Soon after The Freedom Writers, a movie based on the book The Freedom Writer’s Diary by Erin Gruwell and her students, was released to theaters, I viewed the movie and posted a review here. I know some educators don’t like this kind of movie in general and didn’t like this movie in particular, but I enjoyed the movie and found value in using it in the classroom in order to teach the power of written expression and finding one’s voice. In addition, I think the movie is a great way for my students in particular to understand a broader spectrum of the American experience. Finally, as the movie centers around how Gruwell’s students were affected by a work of literature, I think the movie shows the profound connections we can make between literature and our own lives if we avail ourselves of the opportunity. I think the movie would work well in an English class, but I like to use it in writing courses as well.
The question is, what can you do with the movie? When my students viewed the movie last year, we used it as a springboard for discussion about several important issues, including racism, anti-Semitism, and abuse, and how these issues impacted the characters in the movie. We frankly discussed Erin Gruwell’s sacrifices and the fact that she did move on to working with the Freedom Writers Foundation and no longer teaches.
If you are interesting in using the film in your own classroom, there are many resources available to you:
- Freedom Writers Diary Teacher’s Guide: Published guide to the book.
- Freedom Writers Foundation: Especially the Educators section.
- Freedom Writers Official Movie Website: Especially the Resources section.
- Film Education’s Study Guide: Film synopsis, teacher’s guide, study guide, clip activity, and useful links.
- Freedom Writers Diary Study Guide from Indiana University Northwest: Reading guide for the book that the movie is based on.
Please share other resources you know about in the comments.