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SUBJECTS — ELA-Writing Exercises;
MORAL-ETHICAL EMPHASIS — Caring; Trustworthiness;

Ages: 14 - 17; MPAA Rating -- PG-13 for sexual situations, language and a drug issue; Comedy; 1988, 90 minutes (107 minutes for the special extended edition); Color. Available from Amazon.com.

Description: This film describes a pivotal day in the life of the manager and several employees of a record store . . . as well as one crazy shoplifter. Can they resolve their personal crises? Will the record store come under the control of a corporate giant or remain under local ownership?

Rationale for Using the Movie: Empire Records is a great reward film because it is immensely entertaining and shows the power of friendship and nurturing. Empire Records can also be used to drive writing assignments in an ELA class.

Objectives/Student Outcomes Using this Learning Guide: Students will watch a reward film that fosters social-emotional learning and contains no violence. The only academic use of the film is to serve as a driver for essays.

Possible Problems: Minor. While sexual promiscuity and drug use are shown and discussed, they are always shown in a negative light. Note that one of the characters in the film has recently tried to cut her wrists. One of the bonding moments in the movie occurs when her friends try to help her decide not to commit suicide.


MOVIE WORKSHEETS: TWM offers the following movie worksheets to keep students' minds on the film and to focus their attention on the lessons to be learned from the movie. Teachers can modify the worksheets to fit the needs of the class.


Empire Records as a Reward Film:

Before the film is shown to students tell them that the ways in which the characters in this film treat each other is interesting. Students who object to seeing anything with a level above Dumb and Dumber or the latest action extravaganza may need to be reminded that, after all, they are in school and even reward films have an educational purpose. See TWM's article on Reward Films.

Consider engaging the class in the following discussions after the after students have watched the film.

1.   Which character is most at risk for trouble in the future? Describe how this character is at risk and identify any events in the film that would indicate that their problems. Suggested Response: There is no one correct response. There are several strong responses. (1) Corey was well on her way to a serious drug problem. What was she going to do when she got into the hyper competitive environment at Harvard when she had to compete with other smart students? She'd turn to speed again. There is nothing to indicate that Corey recognizes the risk to her from the speed that she is taking. (2) Gina's self-esteem issues were major and she didn't have the self-assurance to try to do what she wanted to do. Just because she was singing at the impromptu party to raise money to pay Lucas' debt doesn't mean that she could find a band to sing with or that she would even look hard. On the other hand, a reasonable argument could be made that singing in front of the crowd would give Gina the confidence she needed to go change her life. (3) Debra is another candidate because one good night doesn't resolve problems that took years to develop. When the party was over Debra would still have the problems that drove her to attempt suicide in the first place. However, perhaps the day shown in the movie — when Joe praised her work, when she was able to successful counsel Corey, when her friends demonstrated how much they cared for her by giving her the mock funeral, and when she was part of making the party happen to raise the money to help Lucas and Joe — might be a turning point for Debra. (4) "Warren", the shoplifter, is obvously a troubled youth and a poster-child for those with poor judgment. While he could mature under Joe's tutelage in the new record store, anyone who'd waiving a gun around a public place threatening people is just not smart; and he got away with it, getting hired by the store! While at least he had the intelligence to put blanks in the gun, "Warren" could very well have been shot dead by a policeman, a store employee, or, in certain states, a customer carrying a concealed weapon.

2.   Why didn't Joe turn Lucas in to the police? After all, Lucas had stolen and then gambled away $9000, dooming Joe's chance to buy into the record store. Suggested Response: Joe who had gotten Lucas out of foster care and had raised him. Lucas was like a son to him.

3.   From the beginning through the first 2/3rds of the film, there was a lot of pent up and sometimes expressed anger among Corey, Gina and Debra. How did they overcome it? Suggested Response: By being able to recognize what was important to them; by treating each other as human beings; by forgiving and not holding grudges.

4.   What does this movie tell us about friendship? Suggested Response: There is no one correct answer. Good responses will include concepts such as being willing to forgive and being willing to look out for the other person.

Using Empire Records to Drive Writing Assignments in an ELA Class

Each of the discussion questions can serve as a writing prompt. For additional discussion questions, see Discussion Questions for Use With any Film that is a Work of Fiction.
Common Core State Standards that can be Served by the Ariting Assigments Suggested by this Learning Guide (Anchor Standards only)

Multimedia: Anchor Standard #7 for Reading (for both ELA classes and for History/Social Studies, Science, and Technical Classes). (The three Anchor Standards read: "Integrate and evaluate content presented in diverse media, including visually and quantitatively as well as in words.") CCSS pp. 35 & 60. See also Anchor Standard # 2 for ELA Speaking and Listening, CCSS pg. 48.

. Writing: Anchor Standards #s 1 - 5 and 7- 10 for Writing and related standards (for both ELA classes and for History/Social Studies, Science, and Technical Classes). CCSS pp. 41 & 63.

Not all assignments reach all Anchor Standards. Teachers are encouraged to review the specific standards to make sure that over the term all standards are met.


Reminder to Teachers: Obtain all required permissions from your school administration before showing any film.

Teachers who want parental permission to show this movie can use TWM's Movie Permission Slip.

Watch the trailer

This Learning Guide written by James Frieden and published on November 19, 2013.


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