How do you incorporate movies into your curriculum?I tend to show only short clips or selected passages from movies matching the novels or plays we're reading.  I might also show several...

How do you incorporate movies into your curriculum?

I tend to show only short clips or selected passages from movies matching the novels or plays we're reading.  I might also show several versions of one scene to demonstrate how a director's point of view affects the production.  Rarely do I use class time to show an entire movie, but I know some of my colleagues do.  What are your movie-watching practices in the classroom?

Expert Answers
scarletpimpernel eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I also show clips, or if I show a 50-minute documentary, I divide it between two days.  One of the problems I've witnessed is that teachers often do just fill time with movies and documentaries, and that makes it difficult for teachers who want to use film effectively in the classroom.  I always strive to find unusual documentaries that provide supplemental material for novels or skills that I am teaching.  Because my students are usually unfamiliar with the films, they pay better attention.  For example, I've used the educational mockumentary Chalk to focus on different aspects of satire. My students--even my low achieving ones--love it because they've never seen anything like it.  I've also used clips from Afghan Star when I teach The Kite Runner, and it provides my students with an insider's view of today's Afghanistan and the places that Amir describes in his narration.  One of the most successful 40-minute videos I've shown is a DVD of Diane Sawyer's trip to North Korea a couple of years ago.  I ordered it from ABC's website and I use it in connection with 1984.  My students are fascinated by the isolated country and its practices and cannot believe the similarities between modern North Korea and Orwell's depiction of a totalitarian regime.

I think the key is to use film sparingly but also to know what interests students today--documentaries have come so far from the stale ones that we used to view in our classes, and I often have students tell me that they told their parents about the documentaries that we have watched in class.  They like knowing something that their parents are not aware of (especially in regards to current events).

asorrell eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I show lots of clips whenever I can find related clips.  For example, I managed to salvage a few pieces of the latest Beowulf movie that were relevant to what we were reading.  The students were excited to be watching a recent action movie and we were able to discuss what was accurate and what was not.  I always use movies of stage productions when teaching Shakespeare.  We read an act and then watch the makes it so much easier for them to understand.

Movie clips can also give historical context to a piece of nonfiction or historical fiction.  For example, before reading one of Tim OBrien's short stories, I showed a clip from We Were Soldiers that showed them going in on the helicopters and going into battle.  I only showed maybe 5 minutes, but my kids were hooked and ready to read the story.

When I do show movies, the kids are usually very quick to notice the differences between the movie and the book, so even when I show something that is not completely accurate, I know they're still getting something out of it. 

I use television shows as well.  For example, I use the Simpsons to show satire, which is always fun.

I also use lots of movie speeches when teaching persuasion and ethos/logos/pathos.

Susan Hurn eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I show particular scenes from the Robert Redford version of Gatsby while reading the novel. Fitzgerald does not transfer well to the screen generally, but the scenic visuals in the movie are wonderful and do help students "get" the Long Island setting and the 1920s era.

Years ago I had access to a 5-part PBS presentation of The Scarlet Letter. The production was so excellent and so faithful to the novel (word-for-word dialog and voice overs), I showed it in its entirety over several days, working in activities along the way with excellent results.

I always took time to watch To Kill a Mockingbird in its entirety, and always got the same reaction: great movie, better book! This led to some excellent discussions about what Harper Lee could and did do in her novel that even the best movie could not create. Students often looked at novels a little differently after that eye opener.

Movies certainly cannot and must not take the place of reading in a classroom, but they can certainly enhance it when chosen carefully and used effectively.

kiwi eNotes educator| Certified Educator

As we have a media requirement for examination I am required to teach film studies which I really enjoy. The students need to be clear on the fact that they are studying a film rather than just watching it. I therefore use a lot of Youtube clips of trailers and of documentary material as part of my English teaching but always with the question 'Why are we watching this?'. Young students are perfectly adept at watching short extracts and can be trained to watch a full film without yawning - however I never run a full film through in one go. We have a maximum of 20 mins viewing time then discussion.

I have also found that using a movie to supplement a text (my current choices for juniors are Millions and Bridge to Terabithia, and I use Of Mice and Men and The Color Purple with seniors) very well received and if done well the students still like the book best!

amy-lepore eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I agree with post 1--multiple versions of the same scene often stirs amazing discussion about author's purpose, director's vision, and the different perspectives with regard to lighting, music, actor emphasis on particular words or even syllables in speech, etc.  I find that clips are more useful teaching tools than the movie in its entirity.  Take for instance the Ted Danson verson of Gulliver's Travels.  Some clips are amazingly accurate, but there are whole sections in that movie which are completely concocted by the Hollywood director and could be studied as a text all its own, but has nothing really to do with the original text.

I find that students do tend to check out with an entire many cell phones lit up with games and texting or snores coming from the back of the room.  UGH.

wannam eNotes educator| Certified Educator
I use movies differently depending on the class I'm teaching. With lower level students, a long book can be particularly daunting; "to kill a mockingbird" seemed overwhelming to my 9th grade repeaters. I made them read the first section of the book, which is very different from the movie. Then, we watched movie, which covers mostly the second half of the book. With a more difficult text, like Shakespeare, I will show clips of particular scenes. My younger students seemed to have trouble following plays, and I found it helpful to show them movie clips to supplement the text. I always do an activity while the movie is on. Something like a quadrant study of characters or elements seemed to hold their attention better. They had to have an activity to complete or I knew they would just check out.
Ashley Kannan eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Our district has passed new legislation designed to limit the showing of full length movies in class.  I think that it has been abused so much by some teachers or received bad press that the board passed the legislation.  This means that new and innovative ways to show sections of films are needed.  I like being able to use a scene from a film and then generate discussion about it and the themes present.  This discussion can be written, spoken, electronic, or even texted through the use of a site called  In being able to get student input on a small section of film, no more than ten minutes, I think discussion gets enhanced, the use of the medium is appropriate, and I can get around the district policy that really limits the use and viewing of full length films.


brettd eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I'm a big fan of clips, because I find students can't focus on more than 20 minutes of video at a stretch, even if it's entertaining.  Students would often ask - "Is this all we're doing today?" - as though asking my permission to mentally check out for the rest of the hour.  I use clips of The Crucible and Of Mice and Men as well as Smoke Signals and The Milagro Beanfield War.

When it comes to documentaries, I have an even shorter window of attention span.  15 minutes at the most.  I also have colleagues who show entire movies, but I think they know as well as I do that their effectiveness as a teaching tool is limited.

kmcappello eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Some great ideas about how to use movies and clips in the classroom.  I agree that students tend to space out during extended viewing, but I find that showing at least part of a movie can help.  This is especially true when teaching a work that has difficult or archaic language.  When teaching Great Expectations by Charles Dickens, I found that my students were hung up on the difficulty of the language and couldn't get past it to grasp the book's themes.  However, by showing parts of the BBC miniseries version of it, the students could finally "hear" the language and were able to really get into the book.

clairewait eNotes educator| Certified Educator

There are two movies that I try to show when I'm teaching 10th and 11th grades.

10th - Swing Kids: I've never had a class that didn't stay focused and interested on this movie all the way through.  I love that it presents a different perspective on the holocaust.  I try to show it at the end of teaching Night.

11th - Dead Poet's Society: again, they love this one all the way through.  I use it to wrap up my poetry unit - I choose poems from the movie to teach in class - but this film has so many great life themes that create really cool discussions, that often the poetry isn't the highlight at the end.

litteacher8 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I use movies in different ways in my classroom.  For difficult texts, especially with foreign settings, I will show the film in pieces as we read.  This gives students an opportunity to see the setting and characters and reinforces the plot.  I do this with Dickens and Shakespeare.  You can also analyze a movie as a unique piece of literary criticism, asking students to consider why directors and characters made the choices they made and dissecting revisions in the script.  Sometimes I even just show a movie as a treat, because it is so enjoyable to watch a good film version of a book.


engtchr5 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Movies are used almost as a form of reward in my classroom. When we reach the end of a novel around Christmas break, those last few days before vacation are consumed by watching its companion film (To Kill A Mockingbird, The Outsiders, The Yearling, etc.). As we're all aware, kids are pretty much "checked out" mentally by that point in the year anyway, and comparing and contrasting the movie with the book makes for a nice "soft landing" after our midterm or final exams. The students look forward to it, and remain engaged in the text so that they may then reap the reward of watching its movie. 

teachertaylor eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I recently started using movies/films as a pre-reading strategy.  I've read some research on literacy and critical reading which suggests that readers need a foundation upon which to build their encounters with new stories.  I teach a group of low-level readers, so they don't have a strong foundation.  I've found that showing a movie before students do the reading helps them visualize the text when they actually get to the story.  And they don't complain that the movie has ruined any "surprises" in the story--they much more appreciate being able to understand the story.

marbar57 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

As a 4th Grade teacher, I use movies quite often to supplement my History.  As a teaching tool, movies are indispensable; the students love them and pay attention and they reinforce some of the facts that I've taught them or give a different perspective.  We watch documentaries, historical fiction, and sometimes animated movies.  And, I don't limit them to just history either!  I even use them for my Language Arts. 

My students are at an age right now where they love their movies, whether watching at home and in class.   I have their undivided attention!  Great tools!

ajmchugh eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I teach in NJ, and "Viewing" is actually one of our five standards in the Language Arts curriculum.  If I do show an entire movie, I generally do it piece by piece (show one act at a time as we read Shakespeare, for instance).  As clairewait does, I show Swing Kids after we read Night, and the kids write an essay comparing themes that are common to both.  Simiarly, I use the A&E documentary about the Scottsboro Trials after we read the trial of Tom Robinson in Mockingbird

bullgatortail eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Film clips are great, but I also show full-length movies as supplements to the novels we read. To Kill a Mockingbird and The Outsiders are two which I have shown over the years, and there is always plenty of discussion about missing or altered scenes and changes made by the director. Short films covering classic short stories are also good: Bernice Bobs Her Hair and An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge are two others which I have shown repeatedly through the years.

linda-allen eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Being able to interpret media is one of the state standards for Tennessee, so we have to incorporate movie/video clips into our curriculum. What I try to do after we have read a play or novel is try to find a video on youtube. I'll ask the students how the video changed or enhanced their perception of the story. For instance, I found a strange modern version of A Doll's House in which Nora ends up killing Torvald. We critiqued that video and discussed how we'd stage the play differently.

martinjmurphy eNotes educator| Certified Educator

For me as a history teacher, I show a lot of documentaries in my class.  No way can I do more than ten ort fifteen minutes of any documentary.  Usually, as they watch they are asked to find specific pieces of information in the video.  Sometimes I will show movies in their entirety.  I show an edited version onf the movie Glory and the movie Brother Future.  These two movies hold the students' attention and I feel they need to seen in their entirety.

lnorton eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I am also a fan of clips. I have a YouTube account for the class, and they log on to watch video clips (favorited and made into a playlist) as part of their homework. If I do show a movie during class time, it will be part of an interactive project. Otherwise, you're just killing time.

angrock82 | Student

This is a great way for visual and auditory learning students. In English we have watched 2 version of Hamlet(Mel Gibson, and Ethan Hawke), Romeo and Juliet. Science class we've watched, The Island, Gattaca.

Some teachers would split the movie in half  so students wouldn't lose focus.

vonn | Student

Movies will bridge the discrepancy between  theories and life-situations.It also helps you to give summary of the whole unit you are discussing on. It also links on the other branches of knowledge that portrays in the movie

In my student-teaching, I use movie in different fields and different concepts that I wanted to teach the students indirectly. It will make learning-teaching process recognized special attentions and arouse interest of the students

In my classes, I distribute questionnaires after the movie and let the students answer those sets of questions that will strengthen their learnings on the watched movie. Furthermore, the selection of movies are based on the time consumed, content and relevance of the subject matter and the kind of movie that the student likes.

lilac897 | Student

I also love clips and short films. What I also like is showing a Disney( or other cartoon) movie after learning about a certain time period and challenging the students to point out the discrepancies. This not only tests what they have learned but also teaches them to be critical thinkers when it comes to what is presented to them on the small and big screen. I have also found the Schoolhouse Rock series invaluable in helping the students remember the Preamble to the Constitution.