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10 Best Documentaries for Teaching English Language Arts
posted by: Melissa | April 04, 2017, 06:32 PM   

Over the past few weeks, we’ve been introducing you to the documentaries that we think teachers should be using in their classroom. You can find the best documentaries for social studies and for science on our blog already. This week, we’re going to focus on English language arts documentaries.


  1. Salinger – This PBS documentary opens up the door on the infamously reclusive author by interviewing family and friends and provides new insights into his seminal work, The Catcher in the Rye. Its length and tendency to get caught in the weeds means that educators need to select appropriate clips for the classroom.
  2. Richard III Revealed – In this documentary, viewers go behind the infamous Shakespearean character and discover his true life and how much of it aligns with the Shakespearean play.
  3. Shakespeare: The Legacy – British Actor John Nettles narrates a documentary that explores what is and is not known about the famous playwright.
  4. Crash Course – We’ve featured this in our other documentary lists, and we’re doing so again here. Crash Course offers videos on philosophy and historical time periods that can supplement the literature that you’re teaching.
  5. British Library – Another YouTube channel that was created by the British Library, you can find many bite-size documentaries here on a wide variety of topics including Shakespeare, literary genres, and an in-depth analysis of literary works.
  6. Grammar Revolution – Can a documentary get high school students interested in grammar? We think so. This documentary film was created by former English teachers and delves into what makes grammar controversial.
  7. Bad Writing – This film is perfect for breaking your students out of the mistaken belief that they are a bad writer. The filmmaker, who wanted to be a poet when he was 14, investigates the creative process through interviews with some of today’s most renowned writers and explores what makes writing good or bad.
  8. Baloney Detection Kit – Students need to be skeptical of how information is being presented to them, and this short documentary will help give them the beginning tools to evaluate the sources they’re reading.
  9. Mark Twain – Yes, English language arts teachers have a Ken Burns documentary, too. This multipart series goes in depth about the life of the author. It’s too long to show in its entirety, but clips are a necessity to any American literature teacher.
  10. Charles Dickens’s England – Without understanding the cultural forces behind Dickens’s literature, students often fail to grasp his writing. This documentary will help explain to students the era of rapid change that Dickens found himself in.

What documentaries do you use in your classroom?

Share below!


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