Written by Debi Polen
As a parent, you probably take several moments in your child’s day to turn any experience into a teachable moment. For example, going grocery shopping offers the teachable moments of counting money, menu planning, and waiting in line. If you’ve decided to home school, taking advantage of these teachable moments becomes even more important. Let’s discuss how you can turn a family activity such as movie watching into school assignments and still make it an enjoyable, teaching moment.
Engage Multiple Learning Senses
We decided that we wanted to give our son a schooling that engaged all of his learning senses. He was absolutely, without a doubt, a tactile and kinesthetic learner. He preferred watching TV to reading and doodling to writing.
For a child who could read early, Stephen’s preferences indicated that just reading a book was not going to be as fulfilling and memorable as engaging in activities centered around a more physical enjoyment of the story. So, we decided to combine his reading requirements with watching a movie interpretation and producing a compare and contrast analysis.
This type of activity may sound extremely complicated, but it doesn’t have to be. We started to formalize these activities for school in the early elementary grades, but we had already been practicing the concept of compare and contrast whenever we watched a movie or TV show and discussed it afterwards.
Nowadays, movies can take their inspiration from more than just books; they could be from a popular video game, a fairy tale, or a graphic novel or comic book. In our home school, we concentrated on juvenile books that were made into movies since we started doing this exercise during the elementary school years, but this is something that can be started even in the high school years.
1. Read the Book First
The books that we selected were written first and then a movie was made. We wanted to determine the writer’s intention before we saw someone else’s interpretation (i.e., the film). Since we were reading mostly award-winning children’s books that were also considered classics in our literature-based unit studies, finding a book-movie pair was rather easy.
While the student is reading the book, he or she should take notes. Who were the main characters? What was the setting? What was the main story element for each chapter? After completing the book, it was always fun to discuss our favorite parts and which character we identified with most.
For the early years, I introduced the concept of storyboarding. It’s what film production teams do and it was something that the author may have done as an outline. Since my son was primarily a tactile learner in the early years, he enjoyed drawing the story rather than writing the notes. As he got older, writing notes using his computer became the norm.
I created my own templates for storyboarding that started out with large spaces for drawing and writing when Stephen was young and grew smaller as he got older. If you’d like to select from a variety of storyboarding templates in PDF format for letter, legal, or A4 paper sizes, visit Printable Paper.
As a homeschooling parent, it’s important that you be engaged in the story, as well as teach other aspects of literature, such as grammar, spelling, vocabulary, and composition. Following our use of Five in a Row and Learning Language Arts Through Literature, we began using Total Language Plus to form the foundation of our literature-based unit studies. This curriculum was founded in 1993 by Barbara Tifft Blakey, a Christian homeschooler, and carries the literature-based approach to learning Language Arts all the way through to your child’s high school senior year. The study guide books are consumable, so it is rare that you’ll find them in a used bookstore, but you may order them directly from their distributors or possibly through Amazon.com (affiliate link).
The Total Language Plus curriculum helped us decide which books to start with, but we also used other reading lists for inspiration. Turn to the classics for older students, as most of them are present on reading lists suggested for the college bound. A large number of classics have been made into movies over the generations, so you’ll have plenty from which to choose.
2. Watch the Movie
Which movie you watch will depend on the book. If time permits, you could choose more than one film version if they differ greatly in production values or interpretation. For example, Jane Eyre has been made into several movies, but I’ve always favored the one done in 1943 that starred Orson Welles and Joan Fontaine. The cinematography of a black-and-white film differs greatly from one done in high-def vivid color, opening the doors to discussing the film production industry itself and how shadow and color are used to set the story’s mood.
As with the book, the student needs to be aware of the progression of the story and its characters. There are bound to be differences and these should be noted. After watching the movie, you should discuss every major story point with your student (especially if this is the first year of your doing this activity) and help him or her arrange their notes.
If you’re not sure if a movie has been made for your selected book, try searching for the title at IMDb, the Internet Movie Database.
3. Produce the Analysis
Your student may appreciate that you assign a variety of ways to produce his or her analysis, such as giving a slide presentation rather than a written report. Writing a paper, however, needs to be assigned regularly since that is something your student will need to be able to do throughout the college years.
There are several organizational options available online to aid your student in producing the compare and contrast analysis. For just starting out with a young student, a Venn diagram or a simple matrix (table) may be all that you need. You may be interested in the Graphic Organizers Student Resource booklet (PDF format) provided by Scholastic, Have Fun Teaching’s graphic organizers, or the various formats offered by Education Oasis. There are several other free online sources easily found through a search for “compare contrast graphic organizer”.
Remember, Be Engaged and Have Fun
Because I was the supervisor of my son’s home education, we had plenty of time to enjoy each other’s company during the school day, but Daddy was at work and missed out on much of that. This exercise offered us the opportunity to do things together. If the movie was current, we all went to the cinema together and came out with our lively discussions of favorite parts on our walk to the car and on the ride home.
Whether we went out for the movie or brought it home to watch, the school assignment didn’t feel like one when the whole family was involved.
What We Have to Aid Your Planning
Several of the books in our catalog have had movies made after them. We’ve placed them in the “Books to Movies” category tag that you’ll see at the bottom of the product detail pages. Since we mentioned the Total Language Plus curriculum in this article, we’ve provided a link to find any of their products that may be in our catalog.