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An interesting approach to learning about a famous speech and the Civil War
I had some expectations of this film in some respects – I recently completed 3 education courses and was interested to see how Burns would depict the struggles of young males ages 11-17 with learning differences as they attempt to learn about and memorize the Gettysburg Address. Also as a person just interested in documentary films and how they can shed light on historic or current events or situations, my other reason stemmed mainly from curiosity.
Burns employs some effective techniques that can make this film work for educators as well as for the general viewer. Since I'm still a student of education I can't speak for all teachers, however the film does not shy away from the trials these students often face while trying to both fit in and learn at the same time. I liked the way the school basically uses what can be called possibly a "constructivist" approach regarding the teaching of Lincoln's Gettysburg Address (at one point some student musicians played "When Johnny Comes Marching Home Again" making this holistic approach ring true).
Helpful to the viewer, and representing that this film is about the students themselves, is that each child appearing in a scene is identified by first name. I found myself by the end of the film recognizing some of the students by face and name, and this brought the film closer to home. I think this is a film that all educators should see if for nothing else than to view how successfully an overriding goal or theme can be for students. I think the general viewer can gain a clearer understanding of how a learning disability affects a child and how these students are as eager to learn and comprehend the world as anyone.
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