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Novel and a Movie?

Author: Nicole Flores


Mitchell Elementary School

Year: 2018

Seminar: History of Hollywood

Grade Level: 4-7

Keywords: Clips, Media, Novel, Pairing, Pop culture, Reading

School Subject(s): English

This unit addresses the problems of disinterest and apathy within students often encountered by literacy teachers. By pairing literature with film, students should feel more connected to the literature and the reading skills. This should result in better comprehension, more interest in the topic and more excitement for reading in general. This unit is designed as a template that can be used with any fiction novel that has a film adaptation. It was produced in this format to account for the flexibility that teachers want and sometimes need for circumstances beyond their control. Each lesson plan is based on a skill/standard that needs to be taught in a reading classroom. The lessons give ideas and strategies to meaningfully use the film to assist with teaching the skill. In addition to that, there are strategies within most lessons that can be used independently of a novel to review a particular skill. The lessons are based on 6th grade literature standards but can be adjusted for most grade levels. Students will use strategies such as inquiry-based learning, the jigsaw technique (groups of students working on separate parts of an activity, then presenting to each other for the whole), technology in the classroom and graphic organizers.

Download Unit: 18.02.03.pdf

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Full Unit Text

The demands of teaching literacy skills to middle school students have increased over the past years with the introduction of more rigorous standards such as the PA Common Core. Students at earlier ages are asked to read, comprehend, compare and evaluate more and more complex texts in order to be perceived as proficient or advanced.

When presented with complex, long passages in testing situations, I have talked to students who have admitted to just clicking on answers or randomly choosing an answer because they refuse to even read the passages. They were “too long” or “too boring”. This not only mislabels the student as one who is lacking skills that they actually may have, but it also continues a culture of not representing a student’s true ability when it matters. Students feel that it’s the norm to fail, or to score poorly. This does both the teacher and the student a disservice.

Reading in an urban classroom has to be engaging. When students are not engaged intrinsically, as teachers, we need to employ as many strategies as we can until it becomes so.

Securing this level of needed engagement can often be a challenge, however. Reading simply for compliance yields very little when it comes to retaining learned skills or fostering any type of love of reading. Students have to want to read.

The benefits of our modern times have been, to some extent, an ELA teacher’s downfall. More accessible technology, games, apps and video systems (that can literally be at one’s fingertips) have made reading a prehistoric hobby for some kids. Unfortunately, reading is also not a habit shared by many of the parents that we service, making it something that is not necessarily passed down or seen in the home.

My unit will address these problems by adding a creative slant to reading. This will hopefully intrigue students enough to engage them in more diverse texts. It will use one type of technology/media that they are familiar with- film- to bridge the “interest gap” that exists with some texts. Sparking interest in a variety of passages is key to changing the current status quo.


The History of Hollywood seminar offered an in-depth description of how multiple people, ideas and inventions over time, came together to create what we know today as Hollywood. Within this history can also be found a history of our country that can be observed and explained through the growth of the film industry. This incredible history began with experimentation, imagination and a little borrowing.

Once the ability of recreating still images was obtained, getting those pictures to move was not far behind. Technology built on existing technology until its first creation, the Kinetoscope (thanks to Thomas Edison) was born. This projector displayed short clips of sporting events and vaudeville performers in parlors for the everyday man’s entertainment. These clips were shown among other forms of entertainment such as in saloons and began gathering an audience.

Technology continued to develop, but this time with Louis and Auguste Lumiere. Their projector, created in 1896, allowed filmmakers to create longer motion pictures that could be played in front of superior audiences. Edison saw the value in this newer type of playing and viewing and bought the rights to a similar projector created by Thomas Armat and Charles Francis Jenkins. From there, the Edison Vitascope was born. Films were then shown in theaters called Nickelodeons and created the first immersive movie watching experience. Topics shown were current and captured and recreated a variety of events. As the experiences grew within the country and around the world, the events caught on celluloid grew- along with the popularity of this form of media.

As companies in the United States toyed with controlling industry, so did Edison. His idea to standardize and monopolize the film industry failed miserably, paving the way for independent thinkers to create more imaginative films that captivated more audiences. Some of those independents who fought against Edison’s Trust, eventually became the founding fathers of studios such as Universal, Paramount, etc. that took movie production to a new level.

Along with the studio system, which centralized movie production and distribution, the star system created larger than life entities that brought in middle class audiences. Moviegoers followed their favorite star who represented glamour, sophistication and time away from the everyday grind. They followed them from movie to movie, creating guaranteed viewers for years to come.

The Production Code from 1930 to 1968 mirrored the conservatism of the nation at that time. It established a system for how violence, politics and sex were to be represented on screen with respect to viewer tastes and the censorship boards. It made sure that movies had a “moral compass” but were still interesting.

During World War II, Hollywood again reflected the current times, with movies to educate, entertain and enlist patriotism among its viewers. Combat films, Yankee Doodle Dandy and a blundering, fictional soldier named Private Snafu were among the many that led the way during these years.

The Cold War was also brought to Hollywood’s doorsteps. After the Second World War, the United States was extremely sensitive to Communist elements that existed within its borders. Many in the community were thought to be working against democracy, whether they were or weren’t in reality. The House of Un-American Activities Committee did the policing for Hollywood. Hearings were held and those who worked at all levels of film production were encouraged to “name names” and otherwise forfeit their civil liberties in the name of keeping their careers.

As years passed, Hollywood abandoned the Production Code in favor of a more modern rating system. This allowed a “new” generation of filmmaker to produce films that were more independent and cutting edge. The blockbuster was born when studio heads realized that having certain criteria in place almost guaranteed mass audiences.

Television, home video, and eventually streaming, have changed the ways in which movies can be enjoyed. With each decade, Hollywood becomes more of a reflection of how the world is living-whether on screen or behind the scenes (Decherney 2016).

The History of Hollywood is a history of the United States, and lends itself at all levels to social studies, communication and language arts lessons. It brings words to life and gives words a meaning beyond what lies on a page. This, if used skillfully and effectively, can be the perfect medium to attract and connect potentially apathetic readers.


English Language Arts/ELA teachers, each year, begin with a number of objectives. Aside from teaching the curriculum, ELA teachers inherently desire to create as many lifelong readers as possible. Most love reading themselves, and therefore want to pass that love on to their students. It is often hard, however, to instill that love in those who are reluctant. Students may have struggled or otherwise have had situations in their past that have left them to choose other interests. Reading is then seen as difficult, sometimes before a lesson has even begun, and has to be overcome in some way, shape or form.

Another aspect of this yearly charge involves creating authentic learning environments that can connect the classroom to the living room (Hobbs 2004 46). Being able to make this connection, bringing things students are familiar with into the classroom, allows the material being learned to become familiar too. Students are then able to value the learning. Therefore, including technology in the classroom, can help to bridge this “interest gap” between a student and literature.

The abundant amount of technology that exists today can and should be used to an ELA teacher’s advantage. Using what students relate to as a way of reaching them is the next level of teaching and a direction for education that makes perfect sense. Pairing film with a novel adds another dimension to the storytelling. Teaching students about media literacy has to be a mandatory part of their education. If we teach students the basic skills in a classroom in order for them to be productive adults, then media and technology has apart of that. It is the reality of our day and age (Andersen 1992).

Media literacy is a term used to define “the ability to access, analyze, evaluate and communicate messages in a wide variety of forms”. This includes using technology in the classroom, making it a lesson within itself, as well as integrating it into a variety of subjects. Media literacy in education has grown in K-12 schools beginning in the 1990s. Its focus is both in analyzing media and creating media (Hobbs 2004 43). Though the focus of my unit is primarily analyzing media-movies to be specific-there is value in both aspects.

Including media literacy in instruction, especially with movie/novel pairings, as well as other types of technology and media in the classroom, work to guide students to gather information on a topic from different points of view. It also allows them to critically inquire about what they are observing (Hobbs 2004 44). This deeper thinking about the media used in classrooms helps students to develop a critical awareness of the media that surrounds them in their everyday lives. Ideally, it should begin as early as their first reading lessons in the early grades and extend through programs at the graduate level (Alvermann 2017 3).

In this way, students are able to see the world of literature, as well as the world in general, as multidimensional. Instead of things existing separately, it encourages students to see the connection between many of the things that exist in their world.

Using technology and other aspects of media literacy has additional advantages. It can help with teaching for transfer- helping meanings, expectations, generalizations, concepts, or insights developed in one learning area be used in another (Hobbs 2004 52). As educators, we know how critical this skill is in the success of our students.


This unit is designed for students in 6th grade English Language Arts classrooms in a high poverty, high needs, Title I school. There are presently two classes, with each class cycling into this ELA room for 90 minutes daily.

The Objectives of this unit will include students being able to the following:

• Understand basic film techniques and terminology used to convey meaning. Students will be introduced to vocabulary that will allow them to speak knowledgeably about the film clips that they will be seeing.

• Obtain a deeper understanding of reading concepts through the visualization of film. The overall goal of the unit is for students to learn or deepen their already learned knowledge of reading skills with film.

• Compare the experience of watching a film to reading a novel. Students will compare and contrast various aspects of a novel in print to how it was adapted into a film. Students will also compare and contrast the same reading skills in text and visually in film.


This unit can be used with any fiction novel that has a film adaptation. Each lesson plan is based on a skill/standard that needs to be taught in a reading classroom. They give ideas and strategies to meaningfully use the film to assist with teaching the skill. The lessons are based on 6th grade literature standards but can be adjusted for most grade levels.

This unit begins with exploring basic film techniques and terms. Film clips from YouTube are used to do this. These terms are included to be used by the teacher and students throughout the unit. They will allow each to clearly and accurately describe the film clips used and how they relate to the skill being taught and the novel.

The plans move from film terminology through to teaching and reviewing reading skills. Most lessons included in this unit are composed of three parts: the skill being introduced or taught with film clips that are separate from the film and novel; the skill being taught within the novel being read; and the skill being taught with the movie that corresponds to the novel. Each of these parts can be used independently of the other and in any order chosen by the teacher.

For each lesson part that involves the novel being read, the specific section of the novel is determined by the teacher. A corresponding section of the film is then found to accompany it. This can occur in the natural order of reading the novel, or once the novel is complete, sections can be chosen that better match the skill.

In each lesson within this unit, once the material is introduced, students can work independently or with a group or partner. Students can then be assessed as a group or partnership or independently, at the discretion of the teacher. Each lesson can stand on it’s own or be used together for the whole of the novel. Each teacher can decide which parts of the novel or movies best lends itself to the lesson in question. This is in part because film adaptations vary so widely in their fidelity to the book it is adapted from.

Students will use strategies such as inquiry-based learning, the jigsaw technique (groups of students working on separate parts of an activity, then presenting to each other for the whole), technology in the classroom and graphic organizers.

This unit is a template through which any novel can be used for any accompanying film. It could also be used independently of either. It was produced in this format to account for the flexibility that teachers want and sometimes need for circumstances beyond their control.

Classroom Activities

For all of the following activities, the materials needed will be specific parts of a teacher selected text, it’s corresponding clip for the accompanying film (which can be obtained online or though more traditional methods), paper, possibly with a folder to keep the papers in or a notebook. Appropriate writing tools and an appropriate graphic organizer (some are included in this unit) can also be used. For the culminating project, lesson 8, teachers may need additional arts and craft supplies appropriate to creating a “set” or props for their section of the novel. If movie making technology is available and accessible, it could also be used for this project as well.

Lesson 1 Film/Novel Comparison (@30 minutes)

Objective– Students will compare and contrast the concepts of literature and film using a Venn Diagram or similar graphic organizer.

Standard- CC.1.3.6.G

Plans- The teacher will begin by introducing the basic idea of the unit-using film meaningfully to help students better learn reading skills.

The teacher will let students know that they will first look at how text and film can be similar in some ways and how they differ.  Students will first write down as many ideas as they can on their own about how the two are alike and different using a graphic organizer.

The teacher then leads a discussion for a class version, which will be composed of information gathered from each student’s or group’s work. Attention to the following should be given if not mentioned by a student; who creates each (an author versus a team); the tools used (computers, paper, writing utensils, etc.); and how point of view is handled (through camera usage, using pronouns, etc.). The teacher can emphasize (if not already pointed out) that each medium tells a story and expresses the creator’s ideas in sometimes similar, but often different ways.

Student Assessment- Students can be assessed verbally by simply asking them to contribute to the class comparison or by using their organizers as an indicator. Appendix B contains a graphic organizer that can be used.

Lesson 2- Film history (up to 4 @45 minute periods)

Objective– Students will gain a history of the world of film in order to better understand it.

Standard- CC.1.4.6.U

Plans- The teacher will review that students will be using film along with their novel to further understand and review aspects of the novel and reading skills. However, before that is done, they will discuss a brief history of how film came to be.

In order to do this, students will do the work. First, they will form groups, then they will be given a topic related to the history of Hollywood and be charged with finding information through research about that topic. Once the information has been found by the groups, they will prepare a five to ten minute presentation for the class.

Each presentation must have a written essay (length to be determined by the teacher), and a visual component- a clip from a movie from that time period or an original skit created to show something from that time period. They must also explain how the visual component connects to their topic.

Topics that mirror Hollywood’s history can include: the Kinetoscope, the Edison Vitascope, the star system, the Production Code, “Autobiography of a Jeep”, the Hollywood Blacklist, the early days of television, home video and movie streaming. Information about most of these is included in the Background section of this paper. Students will present their completed projects to the class.

Student Assessment- Students will be assessed as a group on their ability to find pertinent information on the topic, the quality of the essay produced, the appropriateness of/ quality of the clip found or skit performed (more points can be given for the skit as it requires more creativity) and clarity of the presentation overall. Appendix C contains a graphic organizer of guided notes that can be used.

Lesson 3Film Terms (@45 minutes)

Objective-Students will learn basic film terms that can be used throughout the unit to analyze film clips.

Standard- CC.1.3.6.J

Plans- The teacher will begin with letting students know that they will learn film terms that they can use throughout the unit. These terms will allow them to discuss and better understand the film clips that they will be using.

Following, is a short list of terms that can be used to discuss and describe most film clips. The terms included accompany free YouTube clips that show the term being used in actual films. The terms used are the following:

  1. Panning– The movement of the camera from left to right or right to left to show a setting.

  1. Cuts– The act of splicing or joining of 2 shots together.

  1. Eye-line matching– a cut to show what is being looked at by a character.

  1. Voice-over-The narrator’s voice heard during a scene when the narrator is not actually seen.

  1. Aerial shot-A shot taken from a crane, plane, or high apparatus from above. (please stop at 2:45 to avoid inappropriate language) or use  (until 44 seconds)

  1. Zoom A zoom-in picks out an object or person and moves in to a close up shot. A zoom-out places that person or object in a wider context by moving out from a close up of the object or person.

(A Basic Glossary of Film terms-

Students will be given the terms along with their definition. The videos can then be used to deepen their understanding of the meanings afterwards or while being taught. They will work with a partner to then study the terms.

Student Assessment- Students can be assessed with an oral or paper and pencil quiz or by showing additional film clips (easily found through Google or YouTube’s search engines or parts of the corresponding film can be used) then having students identify the correct term (orally or on paper). Appendix D contains a graphic organizer that can be used.

Lesson 3- Novel/Film Introduction (@30 minutes)

Objective-Students will be introduced to the novel being used and to clips from the adapted movie.

Standard- CC.1.3.6.G

Plans- The teacher will explain that they will now begin looking at the actual novel and film. The introduction of the novel can be done a few different ways depending on the desired effect and preference.

In many movies, the first few minutes offer a glimpse into the lives of the main character or the theme of the movie, without giving away too much information. This can be used as a teaser for the novel in two ways.

  1. The movie can be used first. The teacher can choose the first few minutes of the movie or a clip within the movie that hints at the character or what will happen in the story without giving away too much detail. The teacher can then ask students to take notes on what they notice, who they think the main character is, where they think the story is taking place, and/or what they can learn about the character through a preliminary view of their actions or dialogue.

Then students can begin reading the novel to a predetermined point to see if they get the same information, more or less for that part of the story.


  1. The novel can be read first. The teacher can read aloud to the students or assign reading of the novel up to a predetermined point. Once this is done, students can be asked what they think they character looks like, if they feel the author gives enough or any description, what they think the setting looks like.

Students can discuss this, write about it and/or actually draw a picture to show what they visualize. Then the correlating movie clip can be shown and students can compare their ideas with that of the director.

Either method can be used to get students interested in the coming text. In both instances, students can be asked why the director or the author made choices that create similarities or differences in the movie. The teacher should also integrate film terms into the lesson to discuss the clips when appropriate.

Student Assessment- Students can be assessed by examining the work produced by the students-their notes, organizers, writings or drawings. Appendix E contains a graphic organizer that can be used. If students are drawing a picture, it can be done on the back.

[Please see PDF attached above for additional lesson plans]


Pennsylvania State Core Standards:

The PA Core 6th Grade Standards in language and writing that are supported by this unit are as follows:

CC.1.2.6.D-Determine an author’s point of view or purpose in a text and explain how it is conveyed in the text.

CC.1.3.6.B- Cite textual evidence to support analysis of what the text says explicitly, as well as inferences and/or generalizations drawn from the text.

CC.1.3.6.C-Describe how a particular story or drama’s plot unfolds in a series of episodes, as well as how the characters respond or change as the plot moves toward a resolution.

CC.1.3.6.G-Compare and contrast the experiences of reading a story, drama, or poem to listening to or viewing an audio, video, or live version of the text, including contrasting what is “seen” and “heard” when reading the text to what is perceived when listening or watching.

CC.1.3.6.K-Read and comprehend literary fiction on grade level, reading independently and proficiently.

CC.1.3.6.A -Determine a theme or central idea of a text and how it is conveyed through particular details; provide a summary of the text distinct from personal opinions or judgments.

CC.1.3.6.J- Acquire and use accurately grade-appropriate general academic and domain-specific words and phrases; gather vocabulary knowledge when considering a word or phrase important to comprehension or expression.

CC.1.4.6.U-Use technology, including the Internet, to produce and publish writing as well as to interact and collaborate with others; demonstrate sufficient command of keyboarding skills to type a minimum of three pages in a single sitting.