02 Wash Day
This Film Guide will take our open-ended questions to the next level to interpret the film in different ways, and relate to the character’s experiences on a personal level. We’ll consider the filmmaker, their process, and how they use moving images to convey the story.
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.
Get your students ready to thoughtfully watch a film by sharing this sample introduction, followed by some warm-up questions.
Sample introduction: Today we’re going to watch another short film. A short film is a lot like the films (or movies) that you might watch at home or at a movie theater, but it’s shorter! Have you been to a museum before? Just like the art that you see at a museum, films are made by artists, called filmmakers. Filmmakers create films to tell a story, to share an idea or a feeling, with us, the viewers. We’re going to watch this short film more than once. We’ll talk about what we saw and heard in the film. We’ll also learn about the filmmaker and how and why they made this film.
- The last short film we watched together was called PERFECT HOUSEGUEST. In just a few words, can anyone remind us what the film was about?
- Films often include characters. Can you remember the character from PERFECT HOUSEGUEST? What do you remember about them?
- We learned about the filmmakers that made PERFECT HOUSEGUEST, Ru Kuwahata and Max Porter. What do you remember about them?
- After watching and discussing PERFECT HOUSEGUEST, are there any questions you have about films or filmmakers? Visit the Glossary + Film Terms page to help answer these questions.
- We’re going to watch WASH DAY by Jaida Salmon.
- The film is 2 minutes long.
- It’s important to be quiet while the film plays 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?
- Did anything about this film surprise you?
- Did you have a favorite part of the film?
- Do you have any questions about the film? (While you may not have the answers to all of the students’ questions, this will give them a chance to think more deeply about the film.)
- How is this film similar or different from other films you have seen before? Why? Can you expand on this?
- 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.
- Leading this lesson on Zoom? Use 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 to promote active viewing.
Just like we did with the Mouse in PERFECT HOUSEGUEST, below we’ll investigate the main character of the film and make inferences based on what we observed.
Ask the questions below for a group discussion or a think-pair-share.
Have students support their answers with evidence from the film by asking, “What makes you say that?”
- Just like the Mouse in PERFECT HOUSEGUEST, we never hear the character speak out loud in WASH DAY. What are some ways that you are able to understand what the character is thinking or feeling, even though they never speak?
Observations, things we can see or point to in the film itself
- From what we saw in the film, what do we know about the main character?
- Have students complete these sentences:
- “I know that Zoey _______________”
- “I know this because I see _____________”
Interpretations, ideas that we have based on the things we’ve seen in the film
- What do we think about Zoey?
- What words might you use to describe Zoey?
- Have students complete these sentences:
- “I think that Zoey _______________”
- “I think that Zoey likes _______________”
- “I think that Zoey feels _______________”
- “I think this because _____________”
Questions, things we wonder, or don’t know
- What are the things we don’t know about Zoey, things that we wonder?
- If you could ask the character anything, what would you want to ask to learn more about them?
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
- List and discuss words that help describe a person’s identity such as: gender, race, and ability. Support your students in defining any words with which they may be unfamiliar. Have a dialogue about their identities and what makes them who they are as individuals.
- Engage in a Popcorn share to create a list of words that identify Zoey in WASH DAY. Advise against making assumptions or judging people based on a single characteristic. Together create an Identity Chart [PDF] for Zoey. Students can follow up by making their own Identity Charts.
Read books that celebrate differences and diverse perspectives to launch a conversation about the ways hair and identity overlap.
- My Hair is a Garden – by Cozbi A. Cabrera (read aloud video)
- I am Enough – by Grace Byers (read aloud video)
- Me and My Afro – by 10-year-old debut author, Aiden M. Taylor who celebrates letting the world know that he loves his Afro.
- Stella’s Stellar Hair – by Yesenia Montes
- Bad Hair/Pelo Malo – a book with an anti-bullying message that reinforces respect for individualism by Sulma Arzu-Brown.
View the work of other artists whose works explore the theme of hair and identity.
- Artist Lorna Simpson (b. 1960) has created work that explores the history of African-American hairstyles and conventions of beauty. Share the artist’s Collage Series with students.
- Firelei Báez (b. 1989) 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 Baez’s works have been inspired by her own transition to natural hair.
The topic of race or difference may come up while discussing this film. Embrace this as a teachable moment. Find resources below and see the Additional Resources page for more about discussing this and other themes in the film with your class.
- A Brief History of Hair Politics and Discrimination
- The Connection Between Hair and Identity in Black Culture
- Identity at the Root of Black Hairstyles
- Let’s Talk [PDF] – Teaching Tolerance’s guide to discussing race, racism and other complex topics with students.
Behind the scenes
WASH DAY is by the filmmaker Jaida Salmon, who created this film while studying to be an animator. She wrote the story, designed the character and backgrounds (the settings), and animated the film using a mix of hand-drawn animation and computer animation.
Pose the questions below before showing the film, once again allowing students a moment of pause to consider their responses. Encourage them to use adjectives or short phrases to respond to the following:
- How would you describe the colors used in the film? (The film stills here can also be used to prompt responses.) How do these colors make you feel? Or what do they make you think of?
- How would you describe the sounds and music included in the film? How did the sounds and music included in the film make you feel? You can try playing the film with the volume down to see how it is different without any sound, or even play a different song while muting the film to see how it might make the film feel different.
Questions to help students understand that everything they saw and heard in the film was an intentional decision made by Jaida Salmon to convey the character and the story to us, the viewers.
- Why do you think Jaida Salmon might have wanted to tell this story?
- Why do you think Jaida Salmon might have chosen to use animation instead of live action to tell this story?
- If you were to make a short film, what story would you want to tell?
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:
- Imagine you are going to a new school and are meeting new people. If you wanted to express who you are to your new classmates, what would you wear and what would you bring with you on your first day? What colors might you wear? How might you style your hair?
- What if you were inviting a new friend over for a playdate. How would you decorate your room or belongings?
- What would you want your new friends to learn about you from these things?
If the topic of race or difference comes up when discussing hair, embrace this teachable moment. Address questions, and possible stereotypes or misconceptions that students may have around hair and identity. Revisit the Bigger Conversation section, and help students make distinctions between personal and aesthetic choices and aspects that have racial connotations.
- Draw a picture of how you would like to decorate your room to express yourself.
- Or use cut-outs from magazines or newspapers to make a collage.
03 The Magic of Chess
A short doc with a very inclusive portrait of young chess players that demonstrates they come from all backgrounds and genders, and lets kids share in their own words lessons of resilience and tenacity and facing their fears.