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Emma Sheppard, Founder of The MTPT Project, explores how the simple act of vegging out in front of a film can be a great CPD and wellbeing opportunity.

There are days, evenings and nights on maternity leave (let’s be honest, in life) when you really don’t have the energy to do anything.  Sleep is evasive because the baby needs you to lie still, but secure, whilst they sleep on top of you, or feed for what seems like hours on end.

On both maternity leaves, it’s been a bit of a reluctant relief to accept these moments and turn to the big screen to keep me entertained.  First time round, as my maternity leave crept into the miserable winter months, it was an indulgence to take a coffee and a bag of chocolate into the newbies screening of The Light Between Oceans and escape into excellent cinema at 11 o’clock in the morning.  As an English teacher, there’s an easy link between film and the texts that we study, but other than the very creepy animated tales version of Macbeth that I use endlessly at KS4, I wasn’t deliberately attending cinema screenings with GCSE Literature in mind.

This focus on my own wellbeing and love of film was liberating, but when something is so enjoyable, it’s difficult not to share it with students.  Films like Lady MacbethI, Daniel Blake and Before the Flood all crept into my lessons when I returned after my first maternity leave, and this time, I’ve fallen in love with Studio Gibli’s The Red Turtle.  There’s so much scope here to use these films to deliver gorgeous lessons:

  • Descriptive writing using evocative stills from the film – my Year 11s loved the possibilities in the above image of The Light Between the Oceans
  • Enrichment and paring with The Tempest – there are so many thematic links of deserted islands, children, magic, secrets, shipwrecks, storms, exploration of the psyches of male protagonists, guilt and forgiveness
  • To accompany wider reading of exploratory texts like Robinson CrusoeJourney to the River Sea or Wide Sargasso Sea
  • Stimuli for thematic debates – both films offer difficult moral scenarios and engage the audience as they decide who is wrong and who is right and which side they’re going to take
  • Presentation of strong female characters
  • The Red Turtle also explores natural disasters and man’s relationship with the natural world – great for cross-curricular Geography links