Helping Teachers with Lesson Plans    —    A Resource for Intentional Parents

AUGUST, 2018


This film is historical fiction about the publication of the Pentagon Papers told from the perspective of the second newspaper to publish excerpts of the document.

Rationale for Using the Movie: The Post shows an inflection point in U.S. history in which the press explosed decades of government deception about the Vietnam War and the Courts turned back the ever increasing power of the U.S. Presidency by rejecting prior restraint on the publication of government secrets, except in extreme situations in which there would be "direct, immediate, and irreparable damage to the nation or its people." (Concurrence of Justice Steward in the Pentagon Papers case.)

The film illustrates many of the forces that came together or competed against each other in the struggle over the publication of the Pentagon Papers.

In addition, The Post shows a female executive struggling to gain acceptance in a male dominated world. The movie also touches upon the Vietnam War, a whistle-blower who was willing to go to jail to expose the truth, and the abandonment of the formerly cozy relationship between the press and the government.

Objectives/Student Outcomes Using this Learning Guide: Students can watch, discuss, and write about this dramatic event and its importance in American history.

Click here for the Learning Guide to The Post.


March, 2018


This is the first film produced by TWM. Click here to watch it free on the Internet.

Cesar Chavez was more fantastic than we ever imagined!

Not only was he an advocate for farm workers and a practitioner of nonviolence, he was:
  • an advocate for women in the workplace;
  • a gay rights activist in the 1970s, when gay rights was not a popular cause;
  • a believer in the inclusion of all races and religions in American life; and
  • a vegan and a supporter of animal rights in the 1980s and 1990s, long before animal rights was part of the national conversation.

Cesar Chavez: Respect for All is a supplement for any unit on U.S. history in the second half of the 20th Century or the contribution of Latinos to American culture.

The Story: Genesis Palacio Butler, a vivacious 10-year-old, is on a journey with her family to the Chavez National Monument in Keene, California. Genesis has a special reason for the trip: she is Cesar Chavez' great-grandniece, and, like Cesar, she is an advocate for animals. At the National Monument she talks to the leader of the United Farm Workers (UFW), to Cesar's son, Paul Chavez, and to others who worked with Cesar in the UFW.

The movie illuminates the leadership of Chavez and his relevance to modern-day issues of social justice. It shows that the country's most famous Latino-American leader was much more than an advocate for farmw orkers. He was motivated by a core belief that respect should extend to women in the workplace, to gays and lesbians, to all races and religions, and even to animals. He fought for these causes long before most of them became a part of the national dialogue. He didn't compartmentalize them as separate issues, seeing them as pieces in the larger inclusive tapestry of American culture. Chavez was a moral pioneer extending the ethical principle of respect to everyone and to all sentient beings. He is a model for the inclusive and courageous leaders sorely needed in the U.S. and throughout the world!


Click here for the Learning Guide to Cesar Chavez: Respect for All.


Cesear Chavez: Respect for All has been endorsed by the UFW and by the Cesar Chavez Foundation.

August, 2017


Students give their best when asked to write about subjects that interest them . . . and everyone wants to be happy. The documentary Happy moves from the slums of Kolkata, to Manhattan, the bayous of Louisiana, Japan, Denmark, and tiny Bhutan, telling stories about happiness. The audience is introduced to the rickshaw driver who lives in a slum but is happy nonetheless; the once-pretty woman whose face was run over by a truck who is getting ever closer to her baseline happiness; the short order cook who goes into a flow state flipping fried eggs; a man who has found contentment taking care of dying people; and several more. Through the medium of film, supported by class discussion and writing assignments, students will carry these examples forward into their lives.

Between the stories, the movie presents psychological insights from the new discipline of "Positive Psychology," a scientific effort to study what makes people happy. Topics include, the hedonic treadmill, the usually quick return to baseline happiness after good fortune and bad luck, after tragedy or triumph. Psychologists discuss the different roles of intrinsic and extrinsic values in sustaining happiness and the importance of close family and community ties. They provide simple techniques to increase happiness.

The Learning Guide to Happy provides suggested discussion questions, essay prompts, and assignments for ELA and Health classes. This film is excellent for cross-curricular assignments that can be used simultaneously in ELA and health classes.

To view the Learning Guide for Happy, click here.

Bumblebees is a four minute film about a young man on the autism spectrum preparing for his first date. The film provides beneficial lessons about romantic relationships and empathy and a clear example of the interplay between symbol and metaphor in a documentary. The director's TEDx talk provides examples of figurative and descriptive language in non-fiction presentations, provides valuable perspective on the movie, and contains additional life lessons.

Learner Outcomes/Objectives:     Students will be provided with examples of the richness of figurative and descriptive language in a non-fiction presentation. They will practice identifying the different concepts of figurative language in the film and the director's Tedx talk. Respect and empathy for persons with disabilities will be enhanced in students who watch this film. It will give students perspective on their own efforts to form romantic relationships, encourage students to challenge limits imposed by society or other people, and provide an example of committed and effective parenting.

Students will be motivated to write and discuss at their highest level. The film is an excellent candidate for cross-curricular activities between ELA and health classes.

MAY, 2017


From the 1930s to the advent of the digital computer in the early 1960s, several hundred female "human computers" were hired by the federal government. Their task was to calculate numbers and to manually solve the equations necessary for new generations of airplanes, the first American rockets, and the first U.S. manned space flights. They worked with pen, paper, and analog adding machines. The need for these workers was so great that even in those days of rampant racial discrimination, black women were hired as well as whites.

This is the story of three remarkable "Colored" computers who challenged Jim Crow restrictions and with their intelligence, hard work, and persistence became valued members of NASA and helped the U.S. put a man into orbit around the earth.

Using this Learning Guide, students will be introduced to: (1) a unique and fascinating episode in American history; (2) the struggles of black women to reach racial and gender parity in the workplace; (3) the accomplishments of black women in technical fields and their contributions to America's efforts in aeronautics and the space race; (4) the disruptive influence of WWII and the Cold War on patterns of employment and discrimination, disruptions which helped lay the groundwork for the rise of feminism and contributed to the Civil Rights Movement; and (5) some of the effects of Jim Crow.

Click here for the Learning Guide to Hidden Figures.




Rethinking the Southern Home Front in the Civil War

Newton Knight was a poor white yeoman farmer in rural Jones County, Mississippi. He owned no slaves and lived off the produce of his land. Newt and most others in Jones County voted to stay in the Union. When he was drafted into the Confederate army, Newt volunteered to be a hospital orderly to avoid killing Union soldiers. When the Confederate government exempted the Southern aristocracy from compulsory military service, making it clear that the rebellion was "a rich man's war and a poor man's fight," Newt along with many others deserted and escaped to the swamps to avoid capture.

Newt came to lead a band of deserters and escaped slaves who tried to protect the countryside from the ravages of corrupt tax collectors who were using the Confederacy's Tax in Kind Law to take the produce and farm animals from the yeoman peasantry. Newt's band fought sixteen major engagements with Confederate forces. They seized munitions and food, the latter being distributed to the hungry populace. After the war Newt served the Reconstruction Administration as a marshal, helped blacks to vote, distributed food to the needy, and rescued black children who had been impressed back into slavery through a system of "apprenticeship" contracts.

After the War, Newt lived with Rachel, a former slave, who had brought food and information to the men in the swamps. He acknowledged their children as his own, starting a bi-racial community in the heart of the Deep South.

As one current resident of Jones County, Mississippi, said in an interview in the Smithsonian Magazine:
When you grow up in the South, you hear all the time about your 'heritage,' like it's the greatest thing there is. When I hear that word, I think of grits and sweet tea, but mostly I think about slavery and racism, and it pains me. Newt Knight gives me something in my heritage, as a white Southerner, that I can feel proud about. We didn't all go along with it.
The Jones County rebellion was only one of several instances of armed resistance to the Confederacy by deserters, Union sympathizers, and runaway slaves.

Click here for the Learning Guide to Free State of Jones.


DRONES!     —    Get Students Thinking About the Strategic, Tactical, and Ethical Issues and the Meaning of Collateral Damage using


This edge-of-your-seat thriller is the story of a joint British-American drone strike on the Somali extremist group, Al-Shabaab.

Rationale for Using the Movie: Eye in the Sky reveals some of the technology and the ethical complexities of the use of drones in the war on terror. It shows the face of "collateral damage" and allows the audience to observe some of the practical and moral pressures experienced by people at different places in the "kill-chain." Students will identify with people on both sides of the debate over whether to go through with the drone strike. Citizens of a country that for the foreseeable future will fight many of its battles by remote control will benefit by learning about the issues involved in this new type of warfare.

Objectives/Student Outcomes Using this Learning Guide: Students will develop a deep understanding of the meaning of the term "collateral damage." They will discuss and write about: (1) the limits that should be imposed on the use of drones in the war on terror in areas occupied by civilians, including strikes directed at identified individuals planning a terrorist attack as well as the more problematic signature strikes; and (2) the primacy of civilian control over the military.

Click here for TWM's Lesson Plan to Eye in the Sky.



Beneficial Messages for all Students from a Rallying Cry for Native American Youth

Starting with a child's bicycle accident and his sister's question about why their parents are not around to comfort her little brother, this inspirational 7-minute short movie quickly reviews many of the important events of the Native American experience. The second half of the film addresses Native American youth and advocates for personal responsibility, perseverance, overcoming a legacy of oppression, and rising above the effects of dysfunctional families. While firmly rooted in the Native American experience, the beneficial lessons of We Shall Remain apply to all students.

Because this movie is directed at Native American youth, showing it to non-Native American students allows teachers to hold class discussion about the lessons of the film and to get students to write about those lessons, without being "preachy." For most classes,Discussion Question/Writing Prompt #1 will be sufficient to extract great value from the movie. The rest of the Lesson Plan is for teachers who have more class time and want to explore other issues raised by the film.

We Shall Remain will be beneficial in just about any class, particularly ELA, U.S. History, World History, Civics, and Health. The film inspires all who see it and builds empathy for Native Americans. It will facilitate discussion and writing assignments about personal responsibility, overcoming adversity, and working through pain to self-realization. Students from any background, whether it be from difficult circumstances in a stressed community, a dysfunctional family, or more fortunate circumstances will benefit from watching this movie. Showing this movie can also be the occasion for discussion and writing assignments on the Native American experience.
Click here for TWM's Lesson Plan to We Shall Remain.

AUGUST, 2016

Something is killing retired pro-football players.

The same thing is damaging the brains of many kids who play contact sports.

One man finds how devastating the effects can be.

A rich and powerful industry tries to keep it quiet.

But this Man Won't be Stopped Until the Truth Comes Out!

Concussion is a dramatization of Dr. Bennet Omalu's discovery of Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy ("CTE"), a brain injury that results from multiple head trauma and concussion.

Dr. Omalu is a pathologist who emigrated to the U.S. from Nigeria. He discovered CTE when he performed an autopsy on Pittsburgh Steelers star Mike Webster. The NFL tried to create pseudo-science to dispute the growing evidence that repetitive head trauma leads to early onset dementia. It led a coordianted attack on Dr. Omalu and his research. However, a small group of people believed in Dr. Omalu's work and supported him. Finally, the truth won out as one retired NFL player after another died of early onset dementia.

Objectives/Student Outcomes Using this Learning Guide: Students will be introduced to the problem of injuries caused by concussion and repeated head trauma in football and other contact sports. They will learn the mechanism of traumatic brain injury from blows to the head, that even the richest and most powerful corporations cannot always hide the truth, that one person with integrity can make a difference, and the contribution that immigrants make to American society.

Click here for the Learning Guide to Concussion.

JULY 2016

Travis, A Soldier's Story - A Tale of Resilance

Sergeant Travis Mills lost all four limbs to an IED in Afghanistan. He is one of five quadruple-amputee veterans of the Iran and Iraq wars. Travis, A Soldier's Story tells about his life before enlisting, his service in the U.S. Army, the circumstances of the injury, the amazing medical care he received from the Army, the strong support from his family, and his continuing triumph over adversity. This film is beneficial for any one at any age and especially for adolescents. It can contribute to Health, ELA, and Social Studies classes.

Click here for the Learning Guide for Travis: A Soldier's Story.

Learning Guide for a Unit on National Security Whistleblowers

Pick one of these films to supplement the unit. In each, the people involved in whistleblowing talk about why they decided to go public, what they did, and the impact of the government's response. Any of these movies will demonstrate that the complex issues involved in national security whistleblowing affect flesh and blood people.

         (Contains Story of Franz Gayl & MRAPS)                 (Vietnam War's Most Important
                                                                                    Whistleblower; Ac. Award Nom)

                (Ac. Award Winner, 2015 Best Doc.;                    (Stories of 3 Recent WBs)
                      Raises Important Questions)

This Learning Guide provides historical background, discussion questions, and suggested assignments to help raise questions about whether the actions of whistleblowers and the government response were justified. It also contains two unique additional sections: a Basic Framework for discussion of most national security whistleblower situations and a Final Exercise that provides two helpful paradigms for students to use in determining whether blowing the whistle is the right thing to do.

Click here for TWM's Learning Guide to a unit on Whistleblowers.

APRIL, 2016


With a Focus on the Role of Various Institutions
in the Cover-up, the Disclosure, and the Aftermath

Spotlight is an accurate portrayal of the Boston Globe's grounbreaking expose that broke open a worldwide sex abuse cover-up scandal that has engulfed the Catholic Church and tarnished other religious organizations. More than 14 years have passed since the Globe's first article on the cover-up in the Boston Archdiocese of the Catholic Church. While reforms have been made in churches throughout the world and billions of dollars paid to victims, occasionally an effort to cover up clergy sex abuse still comes to light. In addition, victim advocacy groups, who have been right about this problem in the past, claim that some religious organizations although asserting they have reformed, continue to resist the changes necessary to fully protect children and women in their congregations. Among the religious institutions still subject to this criticism: the Roman Catholic Church.

With the curriculum materials in TWM's Learning Guide students will gain an understanding of the role of the Press in a free society, that even organizations with lofty goals can betray their stated purpose, that all persons (even those who claim a special relationship with the sacred) are subject to the rule of law, and that no one has the right to sexually abuse a child.

To view the Learning Guide for Spotlight, click here.



Using "Sinner Man" in Song and in Dance to Enliven
the Study of the Sermon, Demonstrate the Metaphorical
Nature of Artistic Expression, and Foster Appreciation for the Arts

This short clip from the television program "So You Think You Can Dance" provides relief from the dense reading required to comprehend the sermon and the academic focus on rhetorical analysis. Click here to play the three-minute snippet.

Billy Porter's rendition of the song is strong and evocative. Alvin Ailey's choreography, performed by an ensemble of three male dancers from his company, is breathtaking.

TWM's curriculum materials demonstrate that concepts expressed in the sermon have found their way into the religion expressed in African-American spirituals and into the arts. Playing the snippet will also:
  • enhance the meaning of the text,
  • provide an example of metaphor in its broader meaning, and
  • gives a striking demonstration of the concept that all artistic expression is metaphorical.
Playing this rendering of "Sinner Man" will also stimulate student interest in the text.

Click here for TWM's Multi-Media Supplement for Jonathan Edwards' "Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God" using "Sinner Man" in song and in dance.


This is the story of Jose, Maria, and their children — two generations of an American family of Mexican descent who live in Los Angeles. "This is the great American story, told again and again, of how our families came to this land and tried to make it better for their children." Roge Ebert

Rationale for Using the Movie: My Family/Mi Familia touches upon many of the important points in the history of Mexican immigration to the U.S. during the 20th Century.

Objectives/Student Outcomes Using this Learning Guide: Students will have a greater understanding of the Mexican-American experience.

Click here for the Learning Guide to My Family/Mi Familia..


FRUITVALE STATION presents a fictionalized version of the last day in the life of Oscar Grant III, a 22 year-old African American from the San Francisco Bay area. In the early morning hours of New Years Day, 2009, Mr. Grant was forced to the ground and shot in the back by a Bay Area Transit policeman, Johannes Mehserle. Mr. Grant had not cooperated when placed under arrest and didn't present his arms to be handcuffed.

The police officer was prosecuted and convicted of involuntary manslaughter. The jury found that the government had not proved, beyond a reasonable doubt, that the police officer had intended to kill Mr. Grant. Apparently the jury gave some credence to the police officer's claim that in the confused situation on the subway platform, he had intended to pull out his taser but had pulled out his gun by mistake.

TWM's Learning Guide to Fruitvale Station will help teachers use this film to teach a fundamental element of due process, the right to be free from police brutality. It will help teachers show students how to act if they are involved in a hostile confrontation with the police.

To view the Learning Guide for Fruitvale Station, click here.

TWM has revised its Learning Guide for two versions of MUCH ADO ABOUT NOTHING, Shakespeare's delightful comedy about the hilarious and serious complications that beset two sets of lovers.

The 1993 Classic Version: This film is an excellent introduction to Shakespeare's comedies. The acting is so strong and the direction so clear that students can easily follow the story and appreciate its humor. The movie is both a classic presentation of the play and an entertaining experience for students.

Shakespeare Retold: The BBC has had the play rewritten for modern audiences. The setting is a local newsroom in Britain, and the characters, from the news anchors to the security guards, are drawn from Shakespeare's play. The result captures the delightfulness of the original and stands on its own as an enjoyable experience for the viewer. It's especially entertaining for those who have seen the classic version or read the play.

TWM's revised Learning Guide to Much Ado About Nothing provides a short introduction to the play that: (1) leads students to buy-into the story by showing parallels between the story in the play and their own lives; (2) explains the setting; (3) contains a vocabulary list; and (4) sets out a brief explanation of some of the mythological references in the play. The Guide also provides discussion questions and assignments to get students talking, thinking, and writing about the play's lessons of life and romance.

Continuing TWM's 2015 Emphasis on the Hispanic-American Experience

In EL NORTE a brother and sister flee violence and economic deprivation in rural Guatemala, hoping for a better life in the U.S. Their father was murdered by the government for trying to work with other peasants to resist confiscation of their lands. Their mother was then taken away, never to return. The children were next on the army's list. This is the tragic yet hopeful story of the efforts of two adolescents to find safety and a better life in "El Norte." The film is considered a classic.

For more films on the Hispanic-American experience, see What's New for July, August, and September below.

To view the Learning Guide for El Norte, click here.



A New Movie Worksheet for:
Aristotelian Modes of Persuasion in a Documentary: Appeals to Logos, Pathos, and Ethos

Spurred by the need to teach students how to analyze presentations intended to persuade, many teachers are turning to the genius of ancient Greece. TWM's newest film study worksheet uses Aristotle's rhetorical appeals of logos, pathos, and ethos to help students evaluate a documentary movie or non-fiction TV program.

Should a movie or TV program worksheet (hereafter "movie worksheet") ask questions that apply only to a specific film or program? Or, should a movie worksheet contain general inquiries applicable to an entire genre, asking students to apply those questions to the particulars of the movie or television program?

TWM suggests using movie worksheets with generic questions. They have all the advantages of questionnaires specific to the film or program by focusing student attention on the substance of the presentation and by ensuring that students don't daydream and don't use their cell phones to text or to surf the Internet.

In addition, movie worksheets based on generic questions have several advantages not shared by their film or program-limited counterparts. They require students to use thinking skills of a higher level than simply writing a description of a scene or answering a question about what occurred on-screen. With generic questions, students must apply broad categories to the film or program in order to provide a response. In addition, generic movie worksheets, especially when used with more than one film or program, demonstrate to students that the movies and TV programs of each genre have certain characteristics that can be systematically broken down and analyzed.

For these reasons, TWM suggests that in all but extraordinary situations, teachers use generic movie worksheets in their lessons.
Click here for TWM's page entitled Film Study Worksheets for Documentaries and select "Worksheet for the Aristotelian Modes of Persuasion in a Documentary: Appeals to Logos, Pathos, and Ethos"

Also, check out TWM's full list of Film Study Worksheets.

Visual Argument: "The Fast Food Supper"

Aristotle's Logos, Pathos, and Ethos in an Illustration Designed to Persuade

"The Fast Food Supper," is an illustration by then high school student Jacob Thompson, commissioned for TWM's Learning Guide to Super Size Me. It provides an argument using a visual image. The Learning Guide for this illustration helps teachers show how a visual argument, using archetypes as well as allusions to works of art and to religion, can be analyzed in terms of Aristotle's rhetorical appeals of logos, pathos, and ethos.

Click here for TWM's Learning Guide to Visual Argument using "The Fast Food Supper."


COWSPIRACY: The Sustainability Secret  —  The DiCaprio Cut

Environmentalist Leonardo DiCaprio thought the message of Cowspiracy so important that he signed on as an Executive Producer. In addition, the film now streams on Netflix. Copwspiracy is on track to become one of the most important environmental documentaries in decades.

TWM's Learning Guide has also been expanded and contains curriculum materials on using the film to teach:
  • For any class: The staggering environmental cost of animal agriculture;

  • For ELA & Social Studies: An exercise in analyzing an argument in a documentary film using Aristotle's appeals to logos, pathos, and ethos;

  • For Social Studies: The power of the animal agriculture lobby; in 2014 they received astounding exemptions from environmental regulations;

  • For ELA, Social Studies, Health & Psychology: Why people don't do what they need to do: Motivated Blindness and the Normalcy Bias; and

  • For ELA, Social Studies, Health & Math: An example of how an apologist for the animal agriculture industry tried to mislead with statistics (the math is simple).
  • Click here for the Learning Guide to Cowspiracy.

    Continuing TWM's 2015 Emphasis on the Hispanic-American Experience

    This is a realistic view of life on the margins endured by millions of illegal aliens, unable to earn a living at home in Mexico or Central America, who come to the U.S. in search of a better life. The Learning Guide to A Better Life contains discussion questions that cover many of the issues in the on-going immigration debate in the U.S.

    For more films on the Hispanic-American experience, see What's New in July and August.

    To view the Learning Guide for A Better Life, click here.

    Not New But Worth Remembering — TWM's Television Program Worksheets:

    Have students watch their favorite TV show at home and fill out the appropriate worksheet. They will learn critical viewing skills. Use as much or as little class time as you like.

    AUGUST, 2015


    . . . without committing a lot of class time!

    ELA Teachers — Using TWM's movie worksheets, students will learn that movies present stories that contain the elements and devices of fiction: protagonist, antagonist, plot, subplot, expository phase, climax, denouement, irony, symbol, flashback . . . and more.

    Social Studies and ELA Teachers — Movies are America's most popular source of historical fiction. Help your students acquire the skills to analyze this genre . . . . There will be an immediate dividend through increased interest in films about historical subjects and long-term benefits when, as adults, your former students are able to understand and evaluate historical fiction.

    Just about any time is a good time to start!
    TWM's Movies as Literature Homework Project and Historical Fiction in Film Cross-Curricular Homework Project require students to watch several movies at home during the semester and then complete a TWM film study worksheet for each movie. The worksheets are designed to teach students important methods of critical and intelligent viewing.



    McFarland, USA: This movie is fiction based on the true story of the high school cross-country running team from a dirt-poor town in California's San Joaquin Valley. The students are children of underpaid immigrants from Mexico. In the early mornings before school and after school is out for the day, some of the students work alongside their parents picking crops in the vegetable and fruit fields. The team trains after the students finish their work.

    Beginning in 1987 and for the next 26 years, the McFarland High Cross-Country Team dominated the state championships.

    Many of the boys who have run for McFarland used the discipline learned in their cross-country training to succeed at college and in careers outside of the fields — careers their parents could only have dreamed about. (In this movie, most of the fictional material relates to the character of the team's coach. The stories of the boys and the team itself are quite accurate.)

    Spare Parts and Underwater Dreams: Carl Hayden Community High School is located in a poor neighborhood in Phoenix, Arizona. Its students are almost all illegal aliens smuggled across the border from Mexico by their parents. Spare Parts, another fictional story based on real events, and Underwater Dreams, a documentary, describe the victory of the Carl Hayden students over the underwater robotics teams of MIT and the other colleges that entered the 2004 national underwater robotics competition.

    Like the triumph of the 1987 McFarland cross-country runners, the victory of the Carl Hayden students and the follow-through of their teachers established a precedent that continues to give Hispanic students an opportunity to excel and compete to this day. (Spare Parts and McFarland, USA are about teams of boys. Underwater Dreams has scenes showing how the girls of Carl Hayden excelled in the robotics club after the first year.)

    These confidence-building movies provide students of all ethnicities with beneficial lessons. And of course, don't forget the first and best of this nascent "Hispanic-kids-make-good" genre, Stand and Deliver.

    JULY, 2015


    Check out TWM's revised and rewritten Learning Guide to Stand and Deliver for ELA, Math, Health, and Social Studies classes.

    For all classes, the film is inspirational, teaching students that with motivation, "ganas," and hard work, they can achieve wonders.

    The film is also excellent for ELA classes with clear and obvious examples of symbols, subplot, foils, and irony as well as providing an example of historical fiction.

    For Social Studies classes, the film can be used as the basis for lessons in modern American society and the concept of the burden of proof, in addition to being an example of historical fiction.


    This is the story of six Marines photographed while raising a U.S. flag during the WWII battle for Iwo Jima. The photograph evoked strong emotions in the American public and to this day serves as an iconic image of U.S. soldiers in combat.

    Only three of the flag raisers survived the carnage on Iwo Jima. They were ordered home to serve as the major attraction for a national campaign to sell war bonds. As the three Marines toured the country, they were idolized as heroes. However, for them, the act of raising the flag was not heroic at all. There was no enemy resistance at that location, and the flag was merely a replacement for the first U.S. flag flown over the island. The effort shown in the photograph was the struggle to lift a heavy metal flag-pole, not to defeat an enemy. To the flag raisers, the adulation they received was undeserved, and the real heroes were their 6800 fellow Marines who died in the battle.

    The movie explores the experiences of the six flag raisers in battle on Iwo Jima and the lives of the three who survived the fighting . . . lives played out in the shadow of "the Photograph."

    Rationale for Using the Movie: Flags of Our Fathers provides vivid images of the battle of Iwo Jima and the massive bond drives used by the government to finance WWII. It is also an excellent platform for exploring:

      (A) the nature of heroism and the difference between heroism and celebrity;

      (B) the disconnect between what actually happened, which is often very complex, and the historical interpretation of events, which often simplifies what occurred; and

      (C) the creation of patriotic symbols and how they become important for what people read into them rather than as accurate representations of past events.

    Click here for the Learning Guide to Flags of Our Fathers..

    Snippet Lesson Plan on the Omaha Beach Landing Using a Film Clip from Saving Private Ryan

    This 29 minute segment is considered to be the best rendition of the Omaha Beach landings on film. It shows the carnage endured by U.S. troops in the Normandy invasion and the sacrifices for their country made by young men during WWII.

    Click here for TWM's Snippet Lesson Plan on the Omaha Beach Landing Using a Film Clip from Saving Private Ryan.

    Suggestions for Helping Students with Limited Reading Capacities
    Read Ellie Weisel's Night

    TWM suggests videos that provide an introduction to Ellie Wiesel's moving memoir of the Holocaust and contain a few short passages from the book read by the author.

    The visual images and the fact that popular TV personality and actress Oprah Winfrey accompanies Professor Wiesel and interviews him with compassion will lead students to be more interested in reading the book. The experience of Professor Wiesel will no longer be just words on a printed page and the story will be easier for students access. Watching one of the videos will be especially valuable for students who are not strong readers or who might have difficulty identifying with the victims of the Holocaust.

    To view the Learning Guide for Night, click here.

    Snippet Lesson Plan for the Sale of Indulgences in the Middle Ages Using Two Film Clips from the Movie Luther

    These two short film clips, a total of about 12 minutes, will provide students with graphic images of the abuses involved in the sale of indulgences in the Middle Ages. The sale of indulgences helped spark the Protestant Reformation.

    Click here for the Snippet Lesson Plan for the Sale of Indulgences in the Middle Ages Using Two Film Clips from the Movie Luther.

    May, 2015

    Six historical insights maximize the movie's benefits for students and correct for its flaws.

    Learn the real story behind the MLK, LBJ, and FBI relationship.

    The Learning Guide contains historical background, pre-viewing suggestions, and a strategy for turning student attention back to history after the movie has been shown. Other lesson plan ideas include discussion questions and assignments.

    To view the Learning Guide for Selma, click here.


    We don't have many, but what we have can get them thinking!

    The Invention of Lying — Social Satire — (ELA: Social Satire; SEL: Romantic Relationships; Moral-Ethical Emphasis: Trustworthiness) [13+]

    Groundhog Day — Social Satire —(Literature; SEL: Friendship; Moral-Ethical Emphasis: Caring) [12+]

    Roxanne — Social Satire — (Drama; ELA: irony; characterization; SEL: Romantic Relationships; Self-esteem; Moral-Ethical Emphasis Respect) [12+]

    Dr. Strangelove — Black Comedy — (U.S./1945 - 1991; SEL: Leadership; Moral-Ethical Emphasis: Trustworthiness) [10+]

    Tootsie — Social Satire — (U.S./1945 - 1991 & New York; Drama/U.S. SEL: Romantic Relationships; Moral-Ethical Emphasis: Respect) [13+]

    Big — Hero's Journey Lesson Plan — Fantasy Comedy — (Literature/Hero's Journey of Internal Growth and Development) [12+]

    An Ideal Husband — Comedy of Manners — (Drama/England, World/England; SEL: Marriage, Families in Crisis, Friendship, Romantic Relationships, Justice, Redemption; Moral-Ethical Emphasis: Trustworthiness; Responsibility; Caring) [12+]

    The Importance of Being Earnest — Comedy of Manners — (World/England; Drama/England; SEL: Romantic Relationships; Moral-Ethical Emphasis: Trustworthiness) [12+]

    The Russians are Coming! The Russians are Coming! — Farce — (U.S./1945 - 1991 & Massachusetts; SEL: Peace/Peacemakers; Moral-Ethical Emphasis: Caring) [8 - 12]

    Get them laughing and you have their attention! Check out TWM's Comedy Index.

    FEBRUARY, 2015

    COWSPIRACY: The Sustainability Secret

    (also Motivated Blindness, the Normalcy Bias, and How Statistics Can Mislead)

    This film discloses a major and as yet unpublicized cause of humankind's impact on the environment: the raising of animals for food, particularly cattle. The movie also provides an opportunity to introduce students to three important concepts that will serve them all their lives: "motivated blindness," "the bias toward normalcy," and how statistics can be used to mislead.

    The movie, combined with the handout, the discussion questions, and the assignments provided by the Learning Guide, will acquaint students with the role that animal agriculture plays in the degradation of the environment. Students will understand and be able to apply the psychological concepts of "motivated blindness" and "the bias toward normalcy." They will also analyze an example of the use of statistics to mislead.

    Click here for the Learning Guide to Cowspiracy..


    A documentary about the Hungarian Revolution of 1956.

    This documentary is an excellent presentation of the 1956 Hungarian uprising against Soviet domination and Communist rule. It will enhance students' understanding of the Cold War and the role of Eastern Europe in that conflict. The film is especially timely in light of recent events in the Ukraine.

    Torn from the Flag provides an opportunity to discuss many historical concepts important to a study of the period 1947 - 1991, including: Soviet hegemony over Eastern Europe, popular resistance to Communist rule, and the role of De-Stalinization in the unraveling of the Soviet Empire.

    (What's missing from the flag is the crest of the Hungarian Communist party that had been added to the traditional flag of Hungary by the Communists. During the uprising, the people would rip the crest out of the flag, and this became a symbol of the revolution.)

    To view the Learning Guide for Torn From the Flag, click here.

    Coming Soon! — We're already working on them.
      TWM's Learning Guide to Selma — Our Unique Approach

      Clown - the 1968 French Short Subject about a boy and his dog teaches empathy to children from kindergarten to fifth grade.

      Teaching resources for Elie Weisel's Night — using a multi-media approach.

    OCTOBER, 2014

    The Book Thief

    Suggesting a Cross-Curricular Approach Coordinating
    ELA and History Classes for Both the Novel and the Movie

    TWM's Learning Guide for The Book Thief contains materials for teaching the novel as well as the movie. The more students know about pre-WW II Germany, the Holocaust, the Blitz, and the Allies' devastating response, the more they will appreciate Markus Zusak's world-wide best-seller about an orphan girl in Nazi Germany. The Guide also provides the basic historical background that can be used by ELA teachers when there is no opportunity to coordinate with a history instructor.

    The Guide includes reports of actual events on which a few episodes in the story are based. These increase the veracity of both the novel and the film.

    Click here for the Learning Guide to The Book Thief..


    A Learning Guide for Health, ELA (for cross-curricular assignments), and Psychology classes.

    This movie provides insight into what it's like to be raised unloved, abused, and hopeless. It shows that with love and nurturing even children of the most dysfunctional families can move forward with their lives and attain a triumph of the human spirit. Showing this film and using the materials in the Learning Guide will increase understanding of the scourge of childhood sexual abuse. (Estimates are that about 1 in 4 girls and 1 in 6 boys will be victims of childhood sexual abuse.)

    The story also provides graphic depictions of the psychological defense mechanism of dissociation.

    Watching this film with the scaffolding suggested by the Learning Guide will increase resilience in children subject to dysfunctional families and to sexual and physical abuse. In children who do not have to contend with those problems, the movie will expand empathy for those who are not so fortunate. As Gabourey Sidibe, the college student who played the lead role said,
    I know this girl. . . . I've seen her, I've lived beside this girl. . . . I didn't want to be friends with those girls because they had too much drama going on in their lives. I feel guilty for having ignored them." (Interview with Roger Ebert).
    The intense emotions raised by this film will drive writing assignments for the development of skills required by the ELA curriculum.

    To view the Learning Guide for Precious, click here.

    AUGUST 2014
    12 YEARS A SLAVE,     and


    12 Years a Slave — This is the cinematic retelling of the best selling slave narrative of Solomon Northup, a free black man living in upstate New York — kidnapped in 1841 and sold into slavery. The movie shows the life of a slave in the American South primarily on two plantations: one governed by a relatively benevolent master and the other subject to a brutal tyrant.

    Northup's tale also exposes the particularly hard lot of slave women and the heartless operation of the internal U.S. slave trade. The movie is an excellent resource for 12th grade and college classes in U.S. History and for ELA units on the slave narrative genre.

    TWM provides a detailed analysis of the historical accuracy of the film and its fidelity to the book written by Mr. Northup. The Learning Guide provides information to extend the impact of this already emotionally fraught movie, provides materials to help place American slavery into its historical and international contexts, suggests discussion questions to engage students, and provides assignments to turn students back to the written slave narratives.

    Check out TWM's Learning Guide to 12 Years a Slave.

    Lesson Plan on Citizen Participation in the 21st Century Using The Paw Project

    Empower your students! This lesson plan will show how a few committed volunteers changed the law in major cities across California and the innovative ways they are now using to try to ban declawing, a brutal operation that maims cats all across the country. Students will learn about the legal status of local government, the legislative process, regulation on the local, state and national level, the police power, and the ambiguous role of "professional associations" in a modern republic.

    Teachers will have students analyze a municipal ordinance and a state legislative committee report that demonstrate government in action. Since the issue is rather limited in scope, these documents are easy to read and not overly long — perfect for secondary level civics and U.S. government classes.

    Click on the link to go to TWM's Lesson Plan on Citizen Participation in the 21st Century Using The Paw Project.

    JANUARY 2014

    BLACKFISH,     WALK ON WATER,     LINCOLN     and     TWM's Historical Fiction Homework Project

    It's in the news this month! Startling revelations about the marine mammal exhibition industry and particularly the operations of SeaWorld Entertainment:
    Pickets outside SeaWorld Entertainment marine mammal parks — Protests of the SeaWorld float at the 2014 Rose Bowl parade — SeaWorld defending itself with full-page ads in major newspapers  —  All are part of the furor raised by the revelations contained in Blackfish!
    This film raises the questions:
    Is it right to keep orcas (killer whales) in concrete tanks and make them entertain us?

    Is SeaWorld Entertainment responsible for the death of one of its trainers who was killed by an orca that had been involved in two previous human deaths?
    Get your classes involved in the debate. Spark animated discussions! Give writing assignments that will matter to students!

    TWM will help with the new Learning Guide to Blackfish.

    Walk on Water — This fascinating study of grief, guilt, and emotional growth is useful in history and ELA classes. It has a gay man in a positive leading role.

    Description: Eyal is a Mossad assassin trying to recover emotionally from the suicide of his wife. He is assigned to pose as a tour guide keeping watch over Axel, a young German whose grandfather evaded responsibility for murdering thousands during the Holocaust. Axel is gay. He is in Israel to encourage his sister, now living on a Kibbutz, to return to Germany for their father's 70th birthday party. Neither knows that their grandfather is alive and will attend the celebration, returning to Germany from his hiding place in South America. As the story progresses Eyal and Axel become friends despite Eyal's homophobia and each discovers something new about himself.

    Rationale for Using the Movie: Walk on Water presents a story of interest to students learning about the Holocaust and to anyone living in countries resisting terrorism, especially the U.S., Israel, and the nations of Western Europe. The movie will be of special interest to Germans in its exploration of the reaction of young generations to the Holocaust. The story has engaging universal and provides an opportunity to analyze the literary devices of character development, and irony.

    Objectives/Student Outcomes Using this Learning Guide: Students will gain perspective about the costs of assassination as a tool in the war on terror. They will work through an interesting psychological study of grief and guilt while also experiencing a story with a homosexual man in a leading role and a straight man who sheds his homophobia. Students will sharpen their discussion and research skills while analyzing the literary elements of the story.

    View the Learning Guide to Walk on Water.

    Lesson Plan on the End of America's Nightmare Dance With Slavery
    Culminating with Steven Spielberg's LINCOLN

    Lincoln covers the last four months in the life of the 16th President. By focusing on Lincoln's leadership in lobbying the House of Representatives to pass the 13th Amendment, the film describes an important episode at the end of the long effort to end America's nightmare dance with slavery. The movie provides the best character study of Lincoln recorded on film.

    The most valid criticism of the movie is that by emphasizing the January 1865 House vote on the Constitutional Amendment it ignores the contributions to the anti-slavery cause made before that time by the abolitionists, African-Americans (particularly black soldiers and slaves crossing the Union lines to freedom), the Congress, the Union Army, and Abraham Lincoln himself. While the President was concerned that Northern interest in abolition would fade when the Union won the war, by January 1865 so many blows had been struck against slavery that it would have been hard for the country's "peculiar institution" to recover. Because great movies dealing with historical themes have a tendency to take hold of the public's imagination, critics justifiably fear that Spielberg's Lincoln will lead people to believe that slavery was destroyed by one or two votes in Congress. In fact, much more was involved.

    TWM's solution is to use the film as the highlight of a lesson that starts with the efforts of the many people and institutions that helped to purge America of its original sin. Reports before and after the movie, a student handout, discussion questions, and essay assignments will put the vote in the House on January 31, 1865 into its proper historical context. In addition, supplemental materials provided with the lesson plan contain TWM's extensively researched evaluation of the movie as a work of historical fiction, showing what is accurate and what is not.

    View TWM's lesson plan for The End of America's Nightmare Dance with Slavery Culminating with the Movie Lincoln.

    It's not new but it's worth remembering:

              Social Studies and ELA teachers, give your students a skill they can use all their lives with:

    Today's public is usually introduced to events from the past through movies. Teaching students to recognize historical fiction in film and giving them the skills to analyze those movies will provide benefits to students throughout their lives.

    Moviemakers are experts at creating interesting stories and fascinating characters. Thus, most students are willing to watch cinematic versions of historical fiction outside of class. TWM therefore recommends that every social studies course include a component of two to four films per semester to be watched at home or at occasional after-school viewing sessions. For the movies watched at home, students would be required to choose films from an approved list. Click here for TWM's suggestions for movies showing U.S. history and here for suggested films about world history.

    After watching the movies, students will answer questions from TWM's Film Study Worksheet for a Work of Historical Fiction. Responding to those questions will lead students to understand that historical fiction is a compromise between what actually occurred and a story that has the elements of fiction, including a protagonist, an antagonist, a conflict, a crisis, a resolution and characters with various personality traits. The Worksheet then directs students to compare the film to the historical record and to evaluate the movie as a work of historical fiction.

    Give your classes an excellent cross-curricular experience! Check out TWM's Historical Fiction in Film Cross-Curricular Homework Project.

    NOVEMBER, 2013

    Ancient Alexandria, Hypatia, and the Decline of Greco-Roman Civilization — using the Film Agora

    The City of Alexandria was the third greatest city of the Greco-Roman world, often surpassing Athens and Rome in scholarship, learning, and artistic achievement. It had a renowned market and the most complete library ever assembled. Like many other cities near the Mediterranean and Black seas from about the 8th century BCE to the 5th century CE, the elite classes were Hellenized. However, in the 5th century Alexandria was torn apart and reconstituted on a different model by the rise of Christianity and the coming of the Middle Ages.

    Agora shows the death throes of the ancient Greco-Roman civilization and the murder of Hypatia, the greatest female mathematician, philosopher, astronomer and teacher of the ancient culture.

    The movie is also an excellent vehicle for introducing the glory of ancient Alexandria, the Great Library/Museum, the city's knowledge industry, Roman slavery, the advent of Christianity, and the communal strife that tore Alexandria apart. In addition to its historical lessons, themes of the film include gender equality and the evils of intolerance.

    To view this Lesson Plan, click here.

    Music as a Human and Cultural Right — A Lesson Plan
    Using Film Clips from Dr. Sarmast's Music School

    Description: The Taliban forbade music from 1996 to 2001 when they ruled Afghanistan, except for religious songs and Taliban "chants". As the movie opens Kabul has been freed from Taliban oppression and Dr. Ahmad Sarmast, the only Afghan ever to earn a doctorate in music, returns from exile in Australia. His goal is nothing less than to revive the musical traditions of Afghanistan. He also wants to re-introduce Western music. To fulfill these goals, Dr. Sarmast establishes the Afghan National Institute of Music (ANIM). Dr. Sarmast insists that some of the students come from the population of disadvantaged young people who make their living selling small items on the streets of Kabul and that as many girls as possible come to the school.

    This inspiring documentary recounts Dr. Sarmast's efforts. The two suggested videos from other sources set the musical context and show a concert by the ANIM orchestra on its tour of the U.S. in early 2013, after the film was completed.

    Rationale: It is helpful to expand the horizons of students, to show them cultures and places that are different from what they have experienced, that freedoms which they take for granted, such as the right to hear and play music, are not available everywhere, and that sometimes basic human rights can only be secured through tremendous effort and great risk.

    To view the Lesson Plan for Dr. Sarmast's Music School, click here.

    A New Reward Film: EMPIRE RECORDS

    Empire Records 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 an impersonal corporate giant? The movie has lots of music, some dancing and volumes to say about friendship. There is no violence in this film.

    To view the Learning Guide to Empire Records click here. For TWM's article on Reward Films click here.


    This isn't new, but it's a reminder. The Hero's Journey is a paradigm of human experience as well as of literature and film. TWM offers a Hero's Journey Movie Worksheet and a Hero's Journey Student Handout that will introduce any story that employs the Monomyth.

    The journeys of many heroes involve reaching goals of personal growth and development. This type of Hero's Journey is the focus of several TWM lesson plans including:


    OCTOBER 2013




    Movies can help college-level students understand their world, master their subjects, and be enthusiastic about their studies. Check out TWM's new Films Suitable for Use in College-Level Classes & Movies Entertaining and Educational for Adults.


    Robotics and Robot Ethics

    It's the not too distant future . . . Frank, an elderly life-long jewel thief is losing his memory. To extend the time Frank can live independently, his son brings Frank a robot which can cook, clean, garden, give Frank his medicine and . . . learn to pick a lock.

    With clips taken from the movie, helpful background, discussion questions and assignments, this Snippet Lesson Plan helps students examine the implications of artificial intelligence, anthropomorphism projected onto robots, the possibility that robots will gain autonomy, and the question of who is responsible when robot and Frank go on a robbery spree. Take a look at the new Snippet Lesson Plan on Robot Ethics Using Clips from Robot and Frank. Written by Erik Stengler, Ph.D., and James Frieden.

    Music & Physics: electromagnetic waves, induction, capacitance, and antennae

    It's a musical instrument played by hands moving in the air — it's a Theremin.

    The first 9.5 minutes of Theremin: An Electronic Odyssey provides a striking and memorable way to demonstrate phenomena related to electromagnetic induction and capacitance. It may also be useful to introduce concepts of music such as the difference between fretted and unfretted instruments and the need to have a good ear to play the latter.

    Helpful Background and suggested projects can be found at the new Snippet Lesson Plan on Electromagnetic Waves, Induction, Capacitance and Antennae Using a Film Clip from Theremin: An Electronic Odyssey. Written by Erik Stengler, Ph.D., and James Frieden.

    Physics: Parallel Universes

    The One gives students dramatic visual images of the concept of parallel universes, imagining a way to travel from one to another.

    See TWM's Snippet Lesson Plan on Parallel Universes Using Film Clips from The One for helpful background, step by step instructions, discussion questions and supplemental materials. Written by Erik Stengler, Ph.D., and James Frieden.

    Astronomy: Historical evolution of models of the Solar System

    Students will learn about the historical evolution of models of the Solar system with particular emphasis on the riddle of the apparent retrograde movement of the planets, particularly Mars.

    Film clips from the movie Agora, set in ancient times, show the geocentric system of Ptolemy which held that the planets and the Sun move around the Earth. Using these scenes will stress that the modern view of the Solar system took centuries to develop and introduce students to Hypatia, the greatest women of ancient Greek mathematics and philosophy. Animations from the Internet show how the motion of the planets (the "wanderers" in ancient Greek) are explained in both the geocentric and heliocentric models of the Solar system.

    Take a look at the new Snippet Lesson Plan on the Historical Evolution of Views About the Solar System and the Retrograde Motion of Mars Using Film Clips from Agora and Internet Animations. Written by Erik Stengler, Ph.D., and James Frieden.

    Physics: Inertial Forces — Newton's First Law of Motion, the Centrifugal Force and Artificial Gravity in Space

    These clips from 2001-Space Odyssey will give students a visual impression of inertia, the centrifugal force and artificial gravity in space travel.

    TWM's new Snippet Lesson Plan on Inertial Forces (Newton's First Law of Motion, Artificial Gravity and the Centrifugal Force) Using Clips from 2001: A Space Odyssey provides helpful background, step by step instructions for using the film clips, suggested assignments, and supplemental materials. Written by Erik Stengler, Ph.D., and James Frieden.

    Astronomy: Black Holes

    Students will be able to relate the powerful attraction of black holes as seen in Star Trek, the movie, to the concept of gravity. They will understand why this phenomenon is described using the adjective "black" in terms of the concept of escape velocity.

    Give students a visual impression of black holes using the new Snippet Lesson Plan on Black Holes Using Clips from Star Trek, the Movie. Written by Erik Stengler, Ph.D., and James Frieden.

      A lesson plan for history and mathematics classes on Alexandria and Hypatia — Jewels of the Ancient World, using a long clip from the movie Agora; this film is also a valuable supplement for physics, astronomy and mathematics classes.

      For ELA classes, Kurt Vonnegut's Slaughterhouse Five;

      Using Empire Records, a movie with great messages about friendship and redemption, as a reward movie or the basis for writing projects;

      and more . . . .

    SEPTEMBER 2013


    New Learning Guide based on the movie CRASH

    Description: Fast paced and well-presented, this film interweaves incidents of racial and ethnic prejudice during 36 hours in modern-day Los Angeles. The action careens from the base and degraded to the admirable and heroic, painting a picture of the complexity of race and ethnic relations in America. A fine sense of irony pervades the movie.

    Rationale for Using Crash: This film demonstrates that prejudice is not limited to the ignorant and the cruel and that racists are often the victims of racism themselves. It shows the multi-level nature of prejudice and that those who believe themselves to be free of bias may exhibit racist attitudes when confronted with unexpected situations. The film is an excellent platform for discussions of prejudice based on race, ethnicity, or national origin.

    View the new Learning Guide to Crash.


    Description: A struggling young writer finds a manuscript in a brief case purchased from an antique store in Paris. He publishes it under his own name and it becomes a best seller. He is suddenly a famous author. The lie causes the slow death of his marriage to the one woman he can ever love -- and then he is confronted by the real author.

    Rationale for Using the Movie: Students will benefit from this sophisticated and interesting look at the psychological consequences of cheating when the rewards have been great and the plagiarism has remained undiscovered by the public.

    View the Learning Guide to The Words.

    New Learning Guide based on the movie WHAT'S EATING GILBERT GRAPE

    Description: Gilbert is stuck in a small town caring for his obese mother, his mentally handicapped soon-to-be-18 years old brother and his two sisters. He works in the local grocery store which is losing customers as townspeople drive to a new large supermarket out on the highway. Gilbert longs for a life of his own.

    One day a camper with engine trouble exits the line of tourists passing by the town. Enter Becky, a young woman with a fresh attitude toward life who is on the road with her grandmother.

    Rationale for Using the Movie: Students often struggle with the conflict between responsibility to family and responsibility to self, a subject admirably addressed in this film. The story is multi-layered and uses many elements of fiction including symbol, motif, and expository phase.

    View the new Learning Guide to What's Eating Gilbert Grape.

    JUNE 2013


    New Learning Guide based on the movie TROUBLE WITH THE CURVE

    Description: An aging and temperamental baseball scout, who is losing his eyesight, has one final chance to prove that observation (through his ears and his daughter's eyes) are better predictors of the future performance of a major league baseball prospect than the computer analysis of past performance favored by the manager of the team. A second major plot, intertwined with the baseball story involves the recovery of the scout's estranged relationship with his daughter.

    Rationale for Using the Movie: This is an entertaining sports/family dynamics story that will hold the interest of students and teach life lessons about family relationships.

    View the new Learning Guide to TROUBLE WITH THE CURVE.

    A New Learning Guide to

    Description: In Middle School, Charlie's best friend committed suicide. Shortly thereafter Charlie had a breakdown and spent time in a mental institution. As the movie begins, it is Charlie's first day of high school. He is that "weird kid who spent time in a mental hospital" and has no friends. Charlie sits alone in the lunchroom every day. His luck changes when he is befriended by a group of misfit seniors: Patrick is gay; Samantha ("Sam") was the freshman slut; and Mary Elizabeth is a goth. Through the school year Charlie learns many things about acceptance, friendship and romantic relations. Eventually he is able to confront a dark secret that has been troubling him far more than the suicide of his friend.

    The movie is based on the best selling novel of the same name and stays true to the themes of the book. The film does not follow the book exactly, but it has independent artistic significance. The author of the novel wrote and directed the movie.

    Rationale for Using the Movie: This coming of age story hits several social emotional learning issues important to teens, including: courage in social situations, friendship, and romantic relationships. The story is a landmark in young adult literature for its sympathetic portrayal of a gay teenager whose life does not have a tragic outcome. The movie is one of the best films available for increasing acceptance of GBLTQ teens. It does the same for teens who suffer from an emotional disorder, in this case PTSD from childhood sexual abuse.

    View the Learning Guide to THE PERKS OF BEING A WALLFLOWER.

    New Learning Guide based on the movie GROUNDHOG DAY

    Description: Phil Connor, an arrogant and selfish television weatherman is assigned his fourth year of covering the Groundhog Day festivities in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania, where he becomes trapped in a time loop. He must re-live Groundhog Day, February 2, day after day after day. No matter what he does, when he wakes up the next morning, it's as if yesterday never happened. Except that he remembers that day and all the ones before it, but he's the only one who does. Since there is no tomorrow, there are no consequences. If Phil eats too much, drinks too much, robs an armored car, or jumps off a tall building, the next morning dawns as if none of that had happened. He can also learn what women admire and use that knowledge to seduce them on the next day.

    Rationale for Using the Movie: The comic situation in which the main character learns important life lessons encourages students to evaluate their own routines and to find ways to avoid patterns of self-defeating behavior.

    View the new Learning Guide to GROUNDHOG DAY.

    MAY 2013


    New Learning Guide based on the movie COVE

    Description: This is the 2010 Academy Award winning documentary exposing the annual dolphin hunt that occurs at a cove in Taiji, Japan. Dolphins are herded into the cove and trapped there by nets. Some are selected for transfer to dolphinariums throughout the world to be trained to entertain crowds of people. The remainder are slaughtered for their meat. Set up as a thriller, the movie follows the film crew as it tries to evade obstructions set in place by the Taiji fisherman and the government of Japan to stop them from filming the capture and slaughter.

    Rationale for Using the Movie: This film is an exposé of cruel treatment of a very intelligent ocean-living mammal. When shown with the lessons provided in this Learning Guide the film provides opportunities for learning on several additional levels.

    View the new Learning Guide to COVE.

    A New Learning Guide to the Documentary FORKS OVER KNIVES

    Description: Physician T. Colin Campbell, raised on a dairy farm, enjoyed a diet of meat and milk products until he became involved in a study that looked for causes of the "diseases of affluence": heart disease, cancer and Type-2 Diabetes. At the same time, noted surgeon, Caldwell Esselstyn, also raised on a dairy farm, noticed that a year or two after he performed arterial by-pass surgery, the arteries of many of his patients were filled again with cholesterol. Both men, independently, came to the conclusion that a whole-foods plant-based diet could stop the progression of these diseases and in some cases, reverse them. This knowledge has been synthesized in Forks Over Knives.

    Rationale for Using the Movie: In order to make intelligent decisions about their diet, students need to know the information presented in this film. In addition, as schools adjust their lunch menus to offer healthy choices and as school boards are banning soda and candy machines from campuses, students need to understand what drives the changes in the food choices they are being offered.

    View the Learning Guide to FORKS OVER KNIVES.

    New Learning Guide based on the movie MIDNIGHT IN PARIS

    Description: Hollywood screenwriter, Gil Pender, is trying to write a novel of literary significance. Vacationing in Paris with his fiancé and future in-laws, he is overwhelmed by nostalgia for the period of the Lost Generation, the 1920s, when brilliant American writers and visual artists from all over Europe lived and worked in Paris. While taking a midnight stroll Gil is magically transported to the 1920s where he meets Hemingway, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Salvador Dali and other famous writers and artists of the period. Through these encounters Gil learns that he needs to change the course of his life and that although he must live in the present, he can shape his life according to the values that had drawn him into the past.

    Rationale for Using the Movie: This film can provide benefits on at least three levels. It allows students to visualize famous writers and artists who worked in Paris during the 1920s. The story itself is valuable, raising the issue of how best to use the past. It can also serve to acquaint students with the City of Paris, one of the great cities of the world.

    View the new Learning Guide to MIDNIGHT IN PARIS.

    APRIL 2013


    New Learning Guide based on the movie ARGO

    Description: This is the story of the rescue of six American diplomats who escaped when Iranian militants seized the U.S. embassy in Tehran in 1979 and took the embassy staff hostage.

    Rationale for Using the Movie: The film can serve as the basis for discussion and writing with respect to the risks and benefits of using movies as historical fiction. With careful scaffolding, the film can also be a platform from which students can explore lessons about the risks of causing regime change in other countries and U.S./Iranian relations since WW II.

    View the Preview Learning Guide to Argo.

    A New Learning Guide to the classic film Of Mice And Men

    Description: Set in Depression era farm country, this film adaptation of John Steinbeck's novel opens as George and Lenny flee authorities after Lenny, who is mentally disabled, appears to have assaulted a woman. Lenny is incapable of understanding that his desire to caress something soft can easily be seen as threatening. George is his friend and protector. They eventually find work at a ranch where Lenny runs into similar but more serious trouble, the results of which cannot be escaped.

    Rationale for Using the Movie: In its fairly accurate portrayal of the characters and themes presented in Steinbeck's novel, the film illuminates the conflicts between self-interest and loyalty as it explores the limits of friendship.

    View the Preview Learning Guide to Of Mice And Men.


    A New Lesson Plan based on the movie SHAKESPEARE BEHIND BARS

    Description: Murderers, thieves and a child abuser, in prison on long sentences, seek self-discovery by playing roles in a production of Shakespeare's great last play, The Tempest. Since actors in Elizabethan times were considered to be criminal low life, Shakespeare would feel right at home with this troupe. As they prepare for performance, the men reflect on their crimes and the meaning of forgiveness while discovering remarkable parallels between their own lives and the experiences of the characters they play.

    The film can be used as an interesting introduction to The Tempest or as a follow-up after studying the play. Shakespeare Behind Bars is also useful on its own.

    View the new Lesson Plan to Shakespeare Behind Bars.


    The spirits of Aristophanes, Voltaire, Jonathan Swift, and Mark Twain are alive and well in the movies. This Lesson Plan, suitable for any work of social satire, but based on Ricky Gervais' The Invention of Lying, contains background, more examples of social satire in various media,discussion questions and assignments to assist teachers in presenting a short unit on social satire.
      Description of the Movie: This warm-hearted comedy presents an alternate universe which is the same as the modern day U.S., except that no one knows how to lie and everyone speaks exactly what comes into their heads. There are no "white lies," there is no fiction, and everyone can be absolutely trusted. There is also no religion.

      As the movie opens, the audience is introduced to Mark Bellison, a slightly overweight young man with a pug nose who is unsuccessful at work and unlucky in love. In short order, Mark is rejected by a beautiful woman, gets fired from his job, and is about to be evicted from his apartment. The movie shows how Mark discovers the ability to lie while poking fun at modern society and some of our most cherished institutions.
    View the lesson plan on Social Satire.

    A Snippet Lesson Plan based on the movie AMERICAN VIOLET

    Learner Outcomes/Objectives: By watching a 31 minute clip from the movie and through class discussion and assignments, students will learn about plea bargaining, the public policy decisions on which it is based, and some of the problems with the practice.

    Rationale: The U.S. criminal justice system is primarily a system of plea bargains. 95% of all persons prosecuted for crimes in the U.S. end up pleading guilty in return for reduced charges or a lighter sentence. This lesson plan will provide students with a vivid illustration of the strong pressures that are brought to bear on defendants to plead out, regardless of whether they are guilty.

    Description of the Film Clip: This film is a fact-based account of a young African-American mother arrested in a racially motivated drug sweep by a Texas county district attorney. She resists pressure to agree to a plea bargain.

    View the new Snippet Lesson Plan on Plea Bargaining.

    AUGUST 2012



    Your arm is pinned by a giant boulder to the
    rock wall of a canyon in the remote desert...

    Description of the Movie: 127 Hours, adapted from Aron Ralston's book Between a Rock and a Hard Place, describes five days during which a giant boulder pinned Ralston's arm to the wall of a slot canyon. Trapped and with no hope of rescue, Ralston musters the courage to break the bones in his arm and then to sever the flesh from his body.

    The "TWM Writing Lesson Plan Using 127 Hours" employs an innovative student handout to describe some of the concepts in Ralston's book. The handout is to be read before students watch the movie — or, since the essentials of Ralston's story can be told in a few short sentences, instead of watching the movie. Each section of the handout introduces an idea that helps readers understand Ralston's harrowing decision to cut off his arm and give himself a chance to walk away from certain death.

    Suggested assignments are designed to encourage students to write freely in response to the information given and to empathize with the attributes of character that served Ralston so well. Then, as students watch the film, they will be able to see how ideas they have considered and written about are described visually.

    View the Writing Lesson Plan Using 127 Hours.

    Objectives/Student Outcomes Using this Learning Guide: Students will engage in an analysis of character development in a popular story and will exercise their writing skills on a topic that interests them. They will become aware of how racism and classism distort human relationships and of the segregated society which existed in America as late as the 1960s.

    The Learning Guide to The Help will assist in teaching from both the movie and the book.

    View the new Learning Guide to The Help.

    Among the many stories about racism, The Help is unusually valuable because it demonstrates how prejudice distorts important personal relationships such those of primary caregiver and child, parent and child, girlfriend and boyfriend and between friends. Anyone who reads or sees "The Help" will never again believe the "Mammy" stereotype.

    For ELA classes, the movie is an excellent opportunity to study character development over the course of a narrative. For U.S. History classes the film is a valuable addition to a list of movies to be watched as homework to explore segregation, Jim Crow and racism in the 20th century or as an example of the genre of historical fiction. See TWM's Historical Fiction in Film Cross-Curricular Homework Project


    TWM Moves to Facilitator – Learner Model
    Posted: August 6, 2012

    Written By: Mary RedClay (TWM contributor)
    Summer sails past and soon educated grown-ups will be preparing for their roles as teachers of youngsters, as has been happening ever since some farmer decided his kids needed to be home when the crops were ripe. Peculiar, isn't it, that we still follow the agrarian calendar. More peculiar still is that we consider teachers to be living textbooks, full of vital information that must be delivered to their students. In the "information age" this notion is absurd. Teachers will better serve their students if they become "facilitators" of instruction and guides to the process that students use to seek knowledge on their own....[ click here to continue reading full post ]

    JULY 2012


    — Coming in August we will have two brand new Learning Guides to the movies
    127 Hours and The Help, so keep an eye out for those soon!


    Lesson Plan on Influenza and its Threat to Mankind

                                               Using the film Contagion

    What if the Bird Flu Went Airborne?

    Description of the Movie: Contagion tells the tale of a fictional influenza pandemic. It is, in many ways, realistic.

    Learner Outcomes/Objectives: Students will understand the risks to modern society from the influenza virus and see a realistic scenario of what might occur in case of moderately lethal influenza pandemic. Students will learn to use the Internet to obtain information on illnesses from various web sites, including cdc.gov from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and www.flu.gov from the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services (HHS).

    View the Learning Guide to Contagion Here.

    The Spread of Viral Infection

    Learner Outcomes/Objectives: Students will have a clear picture of the path that a virus can take from a host animal to its first human victims and from there to an epidemic destroying an entire community.

    Rationale: The film clips provide an excellent supplement to a unit on the spread of infectious disease.

    Description of the Film Clip: A deadly virus is transmitted from Africa to the United States and threatens to cause an epidemic. The clips are taken from the first hour of the movie showing how the disease spreads.

    View the new Snippet Lesson Plan to Outbreak Here.


    Pairing of Nonfiction Books and Film

    Written By: Mary RedClay (TWM contributor)

    Years ago, a workbook given to students to help them prepare for a standardized test asked them to read a piece of nonfiction called "School Based Management." The students in my test prep class glanced at the title, read a line or two, and then quickly turned to the questions and penciled in the answers on the scan-tron test. Discussion ensued. I learned that the kids were certain they would do as well randomly selecting a response as they would were they to read the material and reason through to the correct answers. No way, they argued, were they going waste their time reading something so boring....[ click here to continue reading full post ]

    Administrators: The cornerstone of any program to ensure that class time won't be wasted when students are shown movies is to give teachers curriculum materials that reveal the educational value of feature films. Then you can work with teachers to ensure that movies are used infrequently but with maximum educational return consistent with the Common Core State Standards.

    MARCH 2012


    Television is a multifaceted medium with programming that covers most subjects in the k-12 curriculum. There are nature shows, history documentaries, and dramas such as soaps, crime stories, and the reality survival shows. In addition, there are reality competition shows in dance, music, cooking, memory and various sports-like situations. TV also has documentary-like shows which provide important up-to-date information on the latest current events or discoveries in science. The most popular TV programs, with varying degrees of quality, are watched by millions.

    The interest that students have in TV programming offers an opportunity for creative teachers to make interesting homework lesson plans for both extra credit and required homework assignments. An important additional advantage is that the TV watching will be done at home, outside of class, and will not take up instructional time.

    • Fiction (Soaps, Dramas, and Reality/Survival Shows);
    • Historical Fiction;
    • Documentaries - Informational and Persuasive;
    • Reality Show Competitions; and
    • News Program.
    We have a total of 6 New Worksheets!!

    Click Here to view the list of TV Program Worksheets for Homework which serve as the core for TV show lesson planning.


    We now offer two film study worksheets designed to help teachers quickly create lesson plans based on documentary films; one is for movies that are primarily informational and the other for films designed to persuade the viewer on a matter of political or social significance.

    The worksheets assist students in analyzing the documentary. They allow students to take notes during breaks while watching the movie or when the film is over. The prompts on the worksheets can be used to facilitate class discussions or form the basis for writing assignments.

    The worksheets for documentaries will help students:
    • determine premise, theme and intent;
    • look at the structure and form of the presentation;
    • summarize important facts;
    • articulate important lessons learned from the film; and
    • identify scenes, images, or sounds that appeal to the viewer.

    TWM offers the following movie worksheets for documentaries:
    • Film Study Worksheet for a Documentary;
    • Film Study Worksheet for a Documentary that Seeks to Persuade on Issues of Political or Social Significance.
    Click Here to view more about how to use these Documentary Worksheets in class.


    Hawthorne is to The Rolling Stones as "Young Goodman Brown" is to "Sympathy for the Devil"

    Written By: Mary RedClay (TWM contributor)
    Mick Jagger cannot be duplicated. And in his early days, everyone knew those Lips and studied how he slung them around his lyrics in sync with his moves. Whether or not you are old enough to be a Rolling Stones fan, your students will enjoy watching a video of this young 60's icon as they learn the theme of one of Nathaniel Hawthorne's best short stories.

    The early classics of American Literature are increasingly obscure to today's students. Most of them would prefer a mediocre film over a book any day. But Hawthorne's short story, "Young Goodman Brown," as dense and difficult as it is, redounds with ideas that are as important now as when they were written in 1835. And Jagger's "Sympathy for the Devil" makes the central idea outright obvious. Plus, it leads to a good writing assignment...[ click here to continue reading full post ]

    FEBRUARY 2012


    Into the Wild tells the true story of Chris McCandless, a young man from a troubled family who was enraged by what he considered to be the moral lapses of his mother and father and their multiple failures as parents. Chris also had a love of nature and of adventuring in the wild. Upon graduating from college near the top of his class, Chris cut himself off from family and friends to go solo adventuring in the Western United States. His last trip was to the Alaskan wilderness where he was found dead of starvation in an abandoned bus, a few short miles from safety. The movie tells the story of the events at home, Chris' love of nature, his wanderings in the West, the people that he met, and, in the final weeks, his epiphany of forgiveness and his realization of the importance of human relationships.

    The book, Into the Wild, by John Krakauer, is an excellent nonfiction text for students in grades 10 - 12. The film can be used to introduce students to the book or to serve as a reward after they have read the book. The TWM Learning Guide provides writing exercises for students who have seen the movie or read the book.


    Thelma and Louise

    Foreshadowing and Characterization using a film clip from Thelma & Louise

    Learner Outcomes/Objectives: Students will learn how to use, analyze and interpret foreshadowing and characterization through showing rather than telling.

    Rationale: The first seven minutes of Thelma & Louise utilize details which foreshadow the adventure the two women are about to experience and thoroughly reveal character. These techniques can then be shown in written literature.

    Description: The film begins with somber, yet inviting music that looks upon a dark road leading as in "infinite regress" to a distant mountain. The scene lightens to brilliant colors which then begin to fade as the credits finish. Eventually, all is dark except for shadows of clouds above the mountain tops. Quickly, the scene changes and we see Louise waiting tables and Thelma in her kitchen at home. Their personalities are clearly portrayed by what is shown as they decide to take the trip and do their packing.

    View the Snippet Lesson Plan to Thelma & Louise.

    One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest

    Deriving Theme Using a film clip from One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest

    Learner Outcomes/Objectives: Students will practice deriving theme from a scene in a novel that has been adapted to film.

    Rationale: The fishing scene from One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest is a powerful presentation of a thematic concept. In addition, students reading Ken Kesey's novel will enjoy seeing the film's presentation of this important scene.

    Description: In this classic scene from One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, Randall Patrick McMurphy, played by Jack Nicholson, takes fellow inmates of the mental institution on an unauthorized fishing trip. The joyful energy spent catching the fish shows on the faces of the inmates; they have become happy, successful men rather than the troubled spirits they are at the hospital. Whether or not students read the book or see the entire movie, the snippet illustrates one of the film's ideas: society determines what is crazy and what is not crazy and this determination is created through observable behavior; in other words, crazy is as crazy does. 

    View the Snippet Lesson Plan to One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest.

    Young Goodman Brown

    Deriving Theme By Comparing Hawthorne's "Young Goodman Brown" with the Rolling Stones' "Sympathy for the Devil"

    Learning Outcomes/Objectives: Students studying American Literature will gain a sense of the writing of Nathaniel Hawthorne and see connections between his advanced thinking and similar themes found in pop culture. Students will observe the same ideas presented in two different media from two different time periods. They will practice expressing their ideas in a compare/contrast essay.

    For Rationale: The comparison between American literature of the first half of the 19th century and modern rock and roll will engage students and motivate them to complete their assignments.

    Description of the Film Clip: Hawthorne writes about a young man who leaves his wife, Faith, to explore the dark side by going into the forest at night to see what evils lurk there. He has an appointment to meet a stranger who can be seen as the personification of the devil. The stranger shows Goodman Brown the hypocrisy and evil of the allegedly good people in his family and his town. The lyrics of "Sympathy for the Devil" communicate the same idea making reference to historical events in an echo of the examples given by the stranger. The events transcend time and are dissimilar in detail showing the broad range of evil in human affairs and the frequent duplicity in human behavior.

    View the Snippet Lesson Plan for Deriving Theme.


    No Child Left Behind Has it All Wrong. It’s the Educators That Have Been Left Behind

    Written By: Mary RedClay (TWM contributor)
    The kids have moved directly into the future. Even elementary school students are listening to their iPods, playing video games, texting, tweeting, e-mailing, prowling YouTube and watching the cooking channel. And it seems as if they’re doing it all at once...[ click here to continue reading full post ]

    Using the Movie Babies to Inspire Quality Writing

    Written By: Mary RedClay (TWM contributing editor)
    Not long ago in my 11th grade ELA class, a student announced to all that she was, well, with child. The class responded with a mighty “ohhhhh.” The sound, heard in muted chorus, could have signified a question, a moan of disappointment, a hint of disapproval or perhaps a basic “you-don’t-say” response. Probably given the fact that there were nearly forty students in the room, all three feelings were communicated in that “oh.” ...[ click here to continue reading full post ]

    Visual Metaphors and Writing Assignments Using a Clip from Thelma & Louise

    Written By: Mary RedClay (TWM contributing editor)
    A good way to teach this concept is with a snippet from Thelma & Louise that shows characterization in the opening segment. First, a brief digression...[ click here to continue reading full post ]

    JANUARY 2012


    Check with "What's new on TWM" next month when we will start "A New TWM initiative on using movies to interest students in reading nonfiction: The first guides will be to 127 Hours, Into the Wild and Mao's Last Dancer."

    According to the 2010 Common Core State Standards ("CCSS"):

    • Extensive research has established the need for college and career ready students to be able to independently read complex nonfiction texts;

    • The majority of the required reading in worker training programs and in college is informational in nature and it is often challenging in content;

    • The amount of nonfiction reading required of students in post-secondary education programs is usually greater than that required in K-12. CCSS pp. 3 & 4.

    By 12th grade, the goal of the CCSS is for students to be reading in school 70% nonfiction and 30% fiction over all subject areas. See, CCSS p. 5. For ELA classes this means that perhaps 50% of the reading will be nonfiction. This new section of TeachWithMovies.com is to assist teachers in meeting these goals in a fashion that will energize kids to read the books.


    The Ox-Bow Incident

    A frontier town in 1885 Nevada is rocked by news that a respected rancher has been murdered. The sheriff is out of town. Impatient townspeople form a posse. Three strangers are soon found herding cattle marked with the brand belonging to the murdered rancher. They claim they bought the cattle — but there is no bill of sale. One of the strangers has the rancher's gun. He tells the posse that he bought it from the rancher but again, he has no evidence. Most of the posse wants to string the strangers up immediately. A few men argue that the posse should wait and turn the strangers over to the sheriff. What will the posse do?

    The TeachWithMovies.com Learning Guide to The Ox-Bow Incident has been completely rewritten and now contains a wealth of information about due process and how the posse in this film ignored this most basic value of the rule of law. The Guide will help teachers introduce in a graphic way the meaning and importance of due process and the risks of mob rule.

    NOTE: An active TWM login is required in order to view these links.


    Mao's Last Dancer

    The TeachWithMovies.com Learning Guide to Mao's Last Dancer will assist teachers who show the movie alone or in conjunction with reading Li Cunxin's interesting autobiography of the same title.

    Li Cunxin (1961 - ) is the sixth of seven sons born to a poor, hard working peasant family in China. The Li's are loving and close, enduring decades of hunger and deprivation, barely avoiding starvation. The book describes a peasant's life in China before, during and after the Cultural Revolution (1966 to 1976). The movie is a reasonably accurate description of Mr. Cunxin's life through about his 30th year, as described in his autobiography.

    NOTE: An active TWM login is required in order to view these links.


    The Relic

    Viruses and the Speed of Evolution Using The Relic

    Students will experience an entertaining introduction to the topics of viruses and the speed of evolution using two film clips from The Relic. Three basic concepts of virology and one concept of evolution will be highlighted by the lesson. View the new Snippet Lesson Plan for The Relic.

    NOTE: An active TWM login is required in order to view these links.



    Oxidation-Reduction Reactions (Redox) Using a Film Clips from Daylight

    In a lesson spiced with a film clip from Daylight and two interesting YouTube clips, students will learn about real life occurrences of oxidation-reduction reactions, from paper becoming yellow, to apples becoming brown, to fire, to the most destructive explosions. They will review how oxidation-reduction reactions involve electron transfer between atoms. Finally, students will receive practical advice on fire safety. View the new Snippet Lesson Plan for Daylight.

    NOTE: An active TWM login is required in order to view these links.

    DECEMBER 2011

          The Wizard of OZ is a classic
          example of the Hero's Journey!


    Showing students movies as a reward for good behavior has its purpose.

    The promise of a film as reward for tasks accomplished has always been a manipulative device favored by teachers who themselves love a good movie now and then. But reward doesn't have to mean useless or brain-dead.

    Reward films are an opportunity to show students movies that are great works of art, unusual films that change lives or show a part of the world that students have never seen. It is also a reward to show students a filmed version of a book that they have read.

    Finally, reward-time is a great way to expose students to foreign films.

    The key is to use the class to do something different that will help students.

    Click here to see our latest article about showing reward films. It includes a list of recommended movies.

    NEW LEARNING GUIDES TO: Hercules & Grave of the Fireflies


    What do you do with a movie that, although loved by children, takes a Greek myth, changes the plot, modifies the characters almost beyond recognition, mixes in Christian theological themes, and adds parallels to a comic book hero?

    One student told us about a class in mythology whose teacher had turned Hercules into a test. The prompt was simple: describe the ways in which the movie departs from the myth.

    The TeachWithMovies.com Learning Guide to Hercules provides a comprehensive list of how the Disney version differs from the Greek myth.


    Grave of the Fireflies

    Grave of the Fireflies is a heartbreaking film that shows two orphaned children trying to survive the aftermath of the American incendiary bombing campaign that preceded the nuclear attacks on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. It shows one example of the effects of the Second World War on civilians and provides a clear example of the tragedy hidden behind the euphemism "collateral damage." Roger Ebert wrote, "Grave of the Fireflies is an emotional experience so powerful that it forces a rethinking of animation." Another critic compared the movie to Schindler's List saying that: "It is the most profoundly human animated film I've ever seen." See Roger Ebert's Review in the Chicago Sun-Times.

    The TeachWithMovies.com Learning Guide to Grave of the Fireflies shows how to use the film on its own or to supplement units on civilian casualties in WW II or in any war. The movie can also be used to support TWM's Mass Casualties Lesson Plan, which explores the decision to drop atomic bombs to end WW II.

    NOVEMBER 2011

    The Common Core State Standards and
    Feature Films in the ELA Classroom:

    Feature films — carefully selected, properly introduced, shown with a movie worksheet, and followed by discussions and assignments — will inspire and interest today's students.

    Some of the new Common Core State Standards refer to the use of film.  Movies can also assist in meeting standards that make no reference to film. Click here for an explanation of how a few carefully selected and properly presented movies can assist teachers in meeting the Common Core State Standards, including a complete list of the Common Core State Standards that relate to the use of film in education.

    Helpful Tip: Are your school administrators resisting the use of film in your ELA classes? Give them TWM's article entitled Common Core State Standards and Feature Films in the ELA Classroom and the Common Core State Standards - Annotated & Highlighted for Films. These documents demonstrate that teachers cannot realistically meet the Common Core State Standards without showing some movies in the classroom and that a limited and judicious use of feature films can assist in meeting many standards.

    Updated Learning Guide to Casablanca

    Casablanca a classic story of love and redemption through sacrifice at the beginning of World War II. It's one of the most popular films ever made. With its extended metaphor relating to the end of American isolationism, Casablanca can assist learning in both English Language Arts and social studies classes. The film is an excellent example of historical fiction. Moreover, the film can serve as an example of Joseph Campbell's Hero's Journey through Rick's internal quest for redemption and self-rediscovery.

    The character of Rick provides an example of the value of redemption, both on a social and personal level. Watching this movie permits children to work through the issues of romantic attachment and when that attachment must be sacrificed for more important values. Because of the power of the story, Casablanca is an excellent Reward Film.

    The TeachWithMovies.com Learning Guide to Casablanca provides a movie worksheet for use in ELA classes, another for an ELA class on the Hero's Journey, and a third for social studies classes (treating the film as an example of historical fiction). It contains extensive background information that will support an introduction to the film. The Guide also contains discussion questions and assignments. ...read more

    OCTOBER, 2011

    TWM is proud to present its Movies as Literature Homework Project together with a new and revised Film Study Worksheet.

    ELA teachers . . . . How many of your students will frequently read books as adults? Some . . . . but they'll all be watching movies!

    Help students understand that movies tell stories that can be analyzed using the elements and devices of fiction. You may change the way your students look at film for their entire lives. With TWM's Movies as Literature Homework Project YOU CAN DO THIS WITHOUT A LARGE INVESTMENT OF CLASS TIME!

    Social Studies Teachers . . . . How many of your students will read books about history when they are adults? A few . . . . but most will be watching historical fiction in movies!

    TWM's Historical Fiction in Film Cross-Curricular Homework Project requires students to watch, outside of class, movies that are historical fiction. They are required to analyze the films for the elements and devices of fiction and for their historical accuracy and perspective. Used with TWM's revised Film Study Worksheet for Historical Fiction this homework assignment means . . . . YOU CAN DO THIS WITHOUT A LARGE INVESTMENT OF CLASS TIME!

    AUGUST, 2011

    Music Within is a biography of Richard Pimentel, one of the people responsible for passage of the Americans With Disabilities Act of 1990. However, when properly supported by the information, discussion questions and assignments in TWM's Learning Guide, the film provides much more:

    Health Classes: Students love the character of Art, a man confined to a wheelchair by cerebral palsy. Art's spastic movements make even the simplest tasks of daily life extremely difficult. Michael Sheen's portrayal of this real-life character is so engaging that the way students see and think about persons with obvious physical disabilities will change forever. The movie will also help students reach new levels of understanding about the effects of early childhood trauma, PTSD, and overcoming a dysfunctional family. Music Within is one of the best films for Health classes relating to disabilities.

    Social Studies Classes: Music Within presents one of the five great advances in human rights in the U.S. during the 20th century: the movement to allow the disabled to integrate into mainstream society. It will show students that just a few years ago, disabled people could not get access to public buildings and could be discriminated against at work and in education. The movie also provides a window onto life in the last half of the 20th century.

    English Language Arts Classes: The movie is an excellent description of the human condition as experienced in America during the 20th century. It vicariously expands students' experiences and raises important questions that are great topics for persuasive essays and other writing projects.

    Since it is strong in so many areas, the film also offers cross-curricular benefits.

    How do most students and adults in the U.S. learn about history? It's from movies and film - be it Amistad or All the President's Men or A Man for All Seasons – movies "based on" historical events appear every year. These are, in fact, works of historical fiction with varying degrees of accuracy. TWM believes that an important function of any social studies class is to help students learn to critically evaluate the historical fiction that they'll be watching the rest of their lives. We have created two new teaching tools to address this need.
      Before showing a work of historical fiction, require students to read TWM's Film Study Worksheet for Historical Fiction. After the movie is over, in class or as homework, ask students to provide written responses. Alternatively, hold a class discussion based on the questions in the Worksheet. This will keep students' attention on the movie and lead them to evaluate the film as both a work of fiction and a description of history.

      Because class time is valuable and there are few opportunities to show an entire movie in class, TWM has developed a Historical Fiction in Film Cross-Curricular Homework Project which requires students to watch, outside of class, a certain number of movies that are historical fiction — TWM suggests four per semester — and then respond to the questions in the Film Study Worksheet for Historical Fiction.
    Once you have used the Worksheet or the Homework Project, tell us what you think via email to support@TeachWithMovies.com. Our thanks to Suzanne Paulazzo, Social Studies Teacher, Leland High School, San Jose, California for sending us a lesson plan that inspired these two new products.


    We have updated the Learning Guide and Student Handout for Super Size Me with new statistics about the obesity epidemic. TWM recommends ten other movies that will supplement and add depth to Health classes.


    (We can count; the first one overlaps.)

    Illustrate the amazing power of exponential increase and decrease, show students the reason for scientific notation, and introduce different numeral systems with Exponents, Scientific Notation, and Numeral Systems Using Powers of Ten or Cosmic Voyage. Both films have similar scenes that will leave a lasting impression on students.

    Demonstrate the vast distances between stars but the relative closeness of galaxies with Interstellar and Intergalactic Distances Using Cosmic Voyage. The Guide has links to websites with amazing photographs of galactic collisions.

    Show students the optics of refraction that lie behind the rare and ephemeral Green Flash. See Refraction and the Green Flash Using a Clip from Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End.

    How can harmonic motion sink a ship, break a glass, make beautiful music, or destroy a bridge? Give examples from Hollywood (fictional) to Tacoma (real) with Harmonic Motion Using Film Clips from Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End.

    The Snippet Lesson Plan on Molecular Bonds and Surface Tension Using Film Clips from Microcosmos focuses on amazing footage of ants drinking from drops of water. It will interest students in this important topic.


    The Old Man and the Sea is a faithful adaptation of Hemingway's Pulitzer Prize winning novella. The Learning Guide contains a Film Study Worksheet to keep students' focused on the film and the themes of the story. The Guide will assist in teaching both the book and the movie providing insights, discussion questions, and assignments. As almost always, TWM suggests that students read the book before they see the movie.

    While The Sandlot appears on the surface to be a lightweight comedy, the movie provokes an empathic reaction in virtually all viewers. The Learning Guide to this film points out the themes of the movie and provides discussion questions. It contains assignments for middle or junior high students to practice the skills required by The Common Core State Standards for English Language Arts for Writing and for Speaking and Listening.

    MAY 2011

    As you can see, we have a new and modernized look with new navigation tools including a search engine. Give it a drive — check it out.

    We have updated the Learning Guide and Student Handout for Super Size Me with new statistics about the obesity epidemic.


    In TWM's Snippet Lesson Plan — Introduction to Thermonuclear Reactions in the Sun and as a Source of Unlimited Energy for Mankind Students — Using a Film Clip from Spiderman 2 introduces the thermonuclear reactions that take place in the nucleus of the sun. Students will learn why it would be a major breakthrough to be able to reproduce the fusion that takes place in the Sun in a controlled environment on Earth. They will be introduced to the difficulties that have made this endeavor impossible to date. Students will also be introduced to the magnetic fields of the Sun and see films of sunspots and solar prominences.
    The solar eclipse shown in Dolores Claiborne faithfully reproduces the correct atmospheric and light conditions as well as the phases of a total solar eclipse. While there is nothing like viewing a total solar eclipse while outside, this movie clip will allow students to vicariously participate in part of that experience. Check out TWM's Snippet Lesson Plan — Total Solar Eclipse — Using a Film Clip from Dolores Claiborne

    JANUARY 2011


    During 2011 TWM will present 12 new Snippet Lesson Plans illustrating principles of science. Combined with our current offerings, TWM Users will be able access more than 40 ways to use film in physics, biology and earth science classes to vary classroom routines and stimulate interest. See TWM's Science and Technology Index.

    Our first new Science Snippet Lesson Plan is an Introduction to Volcanoes and Tectonic Plates Using "Volcano".

    Students will learn about volcanoes,their likely locations, the factors that can lead to an eruption, the relation of plate tectonics to volcanic eruptions, and the kind of certainty that scientists can and cannot provide. They will become familiar with the way that volcanoes are classified and four of the important phenomena that happen before and during eruptions: heating of underground and surface water, lava flows, ash clouds, and volcanic bombs.

    The Lesson Plan shows the difference between what occurs in nature and where Hollywood fantasy manifests itself in the film. The events of the movie are loosely based on real incidents in which a volcano suddenly surged to life in an unexpected location and when advancing lava was cooled and stopped with water. Comparison of the real events with the film will demonstrate the differences between fact and fiction in movies while providing interest and context for the lesson.



    Very few students will be involved in the situations and violence portrayed in today's action/adventure movies. However, most of them, at one time in their lives, will embark on their own quests for achievement or for personal growth. These quests often fit the paradigm of the Hero's Journey. TWM has developed four Lesson Plans to show that the Hero's Journey can be found in stories other than action/adventure movies. More Hero's Journey Lesson Plans will be published in the coming months.

    Check out TWM's Stages and Archetypes of the Hero's Journey -- Introducing the Monomyth based on the insights of Carl Jung, Joseph Campbell and Christopher Vogler.

    In Fly Away Home, Amy undertakes two important quests. The first is to successfully pass through paralyzing grief arising from her mother's untimely death. She accomplishes this, in part, through her second quest, a mission in which she and her father work together to teach her orphaned geese how to migrate from north to south. Both of these quests fit the paradigm of "the Hero's Journey,"
    The "The Wizard of Oz" is another Heroine's Journey. In the process of finding her way back home, Dorothy grows in self-confidence and matures.
    The Hero's Journey can also be found in romantic comedies as shown by the Lesson Plan for "Big". In this case, Josh makes an internal Hero's Journey and learns that despite his desire to be big, he is not ready for the world of adults and that childhood is a time to be enjoyed.
    The Hero's Journey lesson plan for "Departures" shows a Journey of personal growth and development in a foreign film.


    In each of these lesson plans, students will be asked to describe the stages and archetypes of the Hero's Journey. By completing one or more of the suggested assignments, students will employ and perfect the writing skills required by ELA curriculum standards.

    TeachWithMovies.com Learning Guides are designed to assist teachers in creating lesson plans. Each Learning Guide contains sections on Helpful Background, Benefits of the Movie, Possible Problems, Discussion Questions, and Assignments.

    Snippet Lesson Plans are made from short subjects or from "film clips," "movie clips," or "video clips." The video segments of these lesson plans are ideal for classroom use because they are less than 40 minutes long.

    Movies and films make the events they portray come alive. TeachWithMovies.com helps teachers and parents make lessons vivid and personal for children.

    TWM grants free limited licenses to copy TWM curriculum materials only to educators in public or non-profit schools and to parents trying to help educate their children. See TWM's Terms of Use for a full description of the free licenses and limits on the rights of others to copy TWM.

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