7 Assignments for Movie Day in the English Classroom

Movie days in the classroom tend to have a bad reputation for being a waste of time or a teacher cop-out.  Sure, there are a few bad apple teachers out there just showing a movie to distract or entertain students. I can’t help but think of the classic 1987 hit Summer School and Cameron Diaz in Bad Teacher (2011).

However, movies can be a valuable supplemental resource, adding not just another learning modality, but variety and interest that can keep students engaged when used well.

Movies can:

  • Give context to a novel unit (e.g., showing the Emmett Till biography during the TKAM unit).
  • Help students understand the authors behind their favorite works (e.g., showing the Ken Burns documentary on Twain before starting Huck Finn).
  • Add to a universal theme will help students understand literature more profoundly (e.g., showing an American Dream movie during the Gatsby unit).
  • Help emerging readers visualize the characters or plot (e.g., showing the 1968 Romeo and Juliet while going through the play).

Adding an assignment is one way to make movie days even more productive.

Below are seven ideas for making the most of movie days in your classroom:

  • Write a critique or review of the movie or documentary. Students can be prompted to think about arrangement/organization, costuming, or other film elements.
  • 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 beforehand, but it can help students focus on the important elements 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 ends.
  • 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!

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