The Movie-Novel Connection: Practical Tips for Using Movies in Class

The Movie-Novel Connection
Practical Tips for Using Movies in Class

Susan Verner
by Susan Verner 22,072 views |

Are you looking for a great accompaniment to the novel (full length or abridged) that you are reading in class? Try the movie.

No, that’s not instead of reading the book but along with reading it. Classroom novels that have also been made into movies offer a great resource for ESL teachers, and you can do a lot more with them than just watch the movie after finishing the book.

Here are some practical ways you can use the movie before, during and after teaching the novel.

How To Teach Using Movies With Novels: Practical Ways

  1. 1

    Before They Read

    There are several activities you can do with film clips to prepare students for a novel.

    • One of the easiest ways to use the movie is to introduce the characters. There are a couple of ways to do this. First, you can show the students the credits at the end of the movie. They can then use this list of characters (and the actors who play them) as a reference list while they scan the novel for those characters.
    • Another way to introduce the characters is to show clips or still frames of the characters in the movie and have groups of students compile descriptions of these characters. These descriptions should go beyond mere physical detail and include guesses at the personality and intentions of the character based on what they can see.
    • You can also introduce students to the setting of the book by previewing it in the movie. Pair students and have one watch a clip without sound. The other should ask their partner questions to determine details about the setting. Have them work together to describe the setting and the possible conflicts the characters may encounter.
    • Another way to use the movie before your students read the novel is to give them a general idea of what they will be reading. Give your students an opportunity to watch the film’s trailer. You can also let them look at the movie poster if it is available and the book jacket. Can your students guess what the opening scene of the movie will be? Let them discuss it, and then play the opening scene so they can see how close they were.
    • Plot can also be introduced through film. Play some clips at various points of the movie (don’t spoil the end) and have groups of students discuss what they think may happen in the book. They can also make predictions about chapter titles.
  2. 2

    While They Are Reading

    Use the film with your students while reading the book to aid in comprehension. There are many ways to do this.
    • You can have students read a passage that is also presented in the film and compare and contrast the two.
    • You can also give them specific dialogue from the book and ask them to describe the changes that the filmmakers made for the screenplay.
    • Another way to use dialogue and film is to start with the students’ native language. If subtitles are available in your students’ first language, play a scene for them with those subtitles but without sound. Then have students write in English what they think the dialogue might be.
    • Have students convert selections of reported speech in the book into the dialogue that might be used in the film. Then check by watching the film and see how close they were.
    • Students can also compile time lines of major events in a chapter or a selection of the book. Then play the film clip for them (don’t go longer than ten minutes) and ask them to determine if the sequence of events in the book and film are the same.
    • You can check listening comprehension, too, by playing the audio without the video for certain scenes. Can your students name the scene in the book? Can they name the characters who are speaking?
  3. 3

    After They Read

    There are several opportunities to use film as a review of a novel that students have completed.

    • If students are familiar with movie commentary, you can allow them to write their own commentary for a given scene in the movie. Have them work in pairs and choose a favorite scene. They can then write their own commentary and either record it and share or perform it live for the class. This is sure to entertain while giving a little public speaking practice.
    • Another performance possibility is to let students transcribe the dialogue for a given scene. They can then record a voice over for the scene and present it to the class with the video from the movie. It can be especially fun to see the actors on screen speaking with voices your students hear around them every day.
    • You can review characters in the book by showing clips of significant scenes for a given character. Then have students discuss that character, whether they liked him or her, what that character did that was most significant and whether they would behave the same way if they were that character. This is also a great opportunity to practice the conditional tense with “If I had been…I would have…
    • Another writing activity could be to write a review of the film. This could be a short review intended for a local paper or a longer more analytical review for a national magazine. Make your expectations clear to your students and review vocabulary they might need to write about the film.

In general, a movie version of a novel you read as a class can be a great resource at any point: before reading the text, while reading it and after your class has completed the selection. With a little planning and practice, you can make your class interesting and engaging, and entertain your students at the same time. So the next time you pick up a class novel, grab the DVD, pop some popcorn and roll ‘em. Your students are sure to thank you.

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