Cover to Cover: Comparing Books to Movies

6 - 8
Lesson Plan Type
Estimated Time
Seven 50-minute sessions
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Movies can be an integral part of the language arts classroom when they are used in ways that encourage and develop students' critical thinking. In this activity, students explore matching texts—novels and the movies adapted from them—to develop their analytical strategies. They use graphic organizers to draw comparisons between the two texts and hypothesize about the effect of adaptation. They analyze the differences between the two versions by citing specific adaptations in the film version, indicating the effect of each adaptation on the story, and deciding if they felt the change had a positive effect on the overall story. Students then design new DVD covers and a related insert for the movies, reflecting their response to the movie version.

Featured Resources

From Theory to Practice

Movies have long been a part of the educational setting, but they can take on the role as simple entertainment unless teachers develop lessons that ask students to move beyond seeing the film as "just entertainment." Renee Hobbs explains that "When we use film and television in the classroom, it is important to do so in ways that promote active, critical thinking" (48). Hobbs urges teachers to design activities that "engage and motivate reluctant readers, enabling them to build comprehension strategies" (45). As students compare novels and the related film adaptations in this lesson plan, they move beyond simple entertainment to the kind of deeper critical thinking Hobbs advocates.

Further Reading

Common Core Standards

This resource has been aligned to the Common Core State Standards for states in which they have been adopted. If a state does not appear in the drop-down, CCSS alignments are forthcoming.

State Standards

This lesson has been aligned to standards in the following states. If a state does not appear in the drop-down, standard alignments are not currently available for that state.

NCTE/IRA National Standards for the English Language Arts

  • 1. Students read a wide range of print and nonprint texts to build an understanding of texts, of themselves, and of the cultures of the United States and the world; to acquire new information; to respond to the needs and demands of society and the workplace; and for personal fulfillment. Among these texts are fiction and nonfiction, classic and contemporary works.
  • 3. Students apply a wide range of strategies to comprehend, interpret, evaluate, and appreciate texts. They draw on their prior experience, their interactions with other readers and writers, their knowledge of word meaning and of other texts, their word identification strategies, and their understanding of textual features (e.g., sound-letter correspondence, sentence structure, context, graphics).
  • 5. Students employ a wide range of strategies as they write and use different writing process elements appropriately to communicate with different audiences for a variety of purposes.
  • 6. Students apply knowledge of language structure, language conventions (e.g., spelling and punctuation), media techniques, figurative language, and genre to create, critique, and discuss print and nonprint texts.
  • 8. Students use a variety of technological and information resources (e.g., libraries, databases, computer networks, video) to gather and synthesize information and to create and communicate knowledge.
  • 11. Students participate as knowledgeable, reflective, creative, and critical members of a variety of literacy communities.
  • 12. Students use spoken, written, and visual language to accomplish their own purposes (e.g., for learning, enjoyment, persuasion, and the exchange of information).

Materials and Technology




  • Select a book that has been made into a movie to read aloud to the class. Possible titles have been included on the Grades 6–8 Book and Film List. If you wish to make these activities cross-curricular then cross-check the title with the Website Teach with Movies.

  • Obtain permission for viewing the film using the Permission to View Film/Video handout, or the permission forms and any other documents required by your school or district.

  • Decide whether students will complete the Focused Reading and Viewing Guide as they read or after the novel is complete.

  • Share the novel with the class.

  • Make copies of all necessary handouts.

  • Test the DVD Cover Creator on your computers to familiarize yourself with the tool and ensure that you have the Flash plug-in installed. You can download the plug-in from the technical support page.

Student Objectives

Students will

  • identify the characters, setting, plot, and resolution in a book and in the movie based upon the book.

  • describe how the elements of the book and movie are alike and different.

  • discuss the effects of and state preferences toward these similarities and differences.

  • hypothesize reasons that movie makers altered characteristics from the book.

  • design a DVD cover and booklet reflecting their response to the movie adaptation.

Session One

  1. After the book has been completed, ask the students to think about a time when they read a book and then saw a movie based upon that book.

  2. Ask students to recall the kinds of things that they thought about as they watched the movie. Students will respond with ideas that suggest they were comparing the book to the movie and mentally noting similarities and differences.

  3. Inform students that since they have just finished the book, they are going to watch a movie based upon it. During the movie they will consider how well the movie honors the ideas presented in the book.

  4. Have students fill in the book column on the Focused Reading and Viewing Guide, working individually or in small groups.

  5. Review items in the book column of the Focused Reading and Viewing Guide as a class, and ask students to watch for these elements during the movie.

  6. Explain when students will complete the film section of the Focused Reading and Viewing Guide—while watching the movie or after. Students’ ability to attend to multiple tasks should be a factor in making your decision.

  7. Begin viewing the film.

Session Two

  1. Review the previous session’s viewing.

  2. See if students have any questions or concerns regarding the film section of the Focused Reading and Viewing Guide.

  3. Continue viewing the film.

Session Three

  1. After viewing the film, go over students’ responses to the film section of the Focused Reading and Viewing Guide.

  2. Pass out copies of the Book and Movie Comparison/Contrast Guide, which asks them to determine how different elements of the story are alike and different, and ask students to complete the guide in pairs or small groups.

  3. Have students share their observations with the class.

  4. As a closure activity, ask students to share why they think some of the elements are different and whether it is important for movies to remain identical to the novels on which they are based.

Session Four

  1. Explain that students will be create a new DVD cover for the movie adaptation the class has viewed.

  2. To prepare for the task, review the Book and Movie Comparison/Contrast Guide.

  3. Using the handout as a guide, ask students, independently or in small groups, to discuss the changes they like most and least as well as the aspects of the film that remained true to the text that were most satisfying. If necessary, reference A Basic Glossary of Film Terms for appropriate cinematic terminology.

  4. Pass out copies of the Thinking Critically about a Movie Adaptation: Preferences and Effects handout.

  5. Ask students to rank their responses in terms of their overall enjoyment of the film on the Thinking Critically about a Movie Adaptation: Preferences and Effects handout, following these guidelines:

    • Have students determine one change or similarity that was crucial to their overall opinion of the film, and discuss it in the first row.

    • Ask students to choose two elements of moderate importance to discuss in the middle rows.

    • Have students indicate and discuss a fairly inconsequential change in the last row.
  6. As students complete the charts, collect them for informal feedback, focusing on comments that will help students strengthen their analytical skills.

  7. If students need additional time, this work can be completed on their own before the next session.

Session Five

  1. Return Thinking Critically about a Movie Adaptation: Preferences and Effects handouts, and share any general comments on students’ work.

  2. Have students or groups share their ranked responses to the film adaptation.

  3. Encourage engagement from other students, as there should be varying views at many levels at this point: Some students will think a change was significant, but was an improvement. Other students will see the same change as trivial, but feel it was a poor choice.

  4. Distribute the Movie Adaptation DVD Cover and Notes Project and DVD Cover Project Rubric to students and discuss the options for the project and related expectations.

  5. If possible, preview the DVD Cover Creator interactive on a projector so students understand their choices for templates in both Cover and Booklet modes. If this is not possible, distribute copies of the DVD Cover Creator Templates and Layout.

  6. Allow students time to plan the front cover, spine, and back cover. They should plan for a mix of images and text that will suit the needs of the project they choose.

  7. Allow students time to plan the text for their booklet. Responses should be brief, as the DVD Cover Creator interactive can hold approximately 50 lines of text (if no images are used). Guide students to connect their overall impressions of the film adaptation with the choices they made on their covers.

  8. If students need additional guidance in writing the review of the movie, see ReadWriteThink lesson So What Do You Think? Writing a Review. Students may also use the Internet Movie Database as needed to find information about the movie.

Session Six

  1. Take students to the computer lab and lead them in a brief demonstration of the DVD Cover Creator interactive if not completed in the previous session.

  2. Have students use their planning documents to transfer their ideas to the DVD Cover Creator interactive.

  3. Emphasize that tudents cannot save their work, so they should complete all work on one component (the cover or booklet) and print their work within the confines of a session.

  4. Gauge levels of completion and allow additional time in the computer lab if necessary.

Session Seven

  1. Have students share their responses through presentations or by setting up a display of the various projects around the room.

  2. Allow students to reflect on their work and the work of their classmates by quickwriting on the different perspectives offered in the DVD covers presented today.


  • Facilitate a “Point/Counterpoint” debate between the students who preferred the book to the movie and vice versa.

  • Have students create an alternate soundtrack to the film, justifying their choices in liner notes and creating a CD cover with the CD Cover Creator.

  • In Session 5, have students analyze book and DVD cover art using the A Closer Look at Book and DVD Covers handout. Guide students to explore elements such as placement of text and what words are featured or downplayed; color choices; choice of images; placement of images; and the like.

Student Assessment / Reflections

  • Collect students’ graphic organizers, and check for evidence of students’ understanding of story elements.

  • During discussion, look for comments that show students can think critically about why movies and books would not be identical and that communicate their preferences for the film or book.

  • For a formal assessment of group performances, use the DVD Cover Project Rubric.