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The King and I
SUBJECTS — Drama/Musicals; World/Thailand; U.S./1860-1865;
SOCIAL-EMOTIONAL LEARNING — Courage; Education;
MORAL-ETHICAL EMPHASIS — Trustworthiness; Respect.
Age: 8+; MPAA Rating: G; Musical; 1956; 133 minutes; Color.
It is the early 1860s. King Mongcut, ruler of Siam, hires an English school teacher to provide a Western education for his children. The teacher and the king develop a deep affection for one another despite the great differences in their cultures and their stations in life. This film is based on the Broadway musical.
The story is essentially a fantasy. While the "king" portrayed in The King and I did exist, King Mongcut was much different (and more interesting) than the character shown in the film. (See the full Learning Guide for details.) Ancient Siam is the modern country of Thailand.
The best thing about this film is the music. Many of the songs such as, "Getting to Know You," "I Whistle a Happy Tune," and "Shall We Dance" are suitable for the voices of elementary school children. The production of "The Small House of Uncle Thomas," choreographed by Jerome Robbins, is a wonderful introduction to dance. For older children, the film can serve as the occasion for discussions about the geography of Southeast Asia and Western imperialism in that region. As to U.S. history, the film provides a basis for talks about slavery in the United States, the Civil War, Abraham Lincoln and the role of the book Uncle Tom's Cabin in turning attitudes in the northern United States against slavery. The film can also be used to talk about the history of Siam in the colonial era.
The TeachWithMovies.com Learning Guide to The King and I will provide background and discussion questions to correct the misimpressions created by the film and to explore its themes.
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The King and I is a wonderful story graced with great music and dancing. It's not strong on historical accuracy.
Learning Guide Excerpt
To demonstrate how our Learning Guides can be used by teachers to improve lesson plans, we have set out below a paragraph from the Learning Guide to The King and I.
Except for Siam, every country in Southeast Asia became a colony of one European power or another. Siam's independence was preserved by the policies of Kings Mongkut and Chulalongkorn. Father and son adjusted to alien pressures by accommodating just enough while promoting internal reforms. This policy was called "bending with the wind."
The Learning Guide to the film The King and I contains sections on Benefits of the Movie, Possible Problems, Helpful Background, Discussion Questions, Links to the Internet, and Bridges to Reading. The Discussion Questions are divided into three categories: Subject Matter, Social-Emotional Learning, and Moral-Ethical Emphasis.
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