Books with Movie Adaptations: 5 Tips To Not Mess Up Your Film Study

Teaching books with movie adaptations and film studies

The great debate when teaching books with movie adaptations: To show the movie adaptation of the book in class or not?

Many people don’t realize that students engage in a complex analysis and evaluation process when a teacher shows a film adaptation in the classroom.

Significant skill development and learning can come from watching a movie adaptation of a book in class, but it takes some direct teaching to break down these skills so students can be aware of them.

Whenever I teach a book with a movie adaptation, I always teach a lesson about how to study film, specifically film adaptations of books.

Read on, and I’ll outline my 5 tips to not mess up your film study of ANY book you teach.

Tip #1 - Determine the Purpose of Watching the Film Version

One of the most important things to consider when showing a film adaptation is its purpose. Do you want your students to analyze the director’s adaptation? Or do you want students to sit back, relax, and enjoy the film?ย 

Once you have a clear purpose, you can communicate a clear purpose for watching a movie adaptation of a book.

Questions to ask when Determining the Purpose of Watching a Movie Adaptation:

    • What do I want my students to take away from this?
    • Do I want them to make connections to the original book?
    • Do I want to watch this film just for enjoyment?
    • Do I expect students to discuss the movie after watching it?

Tip #2 - Make Sure Students Know Film Studies is a Real Thing

I like to communicate that film studies is a REAL academic thing to my students.

Film studies emerged as a field of scholarly inquiry in the early 1970s.

At that time, there was a growing interest in film as an art form, and scholars began to examine film from various perspectives.

Since then, the field of film studies has continued to evolve, and today there are many different approaches to studying film.

Tip #3 - Teach the Skill of Active Viewing

When watching a movie, it’s essential to be an active viewer.

Active viewing means paying attention to the details on the screen and looking for clues that will help you understand the story. It also means thinking about what the characters are feeling and why they might be acting the way they are.

Being an active viewer can help students get more out of a movie. It can also make the experience more enjoyable because you’re not just passively watching the story unfold but looking for ways to connect with the characters and the world on the screen.

In my lesson on analyzing film adapations, I outline all the qualities of active viewing, so it’s clear for students.

I remind students that active viewing is a strange balance of paying attention to details while enjoying the movie experience.

To practice active viewing, I like to show students two different trailers and then ask them to discuss what they noticed was different between them.

I like to use these VERY different trailers for Suicide Squad. One is dark and moody, and the other is upbeat and set to Queen’s Bohemian Rhapsody.

Tip #4 - Make it Clear that Studying Film is a form of Analysis

The second essential skill I like to teach students about is analyzing.

Watching movies can be a great way to help students develop their analyzing, inferencing and critical thinking skills.

Analyzing means breaking down information into smaller, more manageable parts. The goal of analyzing is always to make complex topics more understandable.

Why are analysis skills necessary for watching movie adaptations of a book? It allows them to break down and notice all the different elements of the film, such as music, actors, costumes, set design and camera angles.

By watching films and paying attention to the various elements, students can better understand how all these minor details and aspects of a movie come together to tell the overall story.

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Tip #5 - Teach a Mini Lesson on How to Study Film Adaptations

I always use three adaptations of The Joker from DC comic to introduce analyzing skills to my students. I show them how each of the different Jokers has been adapted in various ways while maintaining similar traits.

My Favourite Jokers to use for this lesson:

      • Jack Nicholson as the Joker in Bathman (1989)
      • Heath Ledger as the Joker in The Dark Knight (2008)
      • Jared Leto as the Joker in Suicide Squad (2016)

The Joker Analysis in my How to Analyze Film Adaptations lesson is SUCH a hit with students – I divide the class into 3 groups and have each group practice analyzing each portrayal of the joker.

Showing movie adaptations of books in the classroom can be a great way to engage students and get them thinking critically about the material.

However, teachers must take the time to prepare appropriately for this activity, and doing so can ensure that the experience is positive for both them and their students.

Personally, anytime I am teaching a book with a movie adaptation, I will always show the film! It’s an effective engagement strategy for Gen Z students, who are the most visual generation yet!

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Carley ๐Ÿ“š Teacher Author @ Visual Thinking Classroom

Carley ๐Ÿ“š Teacher Author @ Visual Thinking Classroom

B.A., B.Ed., Graduate Certificate in Teacher Librarianship // carley@visualthinkingclassroom.com