Cinema Studies for Literature Learning in your High School Homeschool Co-op

What makes for a great co-op class for teens? Great class discussions, for one thing! And using Cinema Studies for Literature Learning in your high school homeschool co-op guarantees great class discussions. Here are some of the things I’ve done in the last two years as I’ve used these guides in our local homeschool co-op classes.

Cinema Studies for Literature Learning in your High School Homeschool Co-op. Make your co-op's high school Literature class fun and interesting while teaching legit analysis skills. Cinema Studies for Literature Learning. #7SistersHomeschool #HomeschoolCoOp #HomeschoolHighSchool #CinemaStudiesForLiterature

Cinema Studies for Literature Learning in your High School Homeschool Co-Op

Our homeschool high school co-op and group-learning classes have loved taking a year to study Cinema Studies for Literature Learning. It has given them a little sparkle in an otherwise heavy-reading 4 years.

Want some advice on how to make the bundle of guides developed for great movies? You’ve got it!

Cinema Studies for Literature Learning in your High School Homeschool Co-Op: LET THE GUIDES DO THE “WORK” FOR YOU.

Each guide is set up with information and questions that help teens take note of literary elements in the films they are assigned to watch. Even if a literary device is new to them, you don’t need to teach the concept first. Let the first viewing of the movie be the students’ introduction to ideas like:

  • allusion
  • dramatic foils or
  • irony

Many students find it much easier to make sense of the definition or explanation of literary devices after seeing them used well. The movie chosen for each guide was chosen because it makes really good use of a particular literary device, so let the material do the initial piece of teaching for you.

Cinema Studies for Literature Learning


Tell students at your first class meeting (and remind them every time you meet) that no one will be judged or criticized for comments made during the discussion. That is, they will be expected to have comments show thought and not be disrespectful of anyone else’s opinions.

People have very different reactions to the same movie.

It is important for students to learn to respect those differences and discuss the movies regardless of variations in perception:

  • What is “hard to believe” for one person is “heart-wrenching” for another
  • Something that is hilarious to one student will not be particularly amusing to another

Good discussion requires a conscious effort to avoid criticizing someone else’s experience; there are no RIGHT or WRONG responses to a movie!


While students should be encouraged to share their opinions freely and without fear of being dismissed, they should also be encouraged to articulate WHY they formed the opinion they have.

Articulating their opinions is a vital piece of building critical thinking skills.

If they found a character distasteful, they should ask themselves why. If they are not sure why, then it is important to consider the character more closely:

to think beyond the obvious (e.g. words or actions) and examine:

  • attitudes
  • physical appearance
  • worldviews
  • relationships with other characters
  • apparent arrogance or callousness of heart or selfish thoughtlessness

As the facilitator for the group discussion, your consistency in asking the question, “WHY?” is a powerful motivator to spur teens on to deeper thinking.

Using Cinema Studies for Literature Learning in homeschool co-op? Follow the guides' questions but don't be bound by them. Allow discussions to grow spontaneously. Read for more tips.

Your group discussion may address all of the questions in the study guide in order, or you may find that some questions simply don’t grab your attention enough to spend time on them in discussion.

You may find one or two questions that take on a life of their own and ignite a wonderful conversation that is not precisely what the guide was pointing toward…that’s wonderful!

The ultimate goal is:

  • to encourage and equip the students to examine ideas
  • articulate what they are thinking
  • and share respectfully so that they can learn from one another in the group

Don’t let the discussion turn into a free-for-all that is just meaningless chatter, but if the conversation has meat to it, don’t worry too much about making the students stay strictly on topic.

For a glimpse at what the study guides are like: Click here to view an excerpt from The Truman Show Cinema Study Guide

Here’s a post that shares where to find the movies for Cinema Studies for Literature Learning.


The second viewing of the films is an important part of the learning process. In particular, if the literary element in focus is a new idea to your students, they will need more than one exposure to it in the story for it to really become meaningful.

The guide helps them notice the literary device on first viewing. The group discussion brings further attention to it and helps students learn from the experience of others in the class who may have noticed the device more clearly than they did.

The second viewing of the movie cements the idea in their brains and helps them recognize the same literary element in the future.


Students needs to write in response to the second viewing of the film. Students also benefit from:

  • having their writing graded
  • understanding that corrections recommended or required
  • being challenged to work hard to improve their essays or personal response papers

But different students have different levels of proficiency in writing when they arrive in your co-op class for the year. With that in mnd, the most important thing about using Cinema Studies for Literature Learning guides is to encourage the THINKING that goes along with the movies.

Being able to articulate those thoughts in writing is a separate skill. Take a close look at each student’s first writing assignment and try to get a feel for what writing skills are an area of strength and what parts of the writing process are a struggle.

Grade with grace.

If a student’s poor mechanics skills cause him to receive a low grade on every Cinema Studies paper, he will quickly become discouraged with the class in general and be less willing to think hard about the literary devices he is studying.

Encourage continued improvement, but remember that Cinema Studies is first and foremost a LITERATURE study, and writing may be a significant challenge for some of your students, particularly those who are strongly visual learners. (If students are really inexperienced with essay writing, consider using Marilyn Groop’s Introductory Guide to High School Essay Writing in a separate class in your co-op.)

Introduction to Essay Writing
Click image for full description.


Some of the movies are really funny; don’t let the fun get squashed as you learn.

Other the movies will spark strong disagreement among students; don’t forget that respectful debate over differing experiences is FUN and good for teens as long as they are not permitted to speak unkindly to one another.

Some of the movies will be a huge hit, and some will be a total miss with your group; laugh about it if you find that one title is just a “thumbs-down” for everyone in your class.

BEGIN EACH Cinema Study DISCUSSION WITH, “Show of hands…who liked this movie?

Who didn’t? Who felt mixed about it?”
Then follow up with, “Ok. Why?” That begins each discussion with a question to which there is no wrong answer; even students who are shy or nervous about answering questions from the study guide and getting something “wrong” will feel safe to answer whether or not they liked the movie. This opening question also reminds everyone in the room that there will be differing responses to the film, to the questions in the study guide, and to the ideas about to be discussed.

Here are more helpful discussion questions.

I have had some simply fabulous group discussions in our local homeschool community using Cinema Studies guides. If your group has experiences to share, leave a comment! We all do well when we learn from one another!

For more practical planning tips using movies for literature studies and for teaching homeschool co-ops, check out these posts.

Here’s a fun post with ways to use these movies and the book that goes with them.

What people are saying about Cinema Studies for Literature Learning in your High School Homeschool Co-Op:

Here’s a post by Sara May discussing her family’s experience with Cinema Studies for Literature Learning. For more on ways to use movies in your homeschooling, check out this post from Freedom Homeschooling.


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Cinema Studies for Literature Learning in your High School Homeschool Co-Op

Sabrina Justison

20+ year homeschool mom and curriculum developer for Fred's wife. Writing, drama, music, blogs, kids, shoes, coffee, & books in varying orders on various days. He is God, He is good & He loves me.

6 Replies to “Cinema Studies for Literature Learning in your High School Homeschool Co-op”

  1. Hello! I’m planning to use your Cinema Studies for Literature Learning curricula for our co-op this fall. I’ve already purchased the bundled study guides, but in going through the availability of the movies, I determined that it would probably be best in our situation to use some of the movies from the bundle as well as some from the alternate movies listed. Our co-op is a 501(c)3, and we do our utmost to keep the costs low for our families.

    To that note, am I correct in my interpretation that each of the parents will need to purchase their own copies of the study guides? If so, is there a way to make a custom bundle that only includes the study guides to the movies that I intend to use? If so, what would that price be? Would it hopefully be comparable to the $35 for the 15 movies included in the current bundle? I’m hoping to use 5 movies from the bundled Cinema Studies for Literature Learning and 9 movies from the additional movies list found at Finding the Movies for 7Sisters Cinema Guides. I’m planning to use: The Three Musketeers, A Christmas Carol, The Importance of Being Earnest, The Wizard of Oz, Miracle Worker, Charade, The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, Hook, The Life of Pi, Mr. Holland’s Opus, Remember the Titans, The 39 Steps, The Fellowship of the Ring, and The Incredibles.

    Also, generally at registration, we have the parents pay a class fee to the co-op for the needed curricula and supplies for each class chosen, the teacher purchases all curricula and supplies needed as a bundle and is reimbursed by the co-op, and then the week prior to classes beginning the items are distributed to parents. Would this model work for your curriculum, or should I handle it differently?

    Finding the Movies for 7Sisters Cinema Guides
    Vicki Tillman

    Finding the Movies for 7Sisters Cinema Guides. Wondering how to find the movies for Cinema Studies for Literatur…

    I’m working on a class description and price for the class to turn in to the co-op President to be put onto our website prior to registration, and just realized that I probably needed to contact y’all to ask the above questions. If you could please let me know how to proceed without breaking your copyright, and also possibly making a custom bundle, I would really appreciate it!

    • Hi Karen,

      Let’s take this over to email where we can work out the details. I’m sure we can work together to find an arrangement that works. Can you please email so we can reply there and be sure we’re reaching you at the best address?
      I’m forwarding this information to our inbox, and Sara and I will work with you from there. Thanks for reaching out!

  2. Just wanted to check on how to do this correctly as far as copyrights. Does each family participating in the Cinema Studies in a co-op buy their own study guide set, or is there a co-op bundle available? Thanks!

  3. Hi Tammie,
    We haven’t created a syllabus for this bundle, but if you school on a typical academic year, the fifteen guides fill out the year pretty neatly if you use one every two weeks. For the first week, watch the movie and answer the questions as you go. For the second week, watch the movie again with the answers to your questions in mind, then write in response using the prompts in the guide.

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