Movie Lesson Plan Ideas

Ways to Effectively Use Films in Class

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

If you are unable to show an entire film because of time constraints or school guidelines, you may want to select specific scenes or clips to share with your students. To increase understanding of particularly complex dialogue, use the closed caption feature when showing the film.

There are a variety of effective ways to include movies in your classroom lessons that will reinforce learning objectives.

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Create a Generic Worksheet for Movies

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If you plan to show movies regularly in class, consider creating a generic worksheet that you can use for all the movies you show over the course of the year. Include a list of questions that are relevant to all movies. 

  • 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 uses to enhance the message?
    • Movie score or soundtrack
    • Lighting
    • Sound
    • Camera point of view
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Create a Movie-Specific Worksheet

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If there is a particular movie that fits well in your lesson plan, you might consider creating a worksheet specific to that film. Watch the movie yourself in advance to determine the sequence of events you want your students to observe as they watch. Include general information, such as the title of the film and the director, as well as specific questions that the students should answer as they watch the movie. To ensure that they are noting the most important aspects of the movie, pause to allow your students time to fill in their answers. Make sure to include space on the worksheet for open-ended questions about major plot points in the film.

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Have Your Students Take Notes

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It is important that students learn how to take notes effectively. Before instructing your students to take notes during a film, teach them proper note-taking skills. The underlying benefit of taking notes during the movie is that the students will pay attention to details as they decide what is important enough to include in their notes. By writing down their thoughts as they view the film, they are more likely to have responses that they can share later during class discussions.

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Create a Cause-and-Effect Worksheet

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A cause-and-effect worksheet asks students to analyze specific plot points in the movie. You might start them off with an example, providing them with the cause, and then explain how that impacted the story, or the effect. A basic cause-and-effect worksheet might start with an event and then include a blank space where the students can fill in the effect of that event.

A cause-and-effect worksheet on "The Grapes of Wrath" might start with a description of the drought in Oklahoma.

Event: A terrible drought has hit Oklahoma. 

Because of this event, ________________. 

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Start and Stop With Discussion

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With this lesson plan idea, you stop the movie at key points so that students can respond as a class to questions posted on the board. 

As an alternative, you may choose not to prepare questions in advance, but rather to allow the discussion to unfold organically. By stopping the movie to discuss, you can take advantage of teachable moments that arise in the film. You can also point out historical inaccuracies in the movie. To assess whether this method is effective for your class, keep track of the students who participate in each discussion. 

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Have the Students Write a Review

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Another way to see how much your students are learning from a film is to have them write a movie review. Before the movie begins, go over the elements of a great movie review. Remind them that a movie review should include a description of the movie without spoiling the ending. Share a selection of well-written movie reviews with the class. To make sure that the students include pertinent information in their reviews, provide them with a list of the specific elements you expect to see. You might also show them the grading rubric that you plan to use as another way of indicating what their final review should include. 

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Compare and Contrast Films or Scenes

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One way to have students better understand a scene in a piece of literature is to show different film adaptations of the same work. For example, there are multiple film adaptations of the novel "Frankenstein." You might ask students about the director's interpretation of the text or whether the content of the book is accurately represented in the movie.

If you are showing different versions of a scene, such as a scene from one of Shakespeare's plays, you can deepen student understanding by having them note the different interpretations and offer explanations for those differences.