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Series: Elements of Structure Part 4: Documentary Resources


Documentaries are non-fiction with bias. At least that’s how I define it…because documentaries are so much more than just presenting facts. Sheila Curran Bernard says it better:

“Documentaries bring viewers into new worlds and experiences through the presentation of factual information about real people, places, and events, generally — but not always — portrayed through the use of actual images and artifacts. But factuality alone does not define documentary films; it’s what the filmmaker does with those factual elements, weaving them into an overall narrative that strives to be as compelling as it is truthful and is often greater than the sum of its parts.”

–Sheila Curran Bernard, Author of Documentary Storytelling

If you’re interested in sharing documentaries with students, here are some good resources:

Films for Action

Top Documentary Films

Documentary Heaven

PBS 11 Documentary Sites

Added: Frontline

Documentaries must not stay in the domain of history or social studies but extend far into all content areas. Moreover, students creating their own documentaries may be the most powerful voice and tool of all. If you’re heavily embedded in fiction and literature studies, consider documentaries that discuss the lives of the authors, or take on a meta-fictional approach. 

And what a grand opportunity for students to explore and analyze sources:

Original Post
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I would love to know what documentaries you’ve shown, and if you’ve tried having students create their own. How did it go, and what went well?

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More than words…

When I was growing up, news reporting wasn’t like it is today. When I was really young, in elementary school, the Vietnam war was raging, the Civil Rights movement was in full swing, there were many protests, and a lot of violence on television. The news stations would even air footage of dying and wounded soldiers, and I remembered feeling very afraid. After I grew up, I felt that news changed, and not for the better. The news doesn’t show what it’s really like for soldiers fighting, the news often uses the “news anchors” to stir up fear and mistrust, and they are not telling the news in a straight-forward, no-nonsense way, or a trustworthy way. One of the most popular newsmen of his day was Walter Cronkite. He was calm, trustworthy, and reflected the awe and wonder of what it meant to live as an American. He was honest when he told the American public he didn’t believe in the war, and gave thoughtful reasons why, not reasons full of fear-mongering. When we landed on the moon in 1969, he reflected the nation’s sense of deep admiration and wonderment of the astronauts, and American genuis. His passing saddens me, not because he didn’t have a life well lived, but because many Americans don’t realize that the news can be something more than defensive, mud-slinging, name-calling hate games. Listen and look at the news of our world with critical eyes and ears, and don’t ever, ever, let down your guard when it comes to free speech. It is our ability, our right, to speak up over what needs to be changed that can create a world that sends people to the moon, stops wars, and creates a better world for all.

 Check out these links for more information: