Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Movie for WWI: Sergeant York

Ok, so Sergeant York is about a WWI hero from Tennessee, not Alabama. This is such a good movie about WWI, though. Since it was made in the early era of movies, there are war scenes, but there is no blood and no gore. The movie is in black and white, and when I tell students that it is in black and white, they all make that disappointed sound. I assure them, though, that this movie and To Kill A Mockingbird are two movies that are so good, that I do not mind that they are in black and white. (It has Gary Cooper in it for crying out loud! I always wanted to know what he was like because Lucy, of I Love Lucy, so often described certain men as a "Gary Cooperish" type.) Usually by the time the students see Sergeant York in a shooting contest, they are hooked. I have never been able to show it all in one afternoon, and both years the kids have just about driven me crazy asking when we are going to see the rest of the movie.

Watch it before you show it to the kids. They will ask questions as the movie goes along. Answer them as they ask even if you have to pause the movie every once in a while. From this movie: they will gain an understanding of what life was like in the rural South back in this time period, what boot camp and training was like for these soldiers, and what war was like with all of the new technology of the time. Possibly most importantly, they also get to experience the story of a truly humble war hero whose intelligence was gained in the backwoods of the South and whose integrity ran so deep that it influenced a nation (They even made a movie about him! :) ). You may want to mention that if any of them take a trip to the Smoky Mountains in Gatlinburg, they will see a sign on the interstate for the Alvin C. York VA Medical Center. I have had so many students come back and tell me that they saw his sign.

I do not do any written response on this movie. Sometimes we teachers can kill a good thing. I find that there are so many good questions and discussion throughout and after the movie, that there is no need to beat it to death with anything else. I do, however, do a project in which the students may choose to research the technology of WWI as one of their research topics. I will try to post that project soon.

If anyone ever finds that this movie has been restored to a color version, please let me know! Let me know if you use this movie in your class, and the impact it had on your students (and you!), too.


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