I had the students select their three most “significant” movies (without defining what I meant by significant). They then found a partner and selected a consensus three movies. They then formed groups of four and selected a consensus four movies. They then formed groups of eight and selected a final, consensus list of the five most significant movies and tweeted their groups final list. I then worked with the whole class to try to achieve a consensus five.
The exercise worked better than I could have imagined. They were engaged. It gave them the opportunity to connect with each other and bond over movies (which only helped long term). There was a great deal of energy in the room. They understood why I was doing it (“to show us how ridiculously crazy it is to try to form a canon”). I got more questions at the end of class on canon from more students than I have ever received in a lecture. I even got question that would usually take more time to establish trust and relation for. All in all, a really good first day of content.