Wednesday, May 9, 2007

Hooray for Hollywood

I have one or two more left in the Serendipity Conference series, but for now a quickie post, as it's the time of year at work when all the end-of-year events and jobs seem to come cascading down like (to mix a metaphor/simile) some kind of crazy roller-coaster heading into summer.

It's a good time of year to do some low-key, easy lesson plans. One of my favorites for 4th and 5th grade is "Books into Movies."

First, I pull a whole bunch of books that have been made into movies and put them out on the tables (Wikipedia has a pretty good list). When the class comes in, they have to look at the books on the tables and guess what they have in common. Some years they guess and guess and never come up with the answer ("Animals!" "No, they're all fantasy!" "No, they're all classics!"), but this year someone guessed it almost right away in both 4th grade classes.

Then we talk for a while about the differences between books and movies: Have they ever had the experience of reading a book and then seeing the movie, and wondering how the two can even have the same title? What are some reasons that a movie might have to be different from a book? Why might the people making the movie decide to change things around?

This year I talked about my experience seeing the movie "Harriet the Spy" after loving the book as a kid, especially my disappointment that Harriet was so skinny and cute (I showed them the illustrations from the book as a comparison) and that the movie wasn't set in New York. I also gave them some of the scoop about the upcoming Inkheart movie.

They did some silent reading, choosing a book from one of the tables (I encouraged, but didn't require, that they pick a book they'd never read but whose movie adaptation they'd seen), and then after checkout we read Shrek, which is a great example of a book that's completely different from the movie. I thought they might think it was too young for them, but both classes were highly amused by Shrek's evil temper and by the poetry.

When asked about books and movies in class, kids will dutifully reply "The book is always better": they've learned that books are supposed to be Good for Them and movies are faintly unwholesome fun. Sometimes teachers even act like the existence of a movie taints the book, and won't let kids read books for reports if they've already seen the movie.

Kids believe this, too; I don't know how many times I've suggested a book to a kid, only to have them shrug it away with "Oh, I already saw the movie of that." This class shakes that up a little and asks them to think about the two mediums in a different way. Plus, it's just a blast to teach.


Charlotte said...

My son's kindergarden teacher was on the same wavelength as you--she read them Trumpet of the Swan, then showed them the movie and asked them to critically compare the two...I was impressed!

susan said...

That is a wonderful idea. I wish you'd been my librarian in elementary school...which I realize is a time-bending impossibility. But still. I had dull librarians. I still loved books, but the librarians were more about protecting the books from the hands of children who might mess them up than about introducing us to reading.

Pamelamama said...

Excellent lesson! Did I tell you I used to teach media literacy?

liz said...

Oooh! Can I send MM to your school when he's in 4th grade?

Genevieve said...

We do a lot of this at home -- and in fact, when J. was young, he used to randomly say "that's not in the book!" as a joke, having heard me say that several times during the Anne of Green Gables movie (which I loved -- well, the first one, anyway -- despite the changes).

But we haven't read Shrek, so we should do that!

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