Movie Lesson Plan Ideas

Ways to Effectively Use Films in Class

Including movies in your lessons can help enhance learning and increase student interest levels while providing direct instruction on the topic at hand. While there are pros and cons to including movies in lesson plans, there are ways that you can help ensure that the movies you choose do in fact have the learning impact you desire.

If you are unable to show an entire film because of time or school guidelines, you may want to show scenes or clips. You may also want to use the closed caption feature during a film because the combination of reading with film can reinforce student understanding, especially if the film is an adaptation of a play (Shakespeare) or novel (Pride and Prejudice).

The following list gives ideas for how you can effectively use films to reinforce what is being taught.

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Create a generic worksheet for movies

Teenage students learning in classroom
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With this option, you would create a worksheet that you could use for all the movies you plan to show over the course of the year. Questions that might be included are: 

  • What is the setting of the movie? 
  • What is the basic plot? 
  • Who is (are) the protagonist(s)? 
  • Who is the antagonist? 
  • Give a brief summary of the movie? 
  • What are your impressions of the movie? 
  • How does the movie relate to what we are studying in class?  
  • What are some film techniques that the director used that enhanced the message? Consider:
    • movie score or soundtrack
    • lighting
    • sound
    • camera point-of-view
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Create a movie question worksheet

Here you would create a specific worksheet with questions about events that happen throughout the movie. Students would need to answer the questions as they watch the movie. While this would have the benefit of ensuring that students understood specific points from the movie, it can also lead to problems with students so busy watching the movie that they forget to read and answer the questions. For example, here is an example for All Quiet on the Western Front.

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Give students a list

For this idea to work, you would need to spend some upfront time preparing a list before watching the movie with the students. You would have to determine the sequence of events they are to look out for as they watch the movie. Handing out a list can be helpful to remind students. Further, it is a good idea to stop the movie often and point out which events they should have seen on their list.

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Have students take notes

While this has the benefit of very little upfront time there could be problems if students do not know how to take notes. They may pay more attention to minor events and miss the message. On the other hand, this does provide an opportunity for students to give you their unvarnished response to the film.

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Create a cause and effect worksheet

This type of worksheet has the students specifically look at the plot points of the movie, focusing on cause and effect. You might start them off with the first event, and from there the students continue with what effect that had. A good way to start each line is with the words: Because of.

For example:The Grapes of Wrath.

Event 1: A terrible drought has hit Oklahoma. 

Event 2: Because of event 1, ________________. 

Event 3: Because of event 2, ________________. 


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Start and stop with discussion

With this lesson plan idea, you would be stopping the movie at key points so that students can respond to question posted on the board and answering it as a class. 

You could also embed questions in a digital program like a Kahoot! so that students can respond in real time with the film.

As an alternative, you may choose not to prepare questions. This method might seem "fly by the seat of your pants" but it can be especially effective. By stopping the movie and moving into specific discussions, you can truly take advantage of those "teachable moments" that arise. You can also point out historical inaccuracies. One way to assess this method is to keep track of those individuals who participate in each discussion. 

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Have students write a movie review

Before the movie begins, you can go over what it takes to write a great movie review. Then after the movie is complete, you can assign them a movie review. To make sure that the students include information pertinent to your lesson, you should guide them on specific items you want to be included in the review. You can also show them the rubric that you will use to grade the review to help guide them towards the information you want them to have learned. 

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Have students analyze a scene

If you are watching a movie that includes historical or literary inaccuracies, you can assign students specific scenes for which they need to research and find out what the historical inaccuracy is and instead explain what really happened historically or in the book off of which the movie was based. 

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Compare and contrast films or scenes.

 One way to have students better understand a scene in a work of literature is to show film different versions. For example, there are multiple versions of the film Frankenstein. You may ask students about the director' interpretation of the text, or if the content of the book is accurately represented.

If you are showing different versions of a scene, such as a scene from Shakespeare's plays, you can deepen student understanding by having them not the different interpretations. For example, there are multiple versions of Hamlet by different directors (Kenneth Brannagh or  Michael Almereyda) or different actors (Mel Gibson).

In comparing and contrasting, you might use the same questions, such as those from a generic worksheet.