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Poyntz, Stuart. "Images of the Past: Using Film to Teach History." In The Anthology of Social Studies: Issues and Strategies for Secondary Teachers, edited by Roland Case and Penney Clark, 336-47. Vancouver BC: Pacific Educational Press, 2008.


Poyntz begins by acknowledging the flaws in Hollywood’s take on historical events but affirms that since most people learn history from popular movies, it is wise to question how best to use them to support students’ understanding of history. Poyntz identifies and discusses six movie-making “codes” that can be used to begin a discussion about history’s representation in popular films: cinematic realism, linear plot structure, the heroic perspective, visual and audio techniques, and the use of detail. He argues that students need to understand how these codes are used in presenting historical information before assessing what the film could contribute to learning about history.

To tie this discussion into larger discussions of historical inquiry, Poyntz goes through Seixas’ six concepts of historical understanding – historical significance, evidence and interpretation, continuation and change, cause and consequence, historical perspective, and moral judgement – in relation to historical films. To support this, he provides sample activities related to evidence and interpretation, historical perspective, and moral judgement in relation to using historical films in history class.

Samantha Cutrara