And on to Alexander the Great…
As a class we watch a lot of documentaries because, as texts, they exemplify some wonderful concepts:
1) Every documentary is an essay in which we can find a hook, a thesis, introduction, details, and conclusion.
2) Documentaries give you a picture (or should) of the landscape which is very important especially in ancient societies.
3) Documentaries, like essays, have to be “read”. Students need to learn to ask questions not just of the material, but of the writer and director.
4) Documentaries give you a great way to learn to take notes. (I use Cornell Notes.)
It is not unusual, given time, for me to show my students two documentaries with widely different biases. I want them to say, “Wait, didn’t the other guy say the opposite?”
Currently we are watching Michael Wood’s In the Footsteps of Alexander the Great. It has no flashy music, no actors, just one guy walking around with copies of the ancient historians. The students love it. They get to see Michael Wood struggle with reconciling the different texts, modern life getting in the way of historical research, and him being respectful of those people who have a different view point than the ancient Greek texts. He is a great role model. I can’t wait to get them to Terry Jones!