Movie Lesson Plan Ideas

Ways to Effectively Use Movies 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. 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 students to fill out after watching the movie

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?  
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Create a movie question worksheet to be filled out during the movie

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. When I have used this method, I have a tendency to stop the movie after each question or two and have the students answer them before moving on. Here is an example for All Quiet on the Western Front.

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Pose questions on the board that you answer as a class during the movie

With this lesson plan idea, you would be stopping the movie after each question you've posted on the board and answering it as a class. 

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Give students a list of items to look out for during the movie

For this idea to work, you would need to spend some upfront time discussing the movie with the students. You would have to frame each item 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 items they should have seen on their list.

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Have students take notes on their own during the movie

While this has the benefit of very little upfront time on your part, I have often found this to be problematic unless you've given the students specific notetaking instruction. Often, they have issues seeing through the minor conflicts in the movie to see the grand picture. Further, since you have little control over what they write down in their notes, students can miss important points in the movie. 

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Create a cause and effect worksheet based on specific scenes in the movie

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. Following is an example using 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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Give no specific worksheet but stop and start the movie and discuss

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 based on criteria you select

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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Assign students a scene in the movie to analyze for accuracy

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.