Using Civics Movies and TV Shows In Your Social Studies Class

Movies and television shows can be really engaging ways to get your students interested in a topic, but they can also require a lot of time. In a standard forty minute class, you might have to devote an entire week to finish watching a movie with your kids. Here are some creative ways to use civics movies and tv shows in your social studies class.

Once you've figured out how you're going to watch it and incorporate it into your class, you have to figure out what your students are going to do with the movie. A class discussion is a typical way to delve into some deeper questions, and this can be followed up with a reflection paper. Another writing assignment option is a movie review, and if you want to incorporate video into it you can have students film their movie reviews.

With all that being said, here are my top five movies and television shows that I consider using in my social studies classes to teach civics and government:

  1. Mr. Smith Goes to Washington. This is an American classic. It does a great job of illustrating some concepts of the legislative process, like the filibuster. It also raises important questions about corruption and integrity in politics. Read some more about teaching about Mr. Smith Goes to Washington in your class.
  2. Wag the Dog. This is a really intriguing movie about the relationship of the media and politics. In today's era of fake news, this may be even more relevant than ever. Can you really trust what you're seeing on tv - or on Facebook?
  3. Show Me a Hero. This is a wonderful mini-series by HBO. It's about the Mayor of Yonkers and his struggle with the politics of housing segregation. It's a great look at local politics, and it serves as a basis for discussion of some really complex issues in civil rights, politics, and the judiciary.
  4. The Mayor on ABC. This is a brand new sitcom, and I've come to really like it. It's a little silly, but that's what makes it engaging for young people today. Underneath the comedy, it does a good job of illustrating some issues in municipal government. Read some more about using The Mayor to teach about civics and local politics.
  5. Twelve Angry Men. This is another classic. It really digs into the judicial process and what a jury trial is like. It also raises some deep questions about guilt, innocence, and how we should decide who gets put in jail.

What about you - what are your favorite movies to watch in your social studies class? Do you use political movies in your other classes?

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