Who doesn’t love an in-class movie day, especially after wrapping up a good book? Screening film adaptations of the texts students read is a great conclusion to any literature unit. But, of course, there should be some educational merit behind movie days, right? Luckily, the Common Core State Standards agree.

One of the standards for English language arts requires students to "analyze multiple interpretations of a story, drama, or poem (e.g., recorded or live production of a play or recorded novel or poetry), evaluating how each version interprets the source text." A movie can surely be one of those interpretations!

Watching a movie adaptation can help your students—especially visual learners—better understand the book itself. For instance, when students watch a scene instead of reading one, they can use nonverbal cues to infer the characters’ thoughts and feelings.

If you choose to screen a movie adaptation in class, it’s important to consider what parts of the film you want your students to analyze. Do you plan to highlight the differences between the film and the source material? The way in which a filmmaker converts specific scenes from the book to the screen? If you're teaching a book with a lot of internal monologue, how does the film deal with that?

Our free lesson plan Analyzing Multiple Interpretations of Literature breaks down all of those questions and more into several activities your students can complete after reading a book and viewing its movie adaptation.

How should I choose a film adaptation?

When it comes to selecting a film adaptation to show your students, there are a number of important factors to consider. If there’s only one film adaptation of the book available, choosing a film is pretty easy! But when there are multiple movie versions, the decision becomes complicated. Here are some tips for choosing a movie for your classroom.

Watch the movie(s) under consideration by yourself.

This first point might seem obvious, but we think it's a good idea to know exactly what media you're bringing into the classroom so there are no surprises when a character says or does something that isn’t (or is!) in the book. Plus, you definitely don't want to be caught off guard by any profanity or otherwise potentially objectionable content.

Once you've watched the movie, you can start to weigh the pros and cons of showing it in your classroom, and you'll know whether there's material in the movie that might require you to send a note to parents or have them sign a permission form.

Determine how closely the adaptation sticks to the source material.

Some of your teaching objectives might involve having your students analyze the differences between the film and the book and evaluating the effects of those changes. If that's the case, you're going to want a film that has clear differences. Even a film that is true to the text can be compared to the book if elements like setting, costume design, or time period are different. If the plot is the same, does a change in setting matter? What effect might that have on your interpretation?

In any case, it's a good idea to know just how close the film is to the source material.

Consider the inherent differences between movies and books.

Discussions about how the medium shapes the adaptation can be especially fruitful. If students start thinking about the strengths and weaknesses of particular media, they'll likely develop a better understanding of how authors and filmmakers might tell a story differently.

When a filmmaker decides to stray from the original source’s plot, characterization, etc., are these changes influenced by the medium of adaptation? Or, might these changes be the result of a poor understanding of the source material? A film is a collective project, the work of many people; how does one person's performance, whether actor, director, or cinematographer, affect the film, and how does that, in turn, affect the interpretation of the film's quality relative to the book?

There's a lot to talk about when it comes to interpretations of books through other media, to be sure! How do you teach using film in your classroom? Let us know on Facebook!