Using Short Films to Lead a classroom discussion

“I dunno.”

That’s the answer teachers usually receive when asking thought-provoking questions.

We can’t blame students. Getting anyone to open up and talk about issues can be awkward, especially in group settings. They need a safe place where they can express their opinions and receive non-judgmental responses.

Students can feel intimidated when teachers ask questions, so teachers need well-designed resources and tools. Movies are one medium that encourages natural discussion.

Film is everywhere. In all the world’s major cultures people watch movies. Stories bring us together, and elicit reactions, powerfully evoking thoughts, feelings, and longings. Films connect us, engaging both our minds and our hearts.

When you show a short film in class or after school, you create opportunities for your students to open up in ways they usually wouldn’t. As an educator, you can leverage the power of film to provide a fun, relational event that can lead to meaningful conversations with students.

Some films can even spark spiritual conversations, so listen carefully for those who are open to immediate or future discussions. Your goal is to provide great dialogue while building relationships.

So, where do you start? Initially, you must choose a film.

We recommend a six-minute film created specifically for prompting conversations about mistakes and second chances. It is the story called “Ctrl Z.” It’s available in fourteen different languages at the link below. 

The film stars well-known American actors, Tony Hale (Arrested Development) and Zachary Levi (Shazam!). The comedic plot deals with a desktop computer malfunctioning and the office loner who takes advantage of that opportunity to magically undo some regrets. 

After the film ends, transition to a discussion time by asking two or three open-ended questions. Start with something easy to break the ice. Then progress toward more in-depth topics.

Here are a few examples:

  • What was your favorite part?
  • Can you relate to anyone in the movie?
  • What motivates us to want a redo in our lives?
  • How do most people handle regret?

For a larger class, you may prefer to split into groups to discuss each question. As the teacher, ask the first question and give students two to three minutes to discuss it in groups.

Rather than posing all the questions at once, allow discussion time for each one. This eliminates the tendency to rush through all of the questions too quickly.

The goal is to get students talking comfortably, which helps you determine with whom you might want to have follow-up conversations. Take note when a student mentions anything about morals, values, or worldviews. By pinpointing deeper needs, you’ll identify those who are interested in spiritual matters.

It is usually not appropriate to share the gospel in a school setting; rather, it is a time to build a bridge to spiritual topics that you can explore with them later.

Remember, it’s not up to you to make something meaningful happen. You have limitations on what you can discuss in a public classroom.

Just do what you can in the power of the Holy Spirit to create a safe atmosphere for students to open up—then leave the results to God.

If you’d like to explore more resources to help springboard students into spiritual conversations, check out this library of short films.

About the author: Tez Brooks is an Award-winning author, screenwriter, and international speaker. He has a passion for seeing God use film to help transform lives. He currently serves on our Communications team at ISP. Some of Tez’s work can be found in publications of Focus on the Family, CBN.com, The Upper Room, Guideposts, Jesus Film Project, and more. His award-winning screenplay “Jangled,” can be viewed on the Jesus Film app. He and his wife Christine, have four children and have been full-time missionaries for over 30 years. Find out more at tezbrooks.com

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