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Evidence
Identify/Generate the principle
Time: 20-30 minutes

This activity (a variation of TV Evidence) introduces students to the kinds of evidence film offers beyond plot and dialogue. Students also practice both finding evidence to suit a claim and generating a claim after gathering evidence. This is an incredibly useful exercise if you plan to ask students to write papers of any length in response to film.

Bring in two movies, one you think most students have seen, one you think they haven't. The movies should have memorable opening credits or sequences. (Office Space, The Breakfast Club, Catch Me If You Can, Seven, and any James Bond movie are all popular movies with good openings. Manhattan, Vertigo, Soylent Green, and It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World are all movies with good openings that most students--sadly--haven't watched.)

Before you show the first opening, ask the students to brainstorm a short list of claims about the first movie: What is it about? How does it depict work/high school/crime/etc? Then, roll the opening. First, just ask students to watch and listen. Then, ask them to choose a claim from the board and make note of anything they could use as evidence to support that claim. (Roll the opening twice more for this activity; they go by quickly.) Finally, share evidence, and make a list of the kinds of clues film offers: music, camera angle, pace, shot choice/composition, sequence, credit typeface, dialogue, etc.

Then, roll the credits to the unfamiliar film. Ask the class to watch and listen without taking any notes. Then assign each student to a particular category of evidence; roll the credits twice more, asking students to take notes about their assigned type of evidence. Share results. Brainstorm a list of claims about the movie that grow out of the evidence.