As the school year winds down in American schools, teachers are looking for lesson plans that engage students and give legitimate learning opportunities.
This short story lesson plan for short stories made into movies engages students, gives teachers and students a break from traditional teaching and learning methods, and helps students develop critical thinking skills.
The Movie Stigma
There may be someone in your building right now on day 23 of a 49-day Disney festival that has nothing to do with an academic subject matter. Perhaps it's going on right next door, disrupting your instruction and causing your students to ask why your class doesn't do the same?
That's not what this short story lesson plan is about. It has ELA Standards that go with it.
- Cite strong and thorough textual evidence to support analysis.
- Determine the theme of a literary work.
- Analyze the representation of a subject or a key scene in two different artistic mediums.
This last standard is critical. It also tells you, the teacher, that you should show an occasional movie in your classroom, as long as it is associated with students analyzing a scene or subject represented in two artistic mediums--in writing and in film, for example.
In other words, you show a 25-minute video interpretation of the short story your class has just read doesn't put you on equal grounds with the guy showing Frozen in room 247.
Short Story Lesson Plan: Analyzing and Interpreting Short Stories Made into Movies
You can make this a review for a short story unit or a stand-alone assignment.
- Read a short story that's been made into a movie.
- Create a two-column chart. Title the left column "Important Elements in the Story." Label the right column "Video Comparison."
- List 5-10 things from the short story. These things can be important events, characters, setting, literary elements, etc.
- As you watch the video interpretation, list how the elements you wrote in the left column are portrayed in the right column.
- Discuss and analyze.
I'll make this assignment a ton easier by linking to this handout.
Video is a great tool for differentiating instruction. All students will rejoice at the opportunity to "take a break." Visual learners benefit from the visual part of the lesson. English Language Learners and those with reading comprehension difficulties will be on equal footing with their peers. It is, after all, teaching analysis more than reading comprehension.
You taught the lesson. Your students did the assignment. Let's grade it.
- The Chart. This is the obvious main part of the short story lesson. The left column must show evidence that students understood the story on many levels. The right column must show evidence of critical thinking and the ability to compare. Facts must be correct and provide the foundation for higher level thinking skills.
- Digging Deeper. There are at least two ways to extend learning: (1) Discussion. To prove mastery of the skill, students should comment on why the director chose to portray a scene in a particular way. Because class discussion is a group activity, it's more of a participation/formative assessment. For summative assessments, assign an analysis paragraph with the same requirements.
Short Stories Made into Movies
You can find a video version of just about every short story on YouTube. Not all of them are that good. The following are examples of the best short stories I’ve found that were made into movies.
"The Veldt" and "A Sound of Thunder" by Ray Bradbury. In addition to being one of the greatest science fiction writers of the 20th century, Bradbury had a TV show--The Ray Bradbury Theater. Two of the stories he included in the series are "The Veldt" and
Are these episodes cheesy? Yes. Are the special effects 1980ish? Yes. Are they excellent for teaching this lesson? Yes.
"Lamb to the Slaughter" by Roald Dahl. This falls under the high interest short story category. It becomes even more high interest when you include this Alfred Hitchcock video version of the story. Some prefer the classic
"The Lottery" by Shirley Jackson. Jackson made winning the lottery horrible before The Hunger Games made it cool. These movies are old but make a great review of the story and add insight to themes in the story. I prefer this one. Others prefer this one.
"The Open Window" by Saki. You ever have those days when you have a few minutes left and you're not sure how to fill it effectively. Try this "Open Window" video interpretation. It's one of the finest and shortest short stories made into movies.
"An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge" by Ambrose Bierce. This is a difficult short story to make into a movie. But someone did it. It's so good that Rod Serling included it in his Twilight Zone series. Because "An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge" experiments with time and stream of consciousness, students often have trouble understanding it. This movie will help.
"To Build a Fire" by Jack London. A story that involves a man trying to build a fire before he freezes to death doesn't sound like it'd be a compelling movie, but it is.