Old Movies for Kids: Charlie Chaplin

In Edgar Eager’s Half Magic, a much beloved childhood book of mine, there is a mention of the four kids hating Charlie Chaplin. I can only speculate that Eager, having set the story in the time of his own youth, was remembering being dragged to a Chaplin picture when he wanted to go see something more adventurous. I remember this because in high school I fell in love with Chaplin: I had a large poster of him plastered on my bedroom door, read his autobiography and other books about him, watched those old collections of shorts whenever they were shown on one of the local public television stations, and went to see his refurbished features when they were shown in art cinemas.

And so when I became a teacher I recorded those collections of shorts still being shown on pubic television and showed them to my class where they were instant hits. These days my classes still can’t get enough of Chaplin (now in beautiful DVD editions). We begin with the shorts and then move on to classics like The Gold Rush and Modern Times. What pleases me tremendously is that my kids babble about them to their parents and friends in the other 4th grade classes and so those kids soon insist that their teacher show his movies to them as well. Chaplin lives!

To provide some context, I tell my students a bit about Chaplin and about movies in his time. Because he was an immigrant and they’ve already seen some of the silent movies of Ellis Island, I always begin with The Immigrant which they adore. Chaplin does such a great job making fun of the whole experience which he knew of firsthand.

I also read aloud Silent Movie by Avi with illustrations by C.B. Mordan and Mack Made Movies by Don Brown; both give the kids still more of a sense of how Chaplin lived and worked.

So give ol’ Charlie a shot! He still entertains kids today, I can assure you.



Filed under Film, movie

7 responses to “Old Movies for Kids: Charlie Chaplin

  1. Monica, thanks for these recommendations. I’d like to give Chaplin movies a try here at home, and wasn’t sure where to start. The books will supply a good context.


  2. Joseph Lewis

    Charlie is awesome and Iwish i could have meet him


  3. Joseph Lewis

    read the beauty of silence
    rock on charlie


  4. Pingback: The Little Fellow « educating alice

  5. Gaby

    I am an arts teacher in Mexico and I am just teaching about Chaplin to my children and I can tell you as you published : it´s being a hit, I think more kids should be in touch with this kind of cinema and change the perspective they have towards it. When I first told them we would watch a fragment of “Modern times” and explained what kind of movie it was, they told me – “Those movies are really boring” but after we saw it, they couldn´t stop laughing and they were so surprised that a movie like that was so funny. The subject has opened a very extense range of posibilities to develope different habilities in the whole class.


  6. Carrie Pomeroy

    Charlie Chaplin was my kids’ gateway drug to Buster Keaton, Harold Lloyd, and Laurel and Hardy. Watching silent movies with kids is a great way to talk with them about how life was different in the early 20th-century, and the movies are so darn funny.


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