize the Past

10. Using Film as Historical Narrative

About the Authors

Alan S. Marcus is an Associate Professor in the Department of Curriculum & Instruction in the Neag School of Education at the University of Connecticut.

Scott Alan Metzger is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Curriculum and Instruction at the Pennsylvania State University at University Park.

Richard J. Paxton is the Thomas S. Thompson Distinguished Professor of Education at Pacific University, Oregon.

Jeremy D. Stoddard is an Assistant Professor in the School of Education at the College of William & Mary.

Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
EDUCATION / Teaching Methods & Materials / Social Science