Learn All Year Long
Read for My Summer
Beat the summer heat with engaging activities from ReadWriteThink.org.
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Rate This Movie! Hold a Viewing Party
|Grades||9 – 12|
|Activity Time||Approximately 2 hours to watch the movie, plus time set aside for the salon. The activity can be split into 2 sessions if necessary—one for viewing, another for the salon.|
- A group of friends (see More Ideas to Try below for a single person activity)
- Access to a movie
- Note paper
- Writing utensils
- Set up a time and place for the group of friends to watch a movie. The movie can be an old favorite, a recent home video release, something on TV, or a brand new blockbuster in theaters—depending on preferences or constraints (budget, transportation, time).
- Before viewing the movie, teens should prepare themselves by considering the tricks movie makers use for dramatic effect, such as:
- Editing (For example, if it’s an action movie, are the fight scenes too fast to follow easily? If it’s a horror movie, is the violence shown onscreen or left up to the imagination?)
- Music (When does the music give clues to how you’re supposed to be feeling? Is a monster lurking right around the corner, or are things about to get romantic? Are the characters heading off on a carefree road trip?)
- Camera Angles (A close-up draws us right into the conversation, whereas a view from above through a turning ceiling fan keeps us at a distance, like a spy.)
- After the movie is over, let the salon begin! Teens start by grading the movie. Using a five-star rating system, five stars being the best and one star being the worst, each person marks his/her initial grade of the movie at the top of the page.
- Begin the discussion by talking about general first impressions. How was the acting? Did the ending work? Was the first half exciting, and the second half boring, or vice versa? If it was a comedy, was it funny? If it was a horror movie, was it scary, gory, both, or neither? Talk about what jumped out the most for each viewer.
- Now the teens make a list of discussion points as a group. Here are some examples:
- Believability (Was the acting believable? Did anything seem out of place? Was everything sufficiently explained—such as why a demonic cube turned people into flesh-eating monsters, or how a quirky uncle had the know-how to build a flying car?)
- Character Development (Were the characters “flat,” meaning they lacked emotional depth, like a murderer on a rampage just because he gets a kick out of violence? Or were the characters complex, with understandable reasons behind their behavior?)
- Themes (Did you detect any messages pertaining to social issues, such as religion or war? Did you notice any recurring images, shapes, or even colors?)
- Predictability (Were the jokes too obvious? Was the dialogue clichéd? Did a longing gaze distract from the action, foreshadowing romance?)
- Story/Plot (Was it engaging and surprising or just “the same old thing”? Did events unfold in a logical way, one thing leading to another? Was it too tidy, like a fairy tale? Was it a messy jumble of nonsense that didn’t hold your attention?)
- Direction (Did the movie have a flashy or jarring style, or was it slow and orderly?)
- Cinematography (Was the basic look of the film pleasing? Think about styles, such as a stationary camera vs. a moving camera; vibrant colors vs. dull and washed out; wide, sweeping shots of the countryside vs. tight shots in a motel room.)
- Casting (Were the actors appropriate for the characters?)
- Production value (Was it a low-budget or big-budget movie and how did that affect the experience? Were the special effects cartoonish or realistic?)
- Innovation (Did it have groundbreaking special effects or interesting camera work? Did the story have fresh twists, snappy dialogue, strange situations? What hadn’t you seen before?)
- Once the list is agreed on, participants explore the meaning behind each discussion point as a group, hashing over their impressions and interpretations of relevant concepts and how those impressions affected their movie-watching experience.
- When all remarks have been wrapped up, each teen rates each discussion point according to his or her likes and dislikes. For example, if the movie was highly predictable and the teen was disappointed by that, he/she would give “Predictability” one star.
- When all participants are satisfied that their points have been fairly discussed and considered, each calculates his/her average by adding all of his/her star ratings together and dividing them by the number of discussion points.
- Now that everyone has taken each other’s insights into account and weighed them against his or her own, it’s time to see how they’re reflected in the ratings. Compare the results of the discussion with the teens’ original ratings of the movie. Have opinions changed, or are they more or less the same? More importantly, do the teens have a stronger sense of why they felt the way they did at the start?
The focus is on opening one’s senses to all the movie’s elements, as if to help the director decide what works and what doesn’t
These are just some ideas for discussion points and some examples of ways to think about them. The possibilities are open-ended. Depending on each participant’s interests, the discussion points will address topics some may find more pertinent than others. Remember, the purpose of a salon is to expand one another’s thinking through discussing and interpreting a lot of differing ideas. Teens are to brainstorm ideas and settle on a list of approximately ten discussion points. If ten seems like too many, cut the number to five. Each discussion point is going to be rated according to the five-star system. (A variation is to compile the list before watching the movie, if the group feels that it would be helpful to use as a viewing guide.)
- For fun, teens might want to compare their results with the pros. Go online to RottenTomatoes.com or Metacritic.com to read professional critics’ reviews of the movie, see who hated it, who loved it, and who thought it was so/so. Teens can check to see what discussion points from their salon the critics touch on and how they agree or disagree with the salon’s findings.
- Also, teens might try writing their own review based on the insights they gleaned from the salon. (This is also fun as a single person activity.) Teens can post their review on Facebook or another social networking site to share with friends, or even better, create their own wiki where they and their friends can post movie reviews any time.
- Traditionally the setting of a salon would be pretentious and hoity-toity, so a costume party wouldn’t be out of order, nor would silly accents. It all depends on the preferred level of theatricality. Food is often a central component of a salon setting, as eating draws people together and generates discussion, so you might make snacks available or have a potluck.