A new movie opening today is about the National Spelling Bee. I’m not sure I believe that last sentence either but from the reviews I’ve read, Spellbound is actually a very good documentary that follows eight kids in their path to the 1999 national contest. The filmmakers seem to have made what could have been a very dull subject into a real-life suspense story. Maybe this could be another tool teachers can use to inspire their kids.
But using commercial movies to motivate kids to excel academically isn’t that unusual. Stand and Deliver, the film about Jaime Escalante’s efforts to teach calculus to his East Los Angeles students, came out in 1988 and I remember giving students in my Algebra II class extra credit for seeing and reporting on the movie. Later when it came out on video tape, it became a must show in many high school math classes. Mr. Holland’s Opus, the Richard Dreyfuss movie about a band director who shares his passion for music with his kids is another film that get shown in a lot of music classrooms.
There are other inspirational movies for other subjects (Nick Nolte’s film Teachers is NOT among them :-). I have no doubt that a Spellbound video will show up in many elementary classrooms in the fall. Considering all the other images coming at kids from the popular media (largely negative), it’s nice when teachers can find positive influences to use.