My first year teaching – when I was constantly running on empty – I slipped several movie watching afternoons into my lesson plans. I defended this as educational, claiming that we were going to compare and contrast the book and movie.
Now, we did actually spend some time comparing and contrasting the book with the movie, but this was still a little bit of a cop-out. Really, I just needed some time to play catch up, and a movie was the easiest way to get some extra time.
Since then, however, I’ve discovered how educational this activity can actually be – when I take the time to plan an intentional lesson.
My original, last minute lesson involved a blank Venn Diagram for students to fill in. There was nothing wrong with this, but my 3rd grade students usually didn’t spend much time thinking critically about the differences and similarities between the book and the movie. Instead, they simply wrote down the first things that came into their head, which usually were surface level observations.
I wanted my students to think more critically and more deeply.
I found the best way to encourage deeper thinking was to ask students some questions before watching the movie so that they would be thinking more critically while watching the movie. This also helped my 3rd graders think about what they expected from the movie.
Then, after the movie, I encouraged my students to think about very specific details about the book and movie, rather than just comparing and contrasting using the first thing that popped into their heads.
Not all of the questions I asked were directly related to comparing and contrasting the book and the movie, but these questions got students thinking more critically, which made their comparisons later more thoughtful.
• What do you think your favorite part of the movie will be, and why?
• What do you think the main characters will look like/act like?
• What do you think the main setting will look like? Will it be messy, small, bright, noisy, beautiful, spooky, cold, colorful, etc?
• What parts of the book do you think will be cut out of the movie?
• What should be added to the movie to make it better than the book?
• Which do you think you will enjoy more – the book or the movie? Why?
• What was your favorite scene in the book? Would you be upset if this scene was changed in the movie?
• What parts of the book will be difficult to portray in the movie? For example, how should the movie portray what a character is thinking?
• Which did you enjoy more – the book or the movie? Why?
• Did the main characters look and act like you expected? Why or why not?
• Did the main setting look like you expected? Why or why not?
• Think about the scenes that the movie changed so that they were different from the book. What scenes do you wish hadn’t been changed? What scenes were better because of the change?
• What parts of the book did the movie leave out? What scenes were added to the movie that weren’t in the book? Were these changes good or bad, and why?
• What are some other differences between the book and the movie?
• What stayed the same in both the book and the movie?
• Whose point of view do you agree with more – the author of the book or the director of the movie?
Compare and Contrast Activities
Apart from asking questions, there several fun, yet rigorous activities you can do with your students to help them compare and contrast the movie.
- Have students assign a grade to the movie based on how well it stayed true to the book, and then defend the grade.
- Have students write an essay comparing and contrasting the movie and the book.
- Have students write book reviews and movie reviews.
- Have partners or groups of students list as many differences they can find. See what group can find the most!
- Have students think about one of the scenes that wasn't included in the movie. Then, have them draw/write about what it would have looked like if the director would have included it.
Some principals look down on activities like this, and understandably so. Too often, movies are used as a way to babysit students – however, this activity really can be meaningful.
This no prep resource is a great way to convince your principal that comparing and contrasting a book with its movie version can be rigorous. They will LOVE the scaffolded compare and contrast essay and other activities. Best of all, it can be used over and over again with ANY book that has a movie companion.
This is a great activity for the end of the year!
Books and Movies that can be Compared and Contrasted
Below is a list of children’s books that are also movies. Before showing the movies to your class, be aware of your school’s policy on movies. Some of these are rated PG or PG-13 and have some language and content that you might want to fast-forward through or that might require parental consent. The links below are also affiliate links.
• Because of Winn Dixie – Book and Movie
• Matilda – Book and Movie
• The Tale of Despereaux – Book and Movie
• The Phantom Tollbooth – The Phantom Tollbooth and Movie
• Charlotte’s Web – Book and Movie
• Wizard of Oz – Book and Movie
• Charlie and the Chocolate Factory – Book and Movie
• Holes – Book and Movie
• James and the Giant Peach – Book and Movie
• Stellaluna – Book and Movie
• Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs – Book and Movie
• Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMN – Bookand Movie
• Where the Red Fern Grows – Bookand Movie
• Polar Express – Book and Movie
• The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe – Book and Movie
• The Indian in the Cupboard – Book and Movie
• Where the Wild Things Are – Book and Movie
• Fantastic Mr. Fox – Book and Movie
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