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Activity

Telling Good from Bad in Movies and Television

 

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Telling Good from Bad in Movies and Television

Grades 9 – 12
Activity Time 30–90 minutes, plus time to view the movie or television program
Activity Author

Traci Gardner

Traci Gardner

Blacksburg, Virginia

 
Publisher National Council of Teachers of English
 

What You Need

Here's What To Do

More Ideas To Try

Glossary

 

What You Need

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Here's What To Do

Before Watching the Movie or Television Show

  1. Ask teens to brainstorm a list of things they know about Darth Vader from the Star Wars movies (or another well-known villain).
  2. Then expand their list by having them imagine they are describing Darth Vader for a missing person's report or for a "Most Wanted" poster. Encourage them to think of all the specific things about the character that would help someone else recognize him.
  3. Use the questions on the Character Clue Sheet to help teens develop a more detailed description of Darth Vader's character-what he looks like, what he says and does, and how he behaves with the other characters in the movies. Don't feel that you must discuss every question on the sheet. Have teens write down their answers on a sheet of paper.
  4. Review all the clues teens have identified and ask them to talk about how these clues help the movie's audience know that Darth Vader is a bad character.
  5. If desired, read or listen to the NPR story Vader Unmasked: The Sounds and Psychology of Evil, and have teens compare the details from the story to the list that you have created together. Ask questions such as: How are the clues on your list similar to those in the NPR story? How are they different? Do you think the character traits you named for Darth Vader could only fit his character? Do you think some of these character traits could apply to the "bad guys" in other movies or stories?
  6. Make a plan to watch a movie or television show together. Be sure to watch and listen for clues that tell you which characters are good and which are bad. Have teens use a piece of paper to take notes about the movie's main characters and record the clues they see.

After Watching the Movie or Television Show

  1. Ask teens to share their reactions to the characters from the movie or television show. What clues, or character traits, did they notice about the characters? How could they tell the good and bad characters apart? Which clues helped them decide which characters were good and which were bad?
  2. Once again, ask teens to imagine they are describing one of the movie's characters for a missing person's report or a "Most Wanted" poster. Encourage them to include the clues they noticed in the movie as they describe the character's traits.
  3. Then use the questions on the Character Clue Sheet to further discuss what the characters look like, what they say and do, and how they behave with the other characters in the movies. As before, don't feel that you must answer every question.
  4. Teens can finish the activity by choosing the "Fictional Character's Profile" option in the Profile Publisher to use what they've learned to create a profile that represents one of the characters you've discussed. Be sure to check the Tips for Using Profile Publisher for more information on using the interactive tool.
  5. Have teens think about the information that a selected character would include on their Facebook or MySpace profile. They can brainstorm a brief list before entering text into the tool.
  6. Then, in the Profile Publisher, use these questions as a guide to fill in the different sections of the character's profile:
    • For "Quote/Greeting"
      What famous saying, or quotation, would the character like (or is associated with the character)? Is there something that the character says many times in the movie? Or can you think of something from a song or book you've read that the character would like? Fill in this section with something specific that the character would say or something that he or she might repeat.
    • For "Song Now Playing"
      What kind of music would the character listen to? Are there specific songs, pieces of music, or singers that the character would like? Fill in this section with name of the song or piece of music, the album it comes from, and the singers or musicians.
    • For "About Me" section
      What personal information would the character tell others about him- or herself? What details about the characters family, education, experiences, and accomplishments would make a good description? Fill in this section with the character's description of him- or herself.
    • For "Latest Blog Entry"
      Choose an event from the movie, and think about how the character would record it in his or her blog. Fill in this section with the story of that event from the character's point of view.
    • For the "My Interests and Favorites" section
      What would the character say was important? Does the character belong to any special groups? Does he or she have any hobbies or special interests that could be shared with others? If the character had a "Top 5" list of favorite books or songs, what would he or she include? Fill this section with whatever the character would want to share with others.
    • Once you've filled in all the sections of the Profile Publisher, print the profile and save it or share it with others.
  7. Wrap up the activity by discussing the profiles created. Some questions might include: How does whether a character is "bad" or "good" affect his or her profile? Are there similarities between the profiles of good and bad characters? How are they the same and different?

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More Ideas To Try

  • Invite teens to think more about the characters by writing their own short stories, scripts, and poems based on events and characters in favorite books, television shows, and movies. Teens can adopt the point of view of one of the characters, and write blog entries or short stories. Encourage them to include appropriate clues in their own writing, as they describe the characters. Use a diary prompt from Traci's Lists of Ten as a starting point.
  • Use the Acrostic Poems interactive tool to write acrostic poems for the characters you've discussed. An acrostic poem uses the letters in a word to begin each line of the poem. You can use the character's name as the word for that begins each line of the poem, and then write a poem that describes important details about the character.
  • Have teens create detailed "wanted" posters for bad characters from favorite books or movies. Have them include printed pictures or drawings of the characters, along with pertinent details such as characters' appearance, their "crimes," where they were last seen, and so forth.

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Glossary

Audience

 

The person or group of people that the message of a piece of writing is meant for. Most pieces of writing have more than one audience.

Blog

 

An online journal or personal webpage with multiple entries that usually appear in reverse chronological order. Anyone with an Internet connection and a Web browser can publish on a blog, and they can be set up so that more than one person can write entries on them. Blogs can contain words, photos, and links to other websites. The word blog can also be used as a verb.

Discuss

 

Discussion is a natural way for children and teens to express or explain what they already know or what they are learning. When possible, let children and teens lead the direction of a discussion. Ask questions that lead to an extended response (“What do you think about…?” or “Why do you think…?”) rather than questions that might result in a yes or no or a simple answer.

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