Using Disney’s Short Film, “Paperman”

30 Jan

Disney just released their short film that’s nominated for an Academy Award, Paperman.

Like most Disney shorts, it’s adorable: romantic, nostalgic, humorous.  The film tells the tale of an office worker who meets a pretty girl on a metro line.  He loses track of her when she boards the train, only to see her again from across a sea of office skyscrapers.  He repeatedly tries, and fails, to get her attention again by throwing paper airplanes,  until at last they meet.

This is a cute movie to use in class for literacy instruction.  There’s a lot you could do with it.

Possible teaching points:

Movie watcher, like readers, predict what will happen next by thinking about what a character has done in the past, and using it to make a logical guess about what he or she will do in the future.

You could stop the film in multiple places to have students predict the next action(when he first throws a paper plane out the window, when he is looking at his last piece of paper, when all the papers are sitting on the ground.)

Or, if you’re not into prediction right now, you could work on envisioning.

Movie watchers, like readers, use the setting to help them understand the mood and tone of the story.  They do this by looking at color, environment, and sound.

The grey of the cartoon contrasted with the red of the kiss practically begs for kids to talk about the significance of color choice.  We can hope kids notice the stark, tall, uniform office buildings, the mindless uniformity of the workers.  Even the harsh rectangularity of the boss versus the kinder roundness of our hero and heroine–it all contributes to the mood and meaning of the piece.

Or, if you want to keep it simple and focused:

Movie watchers, like readers, notice when someone lingers on an object or repeats it frequently.  Lingering or repetition tell us that the object is significant for some reason.

This film does a great job of repeatedly coming back to that paper with the kiss…as an adult, it seems clear to me what it represents, but kids could have a meaningful and enlightening discussion on what it was supposed to show.  (Although, I’m aware that for some classrooms focusing on the paper with the kiss might also elicit quite a few embarrassed moans and gagging noises from the boys :).

Disney short films in general are great teaching tools for characters’ feelings and actions, symbolism and mood.  Have fun with them!

 

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