Using Movies to Increase Reading Comprehension

Using Movies to Increase Reading Comprehension

I’m a teacher, so the major reason why I look forward to summer break is a given. I have two months of (relative) freedom from work and plenty of family time to look forward to.  I also have plenty of time to enjoy one of the other things that I look forward to during the break from school–catching the summer blockbusters. Not only are movies entertaining and a great out-of-the-heat activity, with a little creativity, you can use the silver screen to keep your kids’ reading comprehension skills fresh over the summer.

I use movies (or references to them) quite a bit in my 8th grade English/Language Arts class. Watching movies might seem counterproductive in a reading classroom, but there is a huge advantage to doing so. Movies are the written word on film, and to understand them, we have to rely on the same comprehension skills that we need to read books. A reluctant reader might balk at discussing the plot of a book, but that same child may discuss the plot of a movie enthusiastically. Helping kids make the connection between the skills needed to understand movies and the skills needed to understand books can help them feel more confident in their English classrooms.

Using movies (and even TV shows!) to help reading comprehension is easy! It’s just a matter of using the right types of questions in your discussions about what you’ve viewed. Here are some and how they relate to reading comprehension:

Character Analysis:

  • Who was the main character (protagonist)?
  • Who (or what) was the protagonist up against? (Who was the antagonist?)
  • Which character did you like the most? Why?
  • How did he/she feel when (some event) happened? Why? Would you have felt the same way?
  • Did you notice if any characters changed their emotions or opinions? Who, and how did they change?

Plot & Setting:

  • Where does the story take place? How might the story have been different if there was a different setting or time period?
  • What is the main conflict or problem the main character is facing?
  • How was the problem solved?
  • What did you think was the most exciting part and why?
  • What was the cause/effect of [insert event here]?
Theme: 
  • What is the lesson (or moral) of the story?
  • How did the characters learn (or not learn) the lesson?

Remember–the best way to encourage kids to talk about a movie is to join in the discussion yourself! For every question that you ask, offer up some related opinions or extended thoughts of your own. Keep the discussion on a natural, conversational level.

Like most parents, I sometimes worry about my kids’ brains turning to mush from all of the extra “screen time” they get during the summer, as if they’ll lose an ounce of intelligence for every minute they spend watching TV, playing video games, or goofing off on the computer. At least I know I can preserve at least some of their smarts with the help of a good movie.

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