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CODA — Melissa Mostyn-Thomas, 2011

Set over 20 years, a deaf woman struggles to gain understanding and support from her family.

This film shows a timeline of Jenny’s life. From being a daughter to becoming a mum, ‘CODA’ (Child of Deaf Adults) explores what life is like for Jenny, whose family refuse to learn sign language. Jenny’s daughter is not hearing impaired and, growing up as a child of deaf parents, she can sign wonderfully. Through her, we see what life is like for a child of deaf adults – the benefits that she reaps from both worlds and also her unequivocal intolerance for her grandparents refusal to learn sign language in order to communicate with their daughter.

Classroom Activities

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Critical

  • Before considering the questions below, watch the film without captions first, especially if you do not understand sign language. Then watch it a second time with captions. Why do you think that the subtitled are not hardcoded in this film?
  • What does the composition and seating position of the family suggest in the opening scene?
  • In the scene set in 1985, Jenny stands up to her family. Watch this section without captions. If you do not understand sign language, how does this interaction make you feel?
  • What symbolic function does the “invisible barrier” (03:22 minutes) have? How has this been achieved in filming?
  • Once Jenny has her baby, her mother is pleased that the child has passed her hearing test. She says, “That means she will look after you”. Comment on the impact of this statement. What is Jenny’s mother implying?
  • What is Jenny’s reaction when her daughter asks to be sent to a deaf school?
  • “Respect me, respect my language”. Compare Jenny’s attitude towards her daughter’s ability to sign as well as speak with her own mother’s attitude towards Jenny’s language.
  • When Jenny and her daughter go to her mother’s party, Jenny’s daughter is asked, “so how is your mother”? (07:27 minutes). What does this tell you about the relationship between Jenny and her mother? Is Jenny’s mother’s refusal to use sign language reasonable? Justify your answer.
  • How effective is the use of the timeline in the film? Is this an effective tool? Which other methods are used to convey the passage of time?

Cultural

  • “Not everyone who signs is deaf” (06:36). How much awareness is there of this in society? Which other groups of people use sign language?
  • Do you think sign language should be taught in schools?
  • What is deaf culture? Have you heard of this term before? If not, do some research to understand what deaf culture is.

Creative

WRITE

  • Write a critical response to this statement: “British Sign Language should be taught in all UK schools as a compulsory subject”.
  • Write 3 advantages and 3 barriers to learning BSL.
  • Write a letter from Jenny to her mother, explaining how she feels about her mother refusing to learn her language.

DRAW

  • Draw a picture comparing Jenny’s perception of the world as a young child to her experiences as an independent adult.
  • Create a poster promoting Deaf rights.

DRAMA

  • Act out what life would be like in Jenny’s family if everyone used BSL.
  • Act out a scene persuading Jenny’s mother to learn her language.
  • What would life have been like for Jenny’s daughter if Jenny had insisted that she didn’t learn to speak as well as sign?

STEM

  • How do hearing aids work? Can you provide a diagram and annotate it to show what the functions are and the science behind them?

SOCIAL STUDIES

  • Article 30 of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) makes clear that users of British Sign Language are part of a linguistic minority whose rights are protected. What does this mean for BSL users?
  • Do deaf people have the same opportunities to succeed in the workplace as people who can hear? Does more need to be done to promote deaf rights and equal opportunities?

RESEARCH

  • What is the difference between being “deaf” and being “Deaf”?
  • Do some research on a famous deaf person and present their story to your group.

Clip Details

Year of Production 2011
Genre Drama
Curriculum Areas Health and Wellbeing, Modern Languages, Literacy and English, Religious and Moral Education
Director Melissa Mostyn-Thomas
Country of Origin UK
Medium / Content Live Action, Fiction, Colour, Sound
Themes Feelings, Relationships, Culture / Society, Identity / Self, Intolerance / Misconceptions, Communication
Clip Length 10:09
Clip Length 10:09
Age Group S1-S3, S4-S6