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    Determining Theme
    Using a Film Clip from Pink Floyd: The Wall

    Subject:     ELA: Theme

    Ages:          14+; High School Level

    Length:       Film Clip: Fifteen minutes, beginning at DVD Scene 5; Lesson: three 45 - 55 minute class periods.

    Learner Outcomes/Objectives:     Students will learn a method for determining theme and will write a thematic statement in a paragraph or an essay. They can also be asked to write compositions of various types on topics suggested by the clip.

    Rationale:     Deriving theme is an important skill required by most ELA curriculum standards. An explication of the clip enables students to practice deriving theme and writing compositions using subject matter of interest and value.

    Description of the Clip:     "Pink Floyd: The Wall" is a dark, expressionistic musical structured around the memories of Pink, a depressed British rock musician. As a young boy, Pink suffered from the effects of his father's death in WWII, a distracted and distant mother, and a repressive and unresponsive school system. In the clip, a young Pink tries to express himself in writing, only to be ridiculed by his teacher and his fellow students. He escapes through fantasies of a factory/school in which faceless automaton children are processed on a conveyor belt which takes them to a meat grinder. The students then riot, singing "We don't need no education", and burn down the school. When the building is ablaze, they throw the teacher into the flames. This powerful clip contains striking visuals, evocative music, and simple, forceful lyrics. The images are dark, the hopelessness palpable.

    Note that the themes derived from the clip are different than the theme of the overall film, which focuses on how Pink builds a wall to insulate himself from the pain he experiences in the world.

Learner Outcomes/Objectives
Description of the Clip
Using the Film Clip in Class:
      Step by Step
            Worksheet Discussions
            Determining Theme
            Additional Wring Assignments
            Additional Creative


Location: Begin the Clip at DVD scene #5 in which Pink, as a young child, is playing with an airplane while his mother prays in church. Continue for 15 minutes until the fantasy of destruction has ended and Pink is shown sitting in class while the teacher requires the students to recite a formula.

Possible Problems with this Film Clip: MODERATE: Children riot and burn down the school. Child automatons are on an assembly line leading to a meat grinder. They audience is shown students dropping into the hopper and ground meat coming out.

Reminder: Obtain all required permissions from school administrators before showing this clip.

What about showing the whole movie? TWM does not recommend showing the entire film in class. It is R rated and the only educational benefit we could find in the movie is in the recommended film clip.

This film is available from Amazon.com.

Teachers who want parental permission to show this film clip can use TWM's Movie Permission Slip.

For lyrics to the songs in the movie, see Lyrics for songs shown in the film clip.

This film is an expressionist work. The filmmakers were very conscious of this. Show students the DVD cover and ask them if it reminds them of a famous work of art. Click here for the answer.

An excellent discussion topic will be to ask students in what ways their school system represses or encourages individuality?

    Additional Writing Assignments

    The following lyrics, the theme song from the film as a whole, can be used to help illuminate the theme and drive assignments.

    The Wall: Part II
    We don't need no education
    We don't need no thought control
    No dark sarcasm in the classroom
    Teachers leave them kids alone.
    Hey! Teachers! Leave them kids alone!
    All in all it's just another brick in the wall.
    All in all you're just another brick in the wall.
    1. Ruminative Paragraph: — The lyrics of "The Wall, Part II" provoke thought through the use of a double negative: "We don't need no education." The line is repeated throughout the film clip. Write a ruminative paragraph about what you think the writer means by this line.

    2. Discussion Piece — Write a discussion piece about the validity of the idea that individualism is lost in society today and that young people are merely cogs in a machine.

    3. Informal Essay — Write an informal essay about the use of a wall as symbol. In this essay explain what a wall represents in terms of individuals building a wall around themselves and in terms of society as a whole. Try to find examples of walls that are a part of history or a part of a neighborhood or even a part of the design of a school.

    4. Formal Analytical Essay — Write a formal analytical essay comparing the school system shown in the film clip with the school system that you currently attend or have attended in the past.

    5. Narrative — Write a narrative about a time in your life when you felt as if you were simply mass produced as if on an assembly line. Do not just tell about your experience. Show it. Use at least four of the five ways to show meaning: 1. through action; 2. through dialogue; 3. through comparisons; 4. through thoughts; 5. through descriptive language.

    6. Opinion Piece — Write an opinion piece on the validity of political nihilism: Must the institutions of our present day society be destroyed in order for there to be meaningful reform?

    7. Critical Essay — Evaluate, through a critical essay, the use of music to help tell the story. Support the idea that the music is the driving energy in the clip.

    Creative Assignment

    Using your own taste in music, find a song or a piece of instrumental music that communicates the conflict between conformity and individuality. Decide what visuals you would use to create a video to illustrate the idea. If you have the technology available, you may want to create the music video. Present either the idea in the form of story boards or the complete product to the class.

Essays are to be written according to the essay rubric established in class. When paragraphs are called for, they should be written according to the rubric for paragraphs established in class.

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