compare and contrast a book vs a movie - activities and questions for 3rd, 4th, and 5th grade students

Compare and Contrast A Book and Movie Activities

compare and contrast a book vs a movie - activities and questions for 3rd, 4th, and 5th grade students

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.  Really, however, I just needed some time to play catch up.

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.  My students filled in a blank Book Vs. Movie Venn Diagram, and most of the similarities and differences they found were simply the first observations that came to their head.  These were surface level observations that required no real thinking.

I wanted my students to think more critically and more deeply. 

Comparing and contrasting a book and a movie can be a very meaningful, educational experience that requires critical thinking - and without all the prep.  Use the questions and activity ideas below to help make your movie vs book lesson plans more rigorous for your 3rd, 4th, and 5th grade students.

Or, check out these ready to use, no prep activities for comparing books and movies.

Questions to Include in Your Movie Vs. Book Lesson Plans

I found the best way to encourage deeper thinking was to ask upper elementary 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.  (No duh - teachers use before, during, and after reading questions with books. For some reason it took me a while to translate that to movies.)

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.

Use the example questions below in your own compare and contrast lesson plans.  And while you're at it, teach students to ask their own meaningful questions.  

Pre-Movie Questions

• 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?

Post-Movie Questions

• 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?  Why?

Want to hold students accountable while watching a movie?  Check out this No Prep Movie Vs. Book Resource.

Compare and contrast books to movies in 3rd, 4th, and 5th grade

Activity Ideas to Compare and Contrast

Apart from asking questions, there several fun, yet rigorous activities you can do with your 3rd, 4th, and 5th grade students to help them compare and contrast the movie.

For example:

  • 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.
  • Have students use paragraph frames to write an opinion paper explaining which was better - the book or the movie.

Principal Problems?

Some principals look down on activities like this for upper elementary students, 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!  

Activities to compare and contrast a movie with its book for 3rd grade, 4th grade, and 5th grade.

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.

  • Because of Winn Dixie
  • Matilda
  • The Tale of Despereaux
  • The Phantom Tollbooth
  • Charlotte's Web
  • Wizard of Oz
  • Charlie and the Chocolate Factory
  • Holes
  • James and the Giant Peach
  • Stellaluna
  • Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs
  • Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMN
  • Where the Red Fern Grows
  • Polar Express (a great option for a fun Christmas activity)
  • The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe
  • The Indian in the Cupboard
  • Where the Wild Things Are
  • Fantastic Mr. Fox
  • Spookley the Square Pumpkin
  • The BFG
  • How to Train Your Dragon
  • Hoot
  • Wonder
  • Jumanji
  • A Wrinkle in Time
  • Tuck Everlasting
  • Percy Jackson Series
  • Harry Potter Series (your students who love Harry Potter might like some of these similar books)
  • The Mouse and the Motorcycle
  • The Witches
  • City of Ember
  • Escape from Mr. Lemoncello's Library
  • Freak the Mighty
  • Flora and Ulysses
  • The Bad Guys
  • Maniac Magee
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    Comments 178

    1. I love to do Polar Express, Tuck Everlasting, Jumanji, The Wizard of Oz, and Charlotte’s Web (both the cartoon and regular one). I wish I could do them all in a year, but I have to pick a couple to do each year. I am doing a 4/5 split this year, so it will be harder to decide.

    2. I am currently teaching a Christmas carol to my 7th grade learning support students. We are going back and forth between reading the play and watching the movie. However, as far as our comparing and contrasting go, we are having more discussion than anything. This would be s fantastic resource that I could use with them right now!

    3. I love to compare and contrast The BFG. I feel that students often times enjoy the movie so much more after they have read and discussed the book. There are so many things in the book that are not in the movie and the students love to point them out.

    4. I love to compare and contrast The BFG. I feel that students often times enjoy the movie so much more after they have read and discussed the book. There are so many things in the book that are not in the movie and the students love to point them out.

    5. Sarah, Plain and Tall…I’m from Kansas and I love this book because it reminds me of home and my grandparents farm. The movie was actually shot in Emporia, Kansas, where I attended college, and I actually waited on Christopher Walken at a restaurant I worked at at the time. 🙂 Great memories!

    6. I like to compare Charles Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol” with Theodor Seuss Geisel’s “How the Grinch Stole Christmas”. Fingers crossed!
      Thanks for hosting this giveaway.
      Special Ed Shenanigans

    7. I loved comparing the first Harry Potter because my students loved the book and I was able to get permission to show the movie. I also do Because of Winn-Dixie and my students love that

    8. I just commented and realized that I hit submit too quickly. I meant to add that we like to compare Number the Stars to the Disney movie Miracle at Midnight. I accidentally mentioned the picture book The Butterfly. (Which is another great comparison)

      1. My favorite book to read and compare with the movie is the Newberry Award-winning novel The Phantom Tollbooth… such amazing fun with words, maps, adventure, and learning important lessons. Truly a timeless treasure! 🙂

    9. I am a first year teacher and my 4th grade students and I have just completed reading aloud all 17 Chapters of “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone” – it has taken us the entire semester! I was able to get approval for us to the watch the movie the last day before winter break, and I could really use some compare/contrast activities to make the experience more meaningful (and to fill the afternoon when the movie is done!) Here’s hoping you choose a newbie to the profession!
      (Krista G., TMP member and 4th grade teacher in Johns Creek,GA)

    10. We’re reading Fantastic Mr Fox at the moment, because the film is quite different it’s really interesting to see what the students can pick apart for an author’s intent and why it might be different.

    11. Percy Jackson – The Lightning Thief! My kids love it!

      I would love to compare/contrast The Giver. I haven’t seen the movie yet, but I love the book! 🙂 Thank you and happy holidays!

    12. I am an absolute Wizard of Oz fanatic! I even had a “Toto” dog and named her Ruby, after the red slippers! I always wanted to to compare and contrast with the book and movie, but couldn’t find a resource where my admin. would allow me to do it. I also love Charlie and the Chocolate Factory as well! And of course WONDER!

    13. Thank you for all you thorough work. In my 5th grade class, we read and watch War Horse. The film adaptation is a favorite among my students. They love comparing the book and movie to see the differences. One of most talked about differences is about Joey and Albert at the end. I will not say more and spoil it! Check it out!

    14. My favorite book to compare to the movie is The Grinch. We do the animated and the Jim Carrey version. Now, there is a new movie. We could start comparing the movies to each other!

    15. Wonder!!!! My class LOVES the book, and they are SO excited to watch the movie! They are very similar, but my kids were mad they left a few things out, and laugh at how different the characters looked compared to what they had imagined!

    16. I like to use compare and contrast of the movie and the book with either The Polar Express or Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. I use the old version of this movie and book rather than the Johnny Depp version which is almost identical to the book.

    17. I’m a huge Roald Dahl fan and do at leats two of his books a year. My favourites for compare and contrast book to movie are The BFG and Charlie and the Chocolate factory. This is more about content and missed bits than plot change.

      Another good one is The Tale of Despereaux – the movie is so sanitised and happified (is that a word?!) compared to the darker, and in my opinion better, book – more opportunity for critical thinking.

    18. Our school is showing The Polar Express to families as a fun evening activity next week. I would love to read my students the book and compare and contrast the movie and book:-)

      Thanks for the awesome free resources!!!

    19. We love comparing and contrasting both Where the Red Fern Grows, To Kill a Mockingbird a Mockingbird and Old Man and the Sea.
      I would love to do the same with Freak the Mighty or The Giver!

    20. I love reading Because of Winn Dixie and we are going to watch the movie this year too! I also love the Polar Express!! I would love use your resources please!

    21. Our grade level loves to compare and contrast “The Polar Express.” We do a whole week centered around this book, then wrap up the week with a Polar Express party and the movie. Then we complete a graphic organizer to compare and contrast both of them, and write a short essay response.

    22. I love to use Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone or Chamber of Secrets with upper elementary because I’m a huge HP nerd. They take a long time to read though!

    23. This is such a fun activity! I’d like to try the Nutcracker, once the new movie comes out, or use an older version. I’d love to see if there is a movie for Hatchet. The Indian in the Cupboard would be fun!

    24. I like to compare/contrast “Series of Unfortunate Events”. My 4th graders love that book. We use the old movie with Jim Carey, and now with the Netflix version they are able to view it at home and come up with yet another take on the story.

    25. I love your resources! I look forward to and enjoy the freebies you send! They are greatly appreciated. I would like to compare/contrast Wonder. I am currently reading the book to my students. Thank you! 🙂

    26. I read Stelluna to my class every year, but I didn’t realize there was a movie too! I am definitely going to have to get the movie so we can compare and contrast the book vs movie. Thanks for the idea!

    27. We usually compare and contrast Maniac Magee. The book is amazing, but the movie leaves out SO much of the story! Great one to prove the book is much better.

    28. I love to compare and contrast the book/movie Wonder. Both the book and the movie are wonderful and my students enjoy both. I am doing Tuck Everlasting and The Giver this year as well.

    29. We compare and contrast the movie The Best Christmas Pageant Ever, Maniac Magee, and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. My kids love finding ways the movie is different. Many of them have also promised me they will create a movie for There’s a Boy in the Girls’ Bathroom when they grow up. It is one of our favorites! 🙂

    30. When I taught third grade I would compare and contrast Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and Charlotte’s Web. With my sixth graders, we compare and contrast Where the Red Fern Grows.

    31. I love compare and contrasting The Outsiders with my 6th graders, but this year I’m embarking on a new one – Percy Jackson and the Olympians – The Lightning Thief. The students are so jazzed about finishing the book and looking forward to watching the movie!!

    32. My class reads Wizard of Oz every year. Of course, we also watch the movie. It’s the best compare & contrast!
      Although we did do Because if Winn Dixie last year too, because it was a Battle of Books. 😉

    33. This time of year I like to “How the Grinch Stole Christmas” as a compare and contrast of the book versus the movie. It has such a nice message.

    34. I have been comparing and contrasting movies for years. The last few years it has been harder to find the time because some administrators do not feel that showing a movie is educational. Last year I showed the movie Holes after having read the book with my fourth graders. I think I will go back to my all time favorite this year, Peter Pan (the cartoon). Many of my students have not heard of the great Disney classic movies yet alone read one.

    35. My students and I have been reading Escape from Mr Lemoncello’s Library and I just learned there is a series/movie! I’d love to use your resources!

    36. We used Winn Dixie this year, which was a hit. We also did this last year with Wonder. We read it aloud to start the year and watched it towards the end to have a full circle ending! I’d love to try the Polar Express around this time of year as well.

    37. I love to use Mr. Popper’s Penguins to compare and contrast a book and a movie. There students have to really listen and focus to find the similarities in the two. They always love how many differences there are and are very quick to point them out…so much so that they can hardly watch the movie for telling each other and me things like, “Hey! They didn’t do that in the book.” or “That’s not anything like how Mr. Popper acted in the book.” I love to see that they are paying attention to those details, and it helps me know how well they listened to the book as we read it in class. I would love to have additional resources to use in my classroom to make my book/movie comparison lessons more engaging. Thank you for the opportunity, and thank you for all that you do and share with educators.

    38. I love to compare and contrast The Sign of The Beaver. It’s old but every year the students love it. The movie is different enough that it gives lots of opportunities for discussions.

    39. I also love reading Matilda! So many themes you can pull from that text.
      Around this time of year, we like to read The Grinch, discuss it in depth, then watch the classic version of the movie. Inadvertently, we are also able to make comparisons with the more recent version of The Grinch and compare both adaptations with the book.

    40. I love Polar Express of course! But earlier this year we did Stone Fox with my third graders and that was so fun! They loved finding all the little differences!

    41. Where the red fern grows is an excellent comparison but watching the movie students can really feel the emotion which in the book they may not understand some of the events that take place

    42. My favorite book/movie to compare and contrast is “Bridge to Terabithia” by Katherine Paterson. The students get to compare and contrast events that happen in the book and not in the movie (or vice versa), but an added bonus is they get to compare and contrast the visual that they create in their minds of imaginary world Terabithia and the magical world the producers made. There are lot of points to compare that it always leads to a great discussion!

    43. My third graders have been reading Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, and they have been loving it!! We will be finishing it next week, so the following week (right before break) we will be watching the movie! I was already planning on having my students compare and contrast the movie to the book, so this resources would definitely be a huge help!!

    44. A unit my students are doing focuses on the Nez Perce Indian tribe. We read the book, Thunder Rolling in the Mountains, and then watch the movie, I Will Cry No More Forever. I have my students do some comparing/contrasting, but I would love your resources! Thank you!

    45. The first book we read is Mrs Frisby and the Rays of NIMH. We then compare and contrast it with the movie, the Rats of Nimh. This time of year we read A Christmas Carol together and then watch A Muppet Christmas Carol and compare. It’s a bit silly, but so fun for the last week before Christmas break. I also hope to use The Man Who Invented Christmas and do a little compare and contrast with Dickens actual life.

    46. So I would love to compare and contrast Harry Potter, but it is such a taboo book and I don’t know that I’d even want to try it. I would also love Matilda! I’ve never thought of that one, but I saw it on the list as I was scrolling through, and thought it would sound fun!

    47. I would love to compare and contrast “The Polar Express” movie and book. Not only is it perfect to read around the holidays, but we are actually working on comparing and contrasting right now. It is a perfect way to do something fun and interesting with the kids that will also be educational and get them in the holiday spirit.

    48. Charlie and the Chocolate Factory is the latest book/movie we have done this with. Back when the first Harry Potter movie came out, we did that one and it was a HUGE hit. There were so many points to compare and contrast in that set! The kids loved it!!! One student told me that reading the book was like a movie playing is his head, because the details were so well written in the book. I think I may need to recycle that one. 🙂

      Thank you! Have a great day!

    49. I am currently reading Tale of Depereaux with my four sections of language arts classes. I would love to have some resources to help my students compare and contrast the book to the movie!

      Thank you,
      Ms. G Heiligenstein

    50. My all time favorite read aloud and movie to watch with my kids is Holes! I read this book as a kid probably 5 or 6 times. I love being able to share my love for this book and the movie. 🙂 It’s great for 5th and 6th grade students.

    51. I love comparing Balto to the movie. The real story to the cartoon. I would love to have this resource to use during this unit. Happy Holidays.

    52. My students are a little older than yours but good materials are good materials. We are currently doing 2 different book/movie projects (the students had a choice.) We are doing Wonder and The Hate U Give.

    53. I’ve been receiving your newsletter for some time now. Perhaps I originally requested your sub plans, but if so I’m afraid I’ve mislaid them. Now when I click on the button to request them, nothing happens.

      Could you please send me your sub plans, maybe via email?


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