Movie days in high school classrooms have a bad reputation for being a waste of time or a teacher cop out, but English teachers show movies for a variety of reasons, including but not limited to:
- Giving context to a novel unit (e.g. showing the Emmett Till biography during the TKAM unit).
- Helping students understand the authors behind their favorite works (e.g. showing the Ken Burns documentary on Twain before starting Huck Finn).
- Adding to a universal theme that will help students understand literature in a deeper way (e.g. showing an American Dream movie during the Gatsby unit).
- Helping emerging readers visualize the characters or plot (e.g. showing the 1968 Romeo and Juliet while going through the play).
Even when we have the very best of intentions, adding a student assignment is one way to make movie days even more productive. Below are 10 ideas for student assignments during movie days. We'd love to hear your questions, comments and suggestions in the comment section.
- Write a critique or review of the movie or documentary. Students can be prompted to think about arrangement/organization, costuming, or other elements of the film.
- Create a Venn Diagram to spot the similarities and differences between the movie and the book. This can work with the movie version of a book or a related movie if students look at the similarities/differences in context or theme.
- Create mock interviews with characters or commentators.
- Take guided notes. This takes a lot of preparation from the teacher preparing the guide before hand, but it can help students focus in on the important elements that you want them to pay attention to.
- Ask socratic questions. Students can prepare questions as they watch and participate in a socratic seminar after the movie is over.
- Write a synthesis essay in which they bring together elements of the novel and the movie to support their argument.
- Structure a debate around questions raised in the novel and the movie.
What other questions or suggestions do you have for movies in the classroom? We'd love to hear from you in the comment section below!