8 Book and Movie Pairings to Teach Critical Viewing Skills

Movies. They make stories come alive. Sometimes our students see a film at home after they have read a book in school, and other times we show the film as a special classroom activity. While we want to teach students to visualize as they read, showing a film provides us with an opportunity to teach two different skills: critical viewing and comparing and contrasting.

Image showing movie camera and popcorn on a purple background and some books mentioned in
By comparing books with movies, students will begin to recognize the decisions directors make in changing plot or characters, time frames or settings. They will also learn to view a film critically!

Spending the afternoon watching a movie is always a special treat for students. Make the day even more meaningful by helping your students compare and contrast films and books.

Wonder [PG] 

R. J. Palacio’s Wonder received much critical acclaim, and its movie debut in November, starring Jacob Tremblay, Julia Roberts, and Owen Wilson, had great box office success.

The book tells the story of a boy with facial differences who just wants to be an ordinary kid and fit in at his new school. Young viewers will come to love Auggie.

By comparing their reader’s view of him to the film version, students will come to understand how characters are developed differently in film versus text. The book provides opportunities to discuss acceptance, empathy, and what it means to walk in another person’s shoes.

Introduce readers to the text by focusing on the ways in which the author used point of view to tell Auggie's story with the lesson plans and teaching resources for Wonder.


Holes [PG]

Dogged by bad luck stemming from an ancient family curse, young Stanley Yelnats is sent to Camp Green Lake, a place without a lake that is anything but green. Once there, Stanley is thrown into the adventure of his life. He and his colorful campmates Squid, Armpit, Zigzag, Magnet, X-Ray, and Zero must dig one hole a day. A hole that is five feet deep and five feet wide.

Both the film and the book build suspense around the reasons why the Warden wants the boys to dig holes. But how will Stanley and his friends survive their time at Camp Greenlake?

Start with the book club resource set for use with Holes to introduce students to the universal themes explored in the text, then watch the film.

Challenge students to decide if the 2003 critically acclaimed Disney movie is better than Louis Sachar's book by tracking the differences between the film and the book with our free download.

Because of Winn-Dixie [PG]

Because of Winn-Dixie is a modern classic about a ten-year-old girl, her big-hearted dog, and a town full of people looking for friendship. Kate DiCamillo creates sophisticated characters and a heartwarming story.

The 2005 film provides viewers with plenty of opportunities to compare and contrast the differences between the film and the book.

Utilize the book club resource set for use with Because of Winn Dixie to help students engage in deep conversations about the ways authors develop characters, and then compare the story’s characters with the choice of actors for this critically acclaimed film.

Charlotte's Web [G

Whether you choose the 2006 version of the movie or the 1973 animated classic, children will enjoy watching E.B. White's lovable characters come to life.

Due to the book's large cast of characters, students will benefit from the “tracking characters” mini lessons included in the book club resource set for use with Charlotte's Web prior to watching the film.

The BFG [PG]

This Roald Dahl fan-favorite stars Sophie, a little girl who has been kidnapped by a giant. Luckily for Sophie, the giant is a big friendly giant or a BFG for short. He is not like other giants who delight in eating human beings. This giant has a unique way with words.

 The 2016 movie will capture your students' attention with its exciting human and digital interfaces.

 This film provides viewers with plenty of opportunities to compare and contrast the ways the book’s figurative language translates to the big screen. So be sure to use the book club resource set for The BFG before watching the film. It comes complete with 7 mini lessons focused on figurative language.

Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day [PG]

12-year-old Alexander is having the worst day of his life. And like many young boys, he finds little sympathy from his family. The film, which was released in 2014, is a popular one among third, fourth, and fifth graders.

Students will enjoy working through the lesson plans and teaching resources for use with  Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day before watching the movie.

Students who have previously read the text can make connections with their own lives and summarize how each of the characters in the movie feels.

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone [PG]

This being the first in the Harry Potter series, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone shows how Harry, a young boy with great potential, is rescued from the outrageous neglect of his aunt and uncle. Harry proves his worth while attending Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry.

Students who love the magical Harry Potter series will enjoy comparing the characters and magic of the book to those in the movie.

Teachers can utilize the book club resource set for use with Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone to help students explore inferences in the text and compare those inferences as they view the movie.

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