How to Implement the Close Viewing Protocol Teaching Strategy in Your Classroom


Like close reading of content, close viewing of film media is carefully and thoroughly viewing and reviewing a film clip to focus on what the filmmaker is trying to communicate; the choices the filmmaker made; the role of pictures, narration, editing, and sound; and what the film’s purpose may be. Close viewing ensures that learners become critical viewers of film content and that they understand what they’ve watched. The skillful close display is also an essential foundation for helping learners develop the capacity to justify their claims, in-class conversations, and writing assignments with specific evidence. The following sample protocol is meant for use with a short film.


  1. View the Film Clip Together: After viewing the clip, ask learners to write down their thoughts. You may prompt learners with questions such as: What reverberated with you?

Before moving on to Step 2, go over a few of these recall questions with learners:

  • Who are the characters/people involved?
  • What is going on? What is the basic story line?
  • What is the setting? Period? Physical location?
  • What is the point of view? Whose story is this?
  • What is the theme/mood?
  1. Learners Answer Film-Dependent Questions: After this viewing, an instructor could ask “film-dependent questions” to focus on learners’ comprehension of specific moments from the film. These are questions that learners can answer entirely based on information and evidence provided in the movie.
  2. Small Groups Practice Focused Viewing: Have each learner or a small group takes notes based on the following areas to focus their viewing of the film.
  3. Sound: What do you notice about the music and sound effects? What stands out to you?
  4. Editing: What choices did the filmmaker make in terms of scenes or parts to show, represent, or emphasize?
  5. Images: What do you notice? What choices did the filmmaker make? What is the impact of these choices?
  6. Story line/Historical Facts: What objective, historical facts are portrayed in this film?
  7. Human Behavior: What guided the filmmaker’s decision making?

Have each group report on what its members observed.


Bring the groups together and ask that learners take turns answering the questions below.

  • What is the purpose of this film?
  • What is left out of the message?
  • Whose interests are served by showing the message in a particular way?
  • What motivations may the filmmaker have?
  • What do you know about the topic?
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