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.
• 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? Why?
Want to hold students accountable while watching a movie? Check out this No Prep Movie Vs. Book Resource.
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.
- 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.
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!
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
- The Tale of Despereaux
- The Phantom Tollbooth
- Charlotte's Web
- Wizard of Oz
- Charlie and the Chocolate Factory
- James and the Giant Peach
- 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
- 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
Never Stress Over Sub Plans Again!
Make copies, find a fiction book, and you'll be ready for any emergency that comes your way!