Lesson Plans

Get the Reel Scoop: Comparing Books to Movies

3 - 5
Estimated Time
Five 40-minute sessions
  • Preview
  • |
  • Standards
  • |
  • Resources & Preparation
  • |
  • Instructional Plan
  • |
  • Related Resources
  • |
  • Comments


This lesson takes advantage of the phenomenon of film versions of literature by asking students to compare and contrast books with their movie counterparts. The process of comparing and contrasting teaches students to think critically about different forms of media presented to them. Students first read a book and analyze the literary elements of the text. They then watch the film version, using a graphic organizer to compare elements of the book and film versions. Next, they discuss which changes they think improved the book and which changes they think were a bad idea. Finally, they select a scene from the book that they think wasn't well represented in the movie and adapt it for a readers theater performance.

Featured Resources

From Theory to Practice

Using films in the classroom has a value, especially when students are asked to think critically in relationship to the stories they see. Michelle Whipple explains that when we add movies to the curriculum, "we provide expanded and extended learning experiences and opportunities for making intertextual connections for all of our students" (149). When classroom activities, like this lesson, explicitly focus on intertextual connections by comparing different versions of the same story, students move beyond basic analysis to the more sophisticated skill of comparing their analysis of two different texts.

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

  • 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

  • Book(s) and film you plan to share with students (see Grade 3–5 Book and Film List)

  • Television and VCR or DVD player

  • Writer’s Notebook

  • Photocopies of selected scenes from the book OR additional copies of the book




  • Select a book that has been made into a movie to read aloud to the class. Possible titles have been included on the Grade 3–5 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.

  • Share the novel with the class.

  • Make copies of all necessary handouts.

  • Allow for additional plan/copy time after Session 5 to make copies of selected scenes, if necessary.

  • Familiarize yourself with Readers Theater. The ReadWriteThink lesson Readers Theater provides excellent background. Good resources are also available at Readers Theater Digest and Aaron Shepard’s RT Page.

  • Test the Story Map student interactive and the Venn Diagram on your computers to familiarize yourself with the tools 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 similarities and differences between elements of the book and the movie.

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

  • hypothesize why movie makers might have decided to alter characteristics in the book.

  • adapt and perform a scene from the book in readers theater format.

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. Review the concepts of character, conflict/plot, setting, and resolution with the student interactive Story Map.

  5. Lead a discussion with students as they complete the map and, then, have students transfer their responses to the book column on the Focused Reading and Viewing Guide.

  6. Review items in the book column of the Focused Reading and Viewing Guide and ask students to watch for these elements during the movie.

Session Two

  1. Begin watching the film.

  2. As necessary, stop during the film and invite students to identify the elements through a class discussion.

  3. Have students note their observation in the movie column of the Focused Reading and Viewing Guide.

  4. Based on the complexity of the film and the degree of student independence desired, use an overhead copy of the Focused Reading and Viewing Guide or a similar chart on the board to guide students’ observations.

Session Three

  1. Review the viewing from previous session.

  2. Ask for a few students to share some significant differences they have already noticed.

  3. Instruct students to continue noting information on the Focused Reading and Viewing Guide from the previous session as you continue to watch the film.

Session Four

  1. Review the viewing from the previous session.

  2. Go over students’ responses to the Focused Reading and Viewing Guide.

  3. Tell students that the focus of this session is determining the important similarities and differences in the book and the movie.

  4. In small groups, direct students to the Venn Diagram.

  5. Demonstrate how to use the tool, and ask students to use their Focused Reading and Viewing Guides to complete the Venn Diagram.

  6. Make sure students print their Venn diagrams. Allow time for sharing at the end of the session.

  7. Provide closure by asking 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 Five

  1. Lead a discussion that asks students to think about which changes they think improved the book and which changes they think were a bad idea.

  2. Provide copies of the Thinking Critically about a Movie Adaptation handout or display a copy on the overhead.

  3. Have students refer to their Focused Reading and Viewing Guide handouts and Venn diagrams as you lead a discussion on changes they did and did not like. Be sure to encourage and allow for a variety of responses, as this should be a lively discussion.

  4. Inform students that they will be creating a Readers Theater experience in which they improve upon the film adaptation in some way.

  5. Distribute copies of Getting into Readers Theater or place a transparency copy on the overhead projector.

  6. Go over the process and expectations of Readers Theater with the class.

    • If students need more structured support and instruction for the readers theater process, adapt instruction from the ReadWriteThink Readers Theatre lesson.

    • For supplemental materials and additional support, consult the Readers Theatre Digest and online materials by author Aaron Sheperd at his RT Page. The Sheperd site includes tips for teaching with Readers Theater and sample scripts for students to practice the skills of adapting narrative text to drama.
  7. Allow students to form groups and decide on a scene, consulting the book as they work.

  8. Ask groups to write a brief paragraph that describes the scene they will focus on, and collect this information before the session ends.

  9. Use the focal points that groups have identified to gather props and other materials students will need during the next session.

  10. If students do not all have copies of the book, make copies of the excerpts selected by the groups so that each group member has a copy of the relevant excerpt.

Session Six

  1. Review the Getting into Readers Theater, reminding students that they are focusing on a scene that they wish had not been cut or had been presented more effectively in the movie adaptation.

  2. If desired, share the Readers Theatre Evaluation form and explain how you will use it to evaluate each group’s performance.

  3. If needed, pass out copies of the excerpt to each group, or help students locate the passage in their copies of the book.

  4. Answer any questions students have, and circulate among groups to help them problem-solve during the composition or rehearsal process.

  5. Help student find props or costumes from classroom resources.

  6. Gauge student completion in this process and allow additional class sessions if necessary.

Session Seven

  1. Allow a few minutes at the beginning of the session for groups to gather props and make any last-minute preparations.

  2. Have each group perform their scripts for the class.

  3. Ask each group to explain briefly where their scene occurs in the book or movie and to discuss why they chose to dramatize this scene in this way.

  4. After the performances, have students evaluate their work using the Movie Adaptation Readers Theater Reflection sheet.


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 Readers Theatre Evaluation form.

  • Review the Movie Adaptation Readers Theater Reflection sheet for indications that students made thoughtful decisions and have spent time evaluating their own contributions to the group performance.

Add new comment