“The Movie as the Student’s Muse” is part of a series called “Multi-media teaching Ideas”. These ideas for enlivening one’s English program were developed by Robert Thomson over a period of twenty years. They have been tested in the classroom many times.

By writing movie reports students broaden their minds and become more perceptive and articulate. The centerpiece of this lesson aid is the movie report itself, which you are free to copy and use. The following four pages will give you a more precise idea of the contents.

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             (Ways to inspire students to think and write)

                  I.  THE MOVIE AS THE STUDENT’S MUSE


This lesson aid shows how to use movie reports in your English composition program.  Movie reports can be worked on in class or assigned as homework. 


1  Reasons for including movies in your program. p. 2
2  How to introduce your students to movie reports.  pp. 2-3
3  How to teach a movie report. p. 3
4  Sample movie report by a student: “Saturday Night Fever”. pp. 4-7
5  My comments on the student’s movie report. 8-9
The plot summary (“The Man who shot Liberty Valance”).  9-10
7  Blank movie report  form for you to photocopy and use.  10-14
8  Other ways to use movies in your program.  14-15
9  Suggestions for good movies to write reports on.  16-17
10  Writing on a movie and the book on which it is based.  17-18
11  Other lessons to look for on-line. 



Most students like movies and it makes good sense to use movies to inspire them to write.  There are many benefits to be derived from  writing movie reports:

1. A good movie has all the virtues of a good play: concision, visual appeal, richness of characters, and dramatic interest.  A good movie inspires students to write. It also expands their knowledge and refines their taste.

2.  Students learn to observe and listen well. They learn to make judgments with a rapidity which is in keeping with the speed of the flickering images on the screen. This is especially true for movies in which the plot is fast-moving and complex and puts demands on the viewer’s attention, e.g., “Casablanca”.

3. Students learn to see things holistically as they incorporate insights from history, literature, psychology and other fields.  They also expand their vocabulary and become more articulate.  These are life-long skills and they will prove useful in dealing with the big questions that life will pose them. Such skills will also help them to be more discriminating about the kinds of movies that they let into their lives as the years go by. They might learn to recognize the shallowness of movies which have nothing to offer except violence and escapist scenarios. 

4. Many college literature courses now incorporate movies. Movies are finally being taken seriously in academia.

5. Studying movies expands the curriculum and gives the student a voice in determining what he/she will study. This is empowering and good for morale.

6. A good movie often inspires you to read the book on which it is based. A number of movies led me to good books:  One flew over the Cuckoo’s Nest, Gone with the Wind.     Zorba the Greek, The Leopard,  All Quiet on the Western Front,  Jane Eyre, Tess of the Dubervilles, Barry Lyndon, Bridge on the River Kwai and countless others.  Since I started using movie reports I have found it easier to interest young people in reading books.




It is might be wise to tell students what they can expect to gain by doing movie reports. At first they might be skeptical and think that it is a trivial pursuit of some kind. (“Hey, this is too much fun! I can’t be learning anything very deep or academic!”)  Make it clear that movies represent a rich art form and that they often deserve to be taken seriously. (It is also true that many movies have little substance.)                   

I would also make it clear that you (the teacher) take responsibility for movie reports being part of the program and that you are expected to have a curriculum and learning goals in mind when choosing your course material. I would suggest (but am loathe to be dogmatic) that the movies students write about be of a certain quality and
substance.  If they are in doubt, they should talk it over with you.  It might be wise to avoid movies that are extremely violent (even though they may be very well made)  e.g., A Clockwork Orange,  The Texas Chain-gang Massacre, Scarface, In Cold Blood, Schindler’s List, etc.  Much will depend on how tolerant and liberal your school administration is.

Ask for parental approval for some of the movies which you intend to show?      

                            3.   HOW TO TEACH A MOVIE REPORT

Since movies are often rich in content and thought-provoking, they make an ideal subject for composition.  Composition can vary from the most informal and loose
(e. g. the journal) to the most formal (the essay).  Somewhere in between these extremes is the movie report.

To teach how to write a movie report, plunge right in:  give out a blank movie report form to each student and give them ten minutes to read it though.  Ask if anything needs to be clarified.  This is the basic report form.  They can even add questions to it when they write their reports.   (middle of page three)

The next few pages are taken from pp. 16-18 of  the lesson aid.


                      9.  GOOD MOVIES TO WRITE REPORTS ON


Here are a few titles which I think would go over well in the classroom.

All Quiet on the Western Front (novel by Erich Remarque)
Ben Hur  (novel by Wallace Lewis)
Black Robe (based on novel by Brian Moore) Excellent view of what the French- 
   Canadians had to face in their conversion to Christianity work with the Hurons.
Brave Heart
Bridge on the River Kwai (novel by Pierre Boulle)
The Call of the Wild (novel by Jack London)
Captains Courageous (novel by Rudyard Kipling)
Carrie (novel by Stephen King)
Christine  (novel by Stephen King)
Cinema Paradiso. Very interesting the young boy becomes a projectionist’s helper and gets a good basic liberal education by seeing hundreds of movies several times.
The Duelists (short story by Joseph Conrad) Dispels any notion that it takes two to start a fight.
East of Eden (novel by John Steinbeck)
The Gladiator (novel by Ben Kane)
Gone with the Wind (novel by Margaret Mitchell)
Great Expectations, 1946 version.  (novel by Charles Dickens)
The Heart of Darkness (novel by Joseph Conrad)
Jane Eyre (novel by Charlotte  Bronte)
Kidnapped (novel by Robert Louis Stevenson)
The Man Who Shot Liberty Vallance
Les Miserables (novel by Victor Hugo)
Mutiny of the Bounty (report by William Bligh)
Of Human Bondage (novel by Somerset Maugham)
Papillon (novel by Henri Charrière)
Rebel without a Cause
The Sea Wolf (novel by Jack London)
Spartacus (novel by Howard Fast)
Tess of the Durbeyvilles (novel by Thomas Hardy)
The Thirty-nine Steps (novel by John Buchan)
Twelve Angry Men (novel by Reginald Rose)
White Fang (novel by Jack London). It is amazing the way London puts himself into the mind of wolves and wild dogs. 
Zorba the Greek (novel by Nikos Kazantzakis)


I have listed above several fine movies about war. Their violence is inevitable but is a vital part of the message.  Working with movies like these will do wonders to motivate many of the young men in your class.  My list is somewhat weighted towards movies about war so I would suggest you balance it off by adding movies which traditionally appeal to women: Gone with the wind, The Little Foxes, Jane Eyre and Splendor in the Grass will probably interest them

It goes without saying that movies were not made with school children in mind so you might want to ward off problems by getting administrators and parents on-side. Possibly send home a letter for parents to sign their approval.



See the list in section 9, above.

a. Assign a movie report and a book report on the book of the same name.
See section 9, above for a list. Books are so important! May they never be eclipsed by movies!

b. Comparison of a movie with a book.  Compare/Contrast the treatment.  Which do you prefer?  Which scenes are omitted in the movie?  Do you agree with the  
omissions? If you had directed the movie, would you have done things differently?

c. Take a specific theme and compare how it is treated in a movie and the book on which it is based, e.g., “Gone with the Wind”.

d. Show parts of a movie then study these same parts in class, using the book.

e. Reports on movie sagas and the book on which they are based, e.g., the saga Roots and the book by Haley on which it is based.

f. Read a book and figure out which scenes to put into your movie adaptation.

g. Read the book on which a movie is based, write a report on this book, then watch the movie and analyze what it leaves out.

h. From the movie to a book. As every teacher knows, it is effective to study a novel then show the movie based on it.  The procedure also works well in a cut version i.e. show the whole movie then study highlights from the book. Compare the movie’s  treatment of these sections with the book’s treatment of them. 
(end of extract from pp. 16-18)



     - MUSIC AS THE STUDENT’S MUSE  This lesson aid was formerly
      published as “Great Songs for the English Classroom” by the British
      Columbia Teachers’ Association. It uses cloze outlines of popular
      songs to hone writing and listening skills then encourages students to
      write about what the songs mean to them. This can lead to much self-
      discovery.  $6.95 US or Can.

       Suggestions on how to choose and prepare a good article and use it to
       develop vocabulary and broaden knowledge.  The article chosen is a
       probing Time magazine essay on the man who killed John Lennon. 
       (AVAILABLE IN MARCH 2014.)  $6.95 US or Can.

       APRIL 2014)     $6.95 US or Can.

        (AVAILABLE IN MAY  2014)