I love Disney films, I am an adult but I am a child at heart. I am not entirely sure why I love them, it could be the optimism of the film or  the clever animation. It could also be the great story and it’s well thought out characters.  There is something unique about these set of films that are able to appeal to audiences of all ages. They teach audiences a lesson in something. Whether you realize it or not when you walk out of that film you have learnt something. It may only dawn on you later, it may reinforce a belief you already had. However, the key is it taught you something that will stick with you. As you read on I will point out some of the lessons you can learn and apply to you’ll own teachings from the way in which Disney has taught you.

What are some lessons they have taught you from their movies?

I am sure you will see many articles on the lessons learnt from Disney and Pixar movies like this one on Buzzfeed. So let’s have a look at some of the lessons they have taught us.

Dumbo: What makes you different also makes you incredible

Focusing on what you are, accepting what you have and choosing to celebrate it. I think how this is told is by getting the audience to feel empathy for the elephant, and display all the emotions that a child would exhibit when trying to fit in. The power of telling this lesson was connecting you an existing emotional idea you may have seen or experienced at a young age

Mulan: You have to go through a lot before people realise how much you’re worth


This is a great lesson, as it teaches, you the art of perseverance, determination and acceptance of challenges. The main character is forced to pretend to be a man in order to serve in the army.  She accepts the challenge of being a women, accepts she will not be accepted immediately. However, she continues to work hard anyway. How do they drive this lesson home to us? This film draws you in through association- you know the struggles of women and therefore you immediately feel invested in her story. You are also seeing her development and growth through the eyes of other characters. This reinforces the effort she is going through and the little people appreciate her at first.

Inside Out: Accept your emotions and understand we need a mix to be balanced

Inside Out was a critically acclaimed film that many critics and parents leap for joy at. It taught children and adults about their emotions and the roles they play. The role of emotions and how we should respond to them is very very complex.  And yet the film was able to draw a number of lessons about how one should feel. How on earth did they do this?  Well they broke it down, they personified the emotions of the brain as if they were people. Breaking down this complex idea into bite sized chunks/characters made it digestible to the audience, so they were eventually able to build up those small pieces of knowledge into a bigger picture.

 

So how can you apply this to your own teaching?

I am currently reading a book called Creativity, Inc: Overcoming the Unseen Forces That Stand in the Way of True Inspiration. It is by Wallace and Edwin Catmul ( the current president of Disney and Pixar). It has helped answer some very interesting questions I had on writing, watching compelling stories. In this book they walk through their process of creating the story and the process of making the lesson ( the arch of the story) understable and engaging with the audience. This is how teaching should work too.

jacket illustration: © Disney • Pixar

In the examples above we have seen some different techniques for ensuring the audience is able to take this lesson away. Aside from the wonderful story they took you through to learn it there are other techniques which were used. They used a number of techniques such as:

 

Connecting the lesson you are teaching to a memory or experience.

This can be achieved through trying to give your learners an explanation of what you are trying to teach in a way that might connect with them. So encourage them to share memories or experiences that you can relate your teachings to as an example

Making the lesson relevant to cultural or historical events that your audience will be aware of.

You can accomplish this through looking at what you are teaching, then finding relevant current topics or historical moments in which you can tie your lesson too.

Breaking a large complex idea down into bite sized chunks that you can spend time on before sewing them together to form the larger picture.

This is especially important if you are teaching a complex idea of topic.  One way to do this is to break it down into lessons which can be any size if you are teaching online

If you’re interested in further teaching examples you might enjoy these:

Lessons from Ads

How to teach yourself your job

Does music impact our ability to learn more

 

 

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