Movies and teaching books

Almost anytime I assign a novel, I get asked ‘Miss, is there a movie for this?’. Often, these days, given our use of popular literature and the movie industry tendency to make books of popular literature, the answer is yes. Yes, there is a movie. Yes, we can go see it (if it’s coming out now). Yes, I have seen it. Yes, we are watching it in class.

Because yes. I will show the movie in class. Now, that might seem like an easy lesson plan – show a movie for three or four classes. And, well, it means I’m not talking as much, which is, perhaps, easier for everyone. But it’s got a purpose. By showing the movie, I’m presenting a world to students, a world though up by others based on the same material they read. I’m presenting to them a visual of a text, a visual that may or may not line up with the visual they created for themselves. It’s always interesting hearing the reactions of kids as they see how characters are presented, especially if they really liked the book.

I often start with the movie – I don’t treat it as a reward, I treat it as part of the learning. Sometimes that will depend on the adaptation of the movie – I will start a novel study with ‘Hunger Games’ or ‘Divergent’, but I’ll finish ‘A Christmas Carol’ with the Muppets singing their way though that classic tale. In some ways, even if it’s worst case scenario, knowing the students at least know the story (from watching the movie). In other cases, it’s a chance to see who has connected with the novel. There are students who get quite offended if the movie doesn’t portray their favourites in the right way. There are others who don’t like how the setting they imagined is portrayed. Others notice their favourite parts are changed or left out and exclaim on their disappointment. It’s beautiful to watch their reactions, hear their conversation and talk with them about the edits they would make. Someone took the exact same book you read and made it into a visual – do you agree with what they did or not?

There is always the worry about students not reading the book, instead relying on the movie to teach them the story. And it’s true, that happens. That always has happened, as long as there have been movies based on books. Or Coles notes based on books. Or a kid in the class that reads the book and doesn’t mind telling others the storyline. I’m upfront and tell kids when I’ve seen a movie. They know I will go see movies as soon as they come out if I can. I tell them they may even might get questions asking the differences between the movie and the book. They are told that just knowing the movie will not be useful – and most realize that putting in the work to understand the differences between both without reading the book is a little much. Some try, this I know, but most give it away, in their answers or even in casual conversation that they then support in their answers. It’s hard than you think to pretend you’ve read a book and much easier to just read the darn thing.

Movies are a beautiful thing and there are people out there reading the books and then making them into masterpieces. Enjoy, critique and compare to the visuals in your imagination.

In summary, may I present the inspiration for this blog: the Mockingjay Part One Trailer.

 

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