Teaching with Movies in the ELA Classroom

Movies and Books

When it comes to reading a novel, many students shrug off the reading and just watch the movie version instead. Well, two can play at that game. Teachers can give students a little of what they want by incorporating the movie versions of books into their discussion and activities, but that’s not the only way movies play a role in the ELA classroom. A movie is just another type of text and it can be analyzed just as easily as a novel, a short story, or a poem.

The Movie Version

The easiest way to incorporate movies in the ELA classroom is simply to have students watch the movie version of the novel or short story they are reading. While many teachers typically show the movie version after students read, others choose to show the movie before they read. This may be particularly helpful when it comes to reading more difficult texts such as Shakespearean plays or ancient texts such as The Iliad and The Odyssey. Watching the movie first provides students with a context and general overview of the book, making it easier to understand and recognize key details as they read.

If students watch the movie before they read the book, chances are they will notice that the movie version failed to include many details they find in the book and will begin to make comparisons between the two. To ensure students actually read the book, teachers should pay attention to the differences between the book and movie, not only giving students a chance to compare and contrast, but also testing their knowledge on facts and details they know were not included in the movie version. Help Teaching’s Comparing a Book and Movie Worksheet can give you an activity to start with.

Help Teaching also offers worksheets to help you quiz students on popular novels that have been turned into movies. Many of our worksheets can be used with either the book or the movie, particularly those that focus on characters because they can lead to discussions about how well the movie portrayed the characters in the book. Some character worksheets you’ll find on Help Teaching include:
the-great-gatsby

If your students get excited about new releases, such as The Hunger Games, incorporate their interests in the classroom with some of our other Hunger Games worksheets:
the-hunger-games

Analyzing a Movie

Instead of watching the movie version of a novel, the movie itself can be the text. After watching a movie, students can still answer many of the same questions they’d be expected to answer after reading a book. In fact, Help Teaching’s General Movie Analysis worksheet has students analyze the theme, characters, and other literary elements found within a movie. The same can be done with the General Documentary Analysis worksheet to help students analyze documentaries and other informational films.

Learning through Movies

Teachers may also choose to use movies to introduce themes or introduce students to various literary concepts. For example, when teaching about the hero’s journey, teachers can have students watch the movie Hercules to familiarize themselves with what the different stages look like before tackling a book such as The Odyssey. Instead of having students read a book about a particular period in history, teachers could have them watch multiple movies that tackle the subject. For example, when studying The Holocaust, instead of reading The Diary of Anne Frank, students could watch Au Revoir Les Enfants, The Boy in the Striped Pajamas and a movie version of the popular diary, comparing how they portray that specific event.

Incorporating movies in the curriculum also helps when teaching students about specific elements of literature or writing and teachers don’t always have to show an entire movie to do it. Want to help students understand the importance of public speaking or how to write a great speech? Show them a clip of an actor delivering a truly moving speech during a movie. Having trouble getting students to understand the concept of a flashback? Help them see it done in movie form. Movie clips can be used to teach about characterization, conflict, setting, symbolism, and other key elements of literature.

Teachers who need help getting started incorporating movies in their classroom can find a wealth of ideas through Teach With Movies, which offers lesson plans, and lists of movies and the skills they cover. For more information on how often to include movies in the classroom, also check out How to Use Movies in the Social Studies Classroom. While it is not focused on the English classroom, it may provide English teachers and teachers in other classrooms with ideas about how to get started showing movies in their own classrooms.

Watch Help Teaching’s literature section for more worksheets aligned to movies as they come out.

Posted By StacyZeiger

Stacy Zeiger is a high school English teacher who also works as the manager of ELA content for HelpTeaching.com and serves as curriculum developer for My Sisters' Kids, an organization that provides peer support for grieving kids and teens. Stacy has her own line of character education curriculum which can be found at BuildingKidsCharacter.org. She lives in South Jersey with her husband, two children, and eight cats. Her oldest son has autism.

4 Responses to “Teaching with Movies in the ELA Classroom”

  1. Terri Robinson says:

    I am a 16-21 year old intensive reading teacher in a dropout
    prevention school. I am excited to include books into movies in my
    lesson planning. Many of my students are below grade level in reading
    and it’s a great opportunity to support my students’ differential learning styles to
    engage the students.

    I am so thankful for this information.

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