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5 Ways to Use Movie Trailers to Turn Your ELA Lessons into Blockbusters

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Grab your popcorn and your overpriced beverage, because we’re going to the movies! Okay, we’re not actually going to the movies, but imagine that kind of hype in your classroom? Using movie trailers in your lessons generates instant, edge of your seat enthusiasm and provides students with what they perceive to be a “fun text” to work with before applying their skills to other texts like the class novel. So, without further ado, I present to you five ways to use movie trailers to turn your ELA lessons into blockbusters!

Analyzing Theme

After teaching what a theme is, provide students with a list of common literary themes. Next, discuss what some themes might be from popular movies – remind students to look at their list for ideas. Try to choose movie examples for this discussion that you know most students have seen, for example, movies like The Hunger Games or Harry Potter series, because chances are most of your classroom has either read or watched these stories.

Next, have a slide prepared with links to a variety of movie trailers. You can conduct this activity purely for discussion on the various themes students notice in the trailers, or you can facilitate this as a game. Either individually or in groups, students have to “buzz in” to identify a theme they see in the trailer and earn a point. The individual or group who accumulates the most points at the end of a predetermined amount of movie trailers wins. 

Another game option is to create a bingo template for students. Ask them to fill in each square with a theme from their literary themes list. Then play the movie trailers and let students cross off any themes on their bingo board that they notice in the trailers. The first student to get a line wins!

CREATIVE WRITING STORY STARTERS

Another fun way to use movie trailers in your lessons is to play them for your students as a story starter for a creative writing piece. To help provide structure, you could preselect four or five movie trailers in different genres, then ask a student to pick a genre (they can pick out of a hat or spin a wheel, etc.). Then, play the selected movie trailer and ask students to write a specific piece of writing related to it. Options could include writing about what happens before (a prequel) or after (a sequel), or they could choose a specific character or setting they see and use these in their writing.

Identifying Conflict

Similar to the theme activities described above, you can use movie trailers to help teach conflict in literature. After learning about the different types of literary conflict, play preselected movie trailers for your students to identify the conflict. Ask your students to state the type of conflict, for example, character vs. self, and also explain how this is shown in the trailer. This can be conducted as a class discussion, or turned into a game where students are required to “buzz in” with their answers.

Practicing Pre-Reading Techniques

When teaching students about pre-reading strategies, it is helpful to discuss the “4Ps” – preview, predict, purpose, and prior knowledge, but before asking students to assess the “4P’s” for a short story or novel, it can be more accessible to practice with smaller texts first. Provide students with a “4P’s” chart with preview, predict, purpose, and prior knowledge each in a column. Show a few movie trailers and ask students to fill in the chart for each. 

  • For the preview column, students should indicate what type of text it is, and which genre it is in, providing details that led them to their response – for example, a movie that contains a horror story has certain elements like ominous music, dark scenery, etc. 
  • The predict column should contain a prediction of what they think will happen in this story. 
  • The purpose column indicates what the purpose of this type of text is – to entertain, inform, persuade, etc. Students can also indicate what time period this text is from and who wrote it, as these factors can determine how reliable, up to date, or unbiased a text is. 
  • Lastly, the prior knowledge column should contain any prior knowledge students have about this topic, genre or type of text.

Creating Movie Trailers for a Novel

Lights, camera, action! This list wouldn’t be complete without a tried and true ELA classic. Show your students movie trailers and discuss the style and structure, so that they can create their own for a text being studied in class! Creating a movie trailer is more manageable than asking students to make an entire movie version of their novel, plus it requires them to focus on the main ideas and be able to convey key elements like the theme and conflict in the scenes they choose to include in their masterpiece.

  1. […] Movie trailers can also provide a more accessible and engaging text to analyze and practice reading strategies with. A fun predicting activity my students enjoy is watching different movie trailers and predicting what the movie will be about. Students use clues in the dialogue, imagery, caption or title fonts, and music selection to help make their predictions. […]

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