01 Wash Day
This Film Guide will lead you and your class through the process of thoughtfully engaging with film. We’ll begin by viewing the film and answering open-ended questions, followed by a closer examination of the character and themes, and finally, we’ll learn about the filmmaker, their process, and the ways a filmmaker tells a story using moving images. Over the course of the Lesson Plan, we will continue to build on these ideas by watching additional short films.
If you haven’t done so already, be sure to read the Note to Teachers—you’ll find tips for watching short films with your class and helpful resources for inquiry-based discussions.
Use the following prompts to prepare the group to watch the film thoughtfully.
- What comes to mind when you hear the word film? How about short film?
- How are films similar to or different from books, tv shows, or poems?
- What are things you expect to see or hear in a film?
- Who do you think makes films or short films? Why do you think people might make films or short films?
- What are some questions you have about films?
Visit the Glossary + Film Terms page to help answer these questions, or ask students to research the answers.
- We’re going to watch WASH DAY by Jaida Salmon.
- The film is 2 minutes long.
- It’s important not to talk or take notes during the first viewing, since it may cause you to miss something important! In a short film, every image and sound is important to the story being told.
- We will watch the film again later in the lesson.
Watch the film together and gather initial reactions using open-ended questions.
Follow the film screening with a moment of pause for the group to gather their thoughts. Ask the open-ended questions below and record students’ answers. Have students support their observations with evidence by asking, “What did you see that makes you say that?”
- What did you see? What did you notice about this film?
- How would you describe this film in just a few words?
- How was the film similar or different from what you expected to see? How is this film similar or different from other films you have seen before?
- You can watch the film as a group by sharing your screen, and selecting the “optimize for video sharing” option. Make sure all participants (including yourself) are muted while the film plays.
- Consider using Breakout Rooms to have smaller group discussions.
If you need a link to share this film with your students, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
A Closer Look
Select a question to ask in advance of watching the film again, but this time have students take notes while viewing.
Explain that filmmakers decide what information they want to include in their film and what they don’t want to include. That leaves us, the viewers, with the opportunity to question, imagine and consider all of the details that we don’t see.
Ask the questions below, taking a pause to give students time to think about their answers.
Ask “What makes you say that?” to get students to back up their answers with evidence.
- From what we saw in the film, what do we know about the main character?
“I know that_______________”
“I know this because _____________”
- What do we think about Zoey?
- What adjectives might you use to describe them (Zoey)?
- What adjectives do you think they might use to describe themselves?
“I think that_______________”
“I think this because _____________”
- What do we wonder about Zoey?
- If you could ask the character anything, what would you want to ask to learn more about them?
- How are you able to understand what the character is thinking or feeling, even though they never speak?
If you have been recording students’ answers, revisit the responses as a group and ask students to share any final thoughts or ideas about the character.
The Bigger Conversation
Introduce books that highlight diverse stories and experiences, such as My Hair is a Garden by Cozbi A. Cabrera, to launch a conversation about the ways hair and identity overlap. Find a read-aloud video here.
View the work of visual artists whose works explore similar ideas about hair and identity. Here are two artists whose work we encourage you to share and discover with your students.
- Artist Lorna Simpson (b. 1960) has created work that explores the history of African American Hairstyles and conventions of beauty. Look closely at images from the artist’s Collage Series, (2012-2018) with students.
- Firelei Báez is an artist of Haitian and Dominican ancestry. Her work has often explored her identity as an Afro-Latina through the incorporation of nature, fantasy, and Caribbean folklore. Some of Báez’s works have been inspired by her own transition to natural hair.
Make connections and encourage understanding of Zoey’s experience in the film with national and global current news stories.
Black Girls At Mass. School Win Freedom To Wear Hair Braid Extensions – Washington Post
A Brief History of Hair Politics and Discrimination – Teen Vogue
The Connection Between Hair and Identity in Black Culture – C+R Research
Identity at the Root of Black Hairstyles – Register Herald
Let’s Talk [PDF] – Teaching Tolerance’s guide to discussing race, racism and other difficult topics with students
Behind the scenes
WASH DAY is by the filmmaker Jaida Salmon, who wrote the story, designed the character and backgrounds (the settings), and animated the film while studying to be an animator.
Pose the questions below before showing the film once again and let students take notes while they watch. Encourage them to use adjectives or short phrases to respond to the following:
- How would you describe the colors of the film? How do these colors make you feel?
- The film stills included here can also be used to prompt responses.
- How did the sounds and music included in the film make you feel? (Try playing the film with the volume down to see how it is different without any sound.)
- Are there other creative details in the film that you noticed?
Questions to help students understand that everything they saw and heard in the film was the result of an intentional decision made by Jaida Salmon.
- Why do you think Jaida Salmon might have wanted to tell this story?
- Why do you think she might have chosen to tell the story in this way? (Here you can reference the answers to the previous set of questions.)
- Why do you think she might have chosen to use animation instead of live action to tell this story?
Jaida Salmon is the director and animator of the film WASH DAY. Jaida studied animation at Sheridan College, in Ontario, Canada, where she learned to animate and created the film WASH DAY. She now works as an animator and compositor at the studio Atomic Cartoons. She loves all things creative.
Let students know that while the filmmaker might have had a message or idea in mind, we are all welcome to interpret the film in our own way.
Are there aspects about WASH DAY that are autobiographical? Was Zoey’s character inspired by anyone?
Yes absolutely! Practically the whole story is autobiographical. I actually penned the original comic which inspired this short during one of my own “wash days.” In creating my protagonist, Zoey, I took elements from myself and my sisters to create her personality.
What message do you hope young audiences leave with after watching WASH DAY?
My mission statement while creating this film was “for those who know—can relate, for those who don’t know—can learn, and for everyone to enjoy.” I wanted those who also go through this process to feel seen. I understand the struggle it can be to deal with our hair and I’m right there with you. I wanted those who don’t know to learn about the process—without having to take them by the hand and explain everything, instead I’m giving them a chance to peer in and see for themselves. And I did this in a way that both groups can enjoy.
What do you like most about animation?
I find animation to be a lot more forgiving than live-action. I absolutely love both mediums (I actually wanted to be an actress and film director before I wanted to be an animator), but I think my love for drawing swept me into the world of animation. With animation you can tell the most captivating stories with the simplest of characters and settings.
What is something that you think people don’t know about being an animator?
Animation takes a loooooong time. My 2 minute film took me 8 months to complete!
What is some advice you would give to young students interested in filmmaking?
Watch a lot of movies! From various genres, and time periods and countries. When you watch a movie you like, ask yourself “Why [did I like it]?” When you watch a movie you didn’t like, ask yourself, “Why [didn’t I like it]?” Read books, listen to music, and look at artwork. Don’t close yourself off to one medium—good filmmaking is good storytelling and there’s good storytelling across all mediums. Study life, study yourself, take the time to know your perspective and perception of the world around you (it helps in finding your creative voice). But most importantly start making things NOW. With whatever tools you have at your disposal. You don’t need fancy equipment—you just need a good story, and a good story starts with you! ∎
Encourage students to think about their own identity with some of the following questions:
- What choices does Zoey make to convey their identity?
- What choices do you make to convey your identity?
- For example, what styles of clothes or accessories do you like to wear? How do you decorate your room or belongings? How do you wear your hair?
- Think about any rituals you incorporate in your daily morning or weekly routines to convey these aspects of your identity.
Next, have students illustrate their personal reflections through a visual arts activity.
Drawing supplies and paper, colored paper scraps (optional), glue (optional)
- Ask students to fold their paper vertically in half to create a Split Self-Portrait!
- On one side of the paper, prompt students to draw a partial Self-Portrait that reflects external aspects of their own identity (i.e. hair, eye, skin color), their mood, race or ethnicity.
- On the other side, draw the other half of their self-portrait, this time with the parts of their identity that are not immediately visible to others, such as their personality, their heritage, their hopes and dreams.
Note: You can share portrait templates to get them started. You can encourage students to use collage or digital drawing techniques or get inspired by the style of the film and pick a limited color palette (3 or 4 colors) to convey a mood.
- Invite students to share with the group and explain how these details represent their identity.
Note: Join your students! Model this activity by making your own split self-portrait and share it with the class!
- Have students create a portrait based on a character from a book. You could start by asking students to describe the character.
- If your school has a technology or art teacher, team up with them and encourage students to create an animation of their portraits.
02 Welcome to my Life
A cleverly voiced and animated allegory about difference through a faux documentary format; fosters discussions of identity, inclusion, and storytelling genres and amplifies Asian-American stories.