Lesson Plans Based on Movies & Film Clips!                                                  

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    The Expository Phase
    Using "High Noon"

    Subject:     ELA: Expository Phase

    Ages:          12+

    Length:       Snippet: 15 minutes, 20 seconds;
                          Lesson: one to two 45 - 55 minute class periods.

    Overview:     Students will be introduced to the essential components of the expository phase in a film and will be asked to analyze it. Responses will be discussed in class. Then students will be guided to literature and asked to provide a more formal analysis of the expository phase in a novel, play, or short story of the teacher's choice. Introducing literary devices in film and then moving to print may help today's students understand literary analysis. Golden, J, Reading in the Dark, pg. xiii, National Council of Teachers of English, Urbana, 2001.

    Learner Outcomes/Objectives:     Students will be able to recognize and understand the use of the expository phase in a work of fiction.

    Rationale:     The expository phase is an important element of literature and appears in most works of fiction, written or performed.

    Description of the Snippet:     Released in 1953, "High Noon" is one of America's most respected Western films. It illuminates the struggle of a man who resists the forces of lawlessness despite the fact that no one else will stand with him. The first 15 minutes are the expository phase of the film, containing a clear presentation of setting, characters and a complication that will keep the audience interested.

    Background:     Will Kane, the protagonist, is ending a successful career as a marshal in what once was a crime-ridden frontier town. After years of hard work, Kane secured the conviction of Frank Miller, the leader of the gang that had terrorized the town. Miller is now in state prison and the town is a safe place in which to live. As the movie opens, Kane is marrying a beautiful Quaker woman who has prevailed on him to move to another town and become a shopkeeper. The conflict comes into focus at the end of the wedding ceremony, when it is learned that Miller has been released from prison and is coming back for revenge. He is scheduled to arrive on the noon train. His gang has reassembled and is waiting. Kane is unwilling to leave the town undefended until a new marshal, scheduled to arrive the next day, is sworn in. As the time for Miller's arrival approaches, every person in town, including long time friends, town officials, Kane's deputy marshal, and even his new wife, find some reason to decline the marshal's request that they stand with him in an effort to stop the outlaws.

    Shown in its entirety, "High Noon" provides an example of the use of foils, symbol and motif. It is an excellent basis for teaching the myths of the Western genre, some of which are still important in the cultures of the U.S., Canada, and Australia. The film has been called an allegory criticizing to the failure of political and business leaders, and even common people, to resist the excesses of the McCarthyites and the House Un-American Activities Committee during the Red Scare of the late 1940s and early 1950s. Made during the height of the Red Scare, "High Noon" is one of the few American movies in which the filmmakers had to disguise the political implications of their movie in order to get it made. As such, the film itself is an artifact of history.

    "High Noon" also contains a well crafted expository phase, which provides the opportunity for this Snippet Lesson Plan. Because of the many teaching opportunities provided by this movie for both English and history classes, TWM recommends making this lesson part of a larger unit based on the entire film. Click here for the Learning Guide to "High Noon".

Learner Outcomes/Objectives
Description of the Snippet
Using the Snippet in Class:
      Step by Step
            Transfer to Literature
      Additional Activities

This background is for teachers. It is not necessary to communicate this information to students.

This Snippet Lesson Plan uses the expository phase of the movie "High Noon". However, the steps suggested in this lesson plan can be easily adapted to any movie with a fully developed and clearly defined expository phase.

Location: The snippet starts at the beginning of the film and continues for 15 minutes and 20 seconds. It ends when Amy tells Kane "You know there'll be trouble" and Kane responds, "Then it's better to have it here."

Possible Problems with this Snippet: None.

Reminder: Obtain all required permissions from school administrators before showing this snippet.

What about showing the whole movie? That's a great idea!

TWM also offers a complete Learning Guide to "High Noon".

This film is available from Amazon.com.

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

The class may want to note that the character of Amy was played by Grace Kelly, considered one of the most beautiful women of the 20th century. Miss Kelly later married the Prince of Monaco and lived out her life as Princess Grace.

Most descriptions of the expository phase use the term "conflict" for the fifth element. TWM prefers the term "complication" because the term "conflict" is also used to refer to the central conflict of a story. However, the expository phase does not need to present the central conflict. Indeed, the central conflict in "High Noon", the conflict between the townspeople and Kane over the question of whether they will assist him when he stands up to the outlaws, is not presented in the expository phase.

    Additional Activities:     

    Activity One:

    A practical method for assuring that students have a grasp of the elements of exposition is to ask them to create a setting, characters and conflict of their own. Students can create an expository phase to tell the story of a principled individual in conflict with the established order in a setting such as their school. (This has been done in a film called "Three O'Clock High" which met with little success when it was released in 1987.) Be certain that the students show rather than tell what the setting is like, who the characters are and what has occurred to create the conflict.

    Activity Two:

    The power of music to reveal atmosphere is well known to students who are plugged into iPods for hours every day. In literature, descriptive writing works to the same effect, albeit less dramatically. In preparation for this activity, ask the students to articulate the problems facing Will Kane as revealed by the lyrics in the theme song. They will find two: Kane must face deadly danger and he must risk losing love. The film unfolds other conflicts as the clock ticks away toward high noon.

    Ask the students to find lyrics to a song that contain a problem to be solved. They will find examples from any number of songs, from those made famous by musicals, operas, ballads, folk songs or even those heard in the lyrics of current popular musicians. Ask students to bring in the music to play for their peers and to make the lyrics clear. Much of this can be done by the use of YouTube, as the students well know. Again, either formal or informal assessment will be appropriate for this assignment.

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