Watching classic movies is a pastime I introduced to my youngest daughter at as early an age as possible. It took with her. Other than the Food Network, her favorite television channel is Turner Classic Movies. We have to check to see if there's anything good playing before we look for other fare. Movies as Literature
takes that pastime to a new level using 17 classic movies as the basis for a one-year high school language arts course. No, this isn't about watching movies in the place of doing real literature or writing study. As the Stouts explain in the introduction, carefully selected movies work well to demonstrate the elements of literature and literary analysis. They compare a movie plot to the structure of a short story with usually one point of view, a single major plotline, and limited number of well-defined characters. The movies they've chosen to use in this course are suited to literary analysis as well as classic films noted for their cinematic excellence. The films ran the gamut of movie genres including westerns, drama, action adventure, musicals, suspense, and comedy.
The author's suggest that each lesson should take from ten to twelve days. The first day, students must watch the movie in silence without interruption. This requirement for complete attention to the movie is necessary for the student to be able to respond in the detail required for the discussion and essay questions. The movie viewing in this course is not meant primarily for entertainment purposes. After watching the movie in this manner, students will on subsequent days read the questions for the lesson and view the movie again, this time starting and stopping where necessary to make notes. After this task has been completed, the student and teacher will spend time going through the 22 discussion questions and discuss possible responses to the essay questions. This should take approximately one week to complete. The second week of the lesson is devoted to work on the three composition questions. Students are to work through a prewriting, drafting, revising, editing, and publishing sequence for each composition. This process is outlined in the introduction of the book along with an explanation of how to write an essay and how to evaluate an essay.
Each lesson includes the movie's major credits, a bit of background, suggestions for while you watch, and information on the literary terms and themes to be studied in the lesson. This page is to be read before watching the movie. The discussion and composition questions follow. The lesson concludes with suggestions for extended activities. These often include reading the original work the movie is based on or watching additional movies or reading additional books that build on the themes expressed in the lesson movie. A final exam is included.
The teacher's guide portion of the book includes answer to all discussion and composition questions. The composition question answers give possible points to include with the understanding that no student-composition would necessarily include all points. Direction is given in what to consider a complete answer and that student's taking a contrasting point of view should not be considered wrong. All essays should be well supported. Your own knowledge of the movie is critical to properly evaluating these essays. Re-watch the movies even if you've seen them before. Answers for the final exam are also provided. The book concludes with a glossary of literary terms and a plot summary for each of the movies.
The student background section for each movie includes information that should assist you to determine if the movie is suitable for your student. No movie is rated stronger than PG-13. The course was designed for high school students who should have no problems with the situations in those movies rated PG-13, but you may wish to visit the Family Style Film Guide
Although this is meant to be a high school level language arts course, the authors suggest that the first six movies can be used in grades 7 and 8. They also suggest that an Honors English credit could be given for those students that successfully complete course work and a minimum of five of the extended activities. You may also choose to use the course over a period of several years in grades 7 to 12.
The student portions of the book may be copied to provide an individual notebook for students. There isn't sufficient room on these pages to write answers. If you prefer, you may purchase a consumable student work book that does offer the space required to write answers.
In the end, we chose not to use this curriculum, although I do intend to use the Henry V lesson when we start our study of Shakespeare this year. I offered the course to my daughter whose immediate response was decidedly negative. Classic movies are a treat for us that we share like a good piece of chocolate. Chattering through the movie is half the fun as we share our reactions to the events on the screen. She'd rather keep things as they are than turn our special time into a language arts learning experience. I can't blame her.
Movies Used: Shane, Friendly Persuasion, The Quiet Man, Arsenic and Old Lace, The Music Man, E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial, The Maltese Falcon, Rear Window, Emma, The Philadelphia Story, The Journey of August King, To Kill a Mockingbird, A Raisin in the Sun, Raiders of the Lost Ark, Henry V, A Man for All Seasons, and Chariots of Fire.