The King’s Speech tells a story of sheer determination and unconditional friendship. When King Edward VIII abdicates the throne, his younger brother reluctantly assumes the title of King George VI. Afflicted with a stammer, George is extremely uncomfortable with public speaking. With the advancement of radio broadcasts, it is made clear that George’s public image will be scrutinized more than any other previous King or Queen of England. To help cure his speech impediment, George receives unorthodox speech therapy from Australian speech therapist Lionel Logue. During their time spent together, the two men develop mutual respect for each other and help the other conquer personal challenges. With the unrelenting support of Lionel, as well as the Queen, Elizabeth, George develops the confidence and ability to address the English population as the country enters a time of uncertainty and fear at the beginning of World War II.

I would use this film as a resource in any English class that I teach, regardless of grade or level. The film’s plot demonstrates the power of oral communication, and seeing as this is a strand in every English course, it provides a useful example for the students. The characters in the film are realistic and relatable, and although they deal with royal issues that students in an Ontario high school may not know a great deal about, the characters also have to overcome obstacles such as lack of confidence and disabilities that each student would have an idea about. This film would be a great resource in a class where there are ESL or ELL students in the class because it provides an example that anybody can have difficulties with the English language, and that with perseverance and patience, success can be attained. Due to the media attention of this movie, as well as the critical acclaim and the Academy Award for Best Picture in 2010, the students should be drawn to it because of the hype it received, regardless of their ages. In the event that the students do not have any prior knowledge of the film nor the events that it depicts, a brief lesson would be necessary to put everything in context. Other courses that I would use this film in would be HSP3M: “Introduction to Psychology, Sociology, and Anthropology”. The idea of fear is something that is covered in the Psychology unit of this course, and the King’s personal fear of public speaking is a great example. Secondly, issues of social classes are depicted through the film, which would help support topics in the Sociology unit.

The main themes of the film include: overcoming personal obstacles, support from personal relationships, social classes, public responsibility, and the power of communication.

Textual: The film is presented using 3rd-person narration. This helps the viewer develop their own impressions and opinions/conclusions. Also, it helps shine an objective light on all the characters instead of focusing solely on one. This allows for a focus on all the characters, making each one accessible and relatable. Also, most scenes are filmed in tight, congested sets which visualize the idea of a person being trapped by his or her own disabilities and lack of confidence.

Social: Class distinction is evident throughout this film. The friendship between George and Lionel is threatened from the start when George puts up an emotional wall between the two of them. At first, one might assume that this is because of George’s position as King and Lionel being a commoner. In fact, it is George’s fear and embarrassment that keeps him emotionally detached from people. As the story continues, George ignores class positions and requests Lionel’s presence in areas restricted for royalty and dignitaries, to the shock of some members of society. This demonstrates that human relationships are far more important than class positions.

Cultural: The importance of oral communication in Western culture is a main focus in this film. In our culture we associate effective communication skills with admirable attributes such as leadership and strength. This is exemplified in the film when George and his family are watching a clip of Adolf Hitler speak publically. Although they cannot understand the German speech that Hitler is delivering, they are moved by his charisma and passion. George does not feel that he can be an effective leader of England without oratory skills. Throughout the film we see that George not only has to develop speaking skills, but also work on his listening skills, as his short temper prohibits him from taking advice from Lionel. When he is finally accepts that he needs to listen to Lionel, George is able to find it inside himself to become an effective communicator. This teaches students that although oral communication may not be their strong suit, it is still an important skill to develop as it will aid in their participation in the public sphere.

Topic: The film’s plot takes place in the historical context of King Edward VIII’s abdication of the throne and England’s entrance into World War II. Seeing as these are actual events, it is always useful to teach students about them as they can learn from history as it has shaped the society in which they live now.

A few issues may arise when using this film as a resource. Students may feel disconnected from the characters because they cannot relate to a royal family of England. As mentioned, this can be remedied by instructing the students to focus on the personal struggles and relationships that the characters deal with as they can all relate to these. Another issue is that there is the possibility that some students may not hold the English royal family in the highest regard because of colonialism. It is important to address this issue, but again, tell the students to focus on the themes and struggles of the characters. Students whose first language is not English may find it difficult to follow the dialogue in the film. Hopefully, the visual component of the film will help with this, but the teacher must always offer an opportunity to clarify anything as well as a time when certain parts of the film can be rescreened (for example, lunchtime or after school). Finally, as a teacher candidate born in Canada, I do not know that much information about the history of England and its monarchy. It would be my responsibility to educate myself before showing this film and anticipate any questions that the students may have.

As mentioned above, each course in the English curriculum has an oral communication section that must be covered. I would assign the students to write a speech that will be delivered in front of the class. The film would be shown before this task is assigned to serve as motivation. The students would be permitted to write about any topic they wish. To cover the listening component of oral communication, each student would be responsible for critiquing one other student’s delivery of his or her speech (chosen randomly). This assessment would be formative as peer evaluation cannot be used toward summative evaluation. The development process of this assignment would be completed in stages that would include individual work as well as peer-editing. This would ensure that each overall expectation of the oral communication strand of any course would be covered.

The King’s Speech is a motivational film that can help students realize that they do not have to be limited by personal disabilities. With determination and support from family and friends, a person is able to find it within themselves to succeed. It is the teacher’s responsibility to let his or her students know that he or she is willing to play the role of Lionel in their lives. This means always being there to listen to their issues and help them work through it. By doing so, and taking into consideration each student’s personal situations, the teacher can create an environment that promotes and equal opportunity for students to succeed to their full potential.