Last week, as we were setting the schedule for presentations, I asked students if they would like to watch 1776. I had shown them some clips from the movie and explained what it was about. They agreed that it would be valuable to watch the film.
I should have been concerned that several students did not understand than Mrs. Jefferson was not really talking about Thomas’ fiddle when she sang about strings being unstrung, but I was not.
Anyway, today we began 1776. As the film progressed, I could tell that most of my students were missing the subtle humor. About an hour into the film, I could tell than I had lost my audience. A little while later I paused the film and commented, “This isn’t going well is it?” My students agreed.
What does one do when a lesson crashes and burns? Usually, I have something in my bag of tricks that will allow me to modify a lesson or to create a new one on the spot. But such was not the case today. My “solution” was to wish the students a nice weekend and to end class significantly early.
The students were obviously not getting anything out of the film so I could not think of a good reason why we should finish it. Nor am I planning to build a future lesson specifically on what they missed in the last half of the movie.
The last time I used 1776 was four years ago and students enjoyed the film. But today it didn’t work—which does not mean that the film would not work for a future class. Classes are different and sometimes an exciting lesson does not live up to expectations. In such a case, sometimes the only thing to do is to say, “Goodbye and have a nice weekend.”