Using Movies as High School Curriculum – Is It Legit?

Movies are a great add-on resource for high school learning, right? Particularly when we are learning about a historical event, we often find a movie with some degree of repute to enrich the learning experience for our teens.But what about using movies for literary analysis? Is that educationally legit for homeschool families? Can you really use movies as high school curriculum and find REAL educational value there?

Using Movies as High School Curriculum - Is It Legit?

Movies as High School Curriculum

Reading, understanding, discussing and analyzing literature is a fundamental component of high school learning. Our teens need to tackle challenging works of literature, build critical thinking skills, practice articulating what they observe, and step into a new level of maturity regarding books. For teens who love to read, that’s a fairly natural progression. For teens who don’t really care about reading, that’s a real challenge. For teens who truly struggle with reading, it may be overwhelmingly difficult. Developing this more mature way of thinking about literature is important for ALL students, though, and movies can help  make that development possible if we make good use of them.

The ebookstore here at 7Sisters’ has a new series of guides to download called Cinema Studies for Literature Learning. The guide for the George C. Scott version of A Christmas Carol is already in the store if you want to get an idea of what is to come. These guides accompany movies that are respected for their excellent story-telling, their meaningful content, their inspiring or challenging ideas, and (for the most part) their general wholesomeness of content. It’s been a pleasure teaching with the use of these guides in our local homeschool community over the past year, and our teens have had great things to say about what they are learning with this approach.

Like our Literature Study Guides that accompany book titles, our Cinema Studies guides promise no overkill and no busywork. The guides offer:

  • Vocabulary (there are one or two titles that do not include vocab because there simply aren’t words in the script that are likely to be unfamiliar to teens)
  •  A literary element or two in focus (for example, point of view, setting, dramatic foils, symbolism, etc.)
  • Background information if needed to set the stage for understanding from the first moment of the film
  • Questions to be answered as the student watches the movie for the first time (hitting the pause button from time to time!)
  • Questions to be answered immediately after the first viewing of the film to draw the student’s attention to our literary elements in focus
  • Writing prompts for either a short essay or a short personal response paper to be written at another time, after the movie has been viewed a second time
  • Answer Key

Who should use guides like these?

Teens who are struggling readers.

If your student has to deal with challenges like dyslexia, developmental eye issues, or other unusual obstacles that get in the way of reading proficiency, these guides can be a fantastic way to take the pressure off of the physical process of reading words on a page and free up your teen to THINK about the story, the characters, the dialogue, the setting and the themes in ever-maturing new ways.

Teens who are unmotivated readers.

Some kids just don’t love books; that’s okay. God has a plan for your child whether it includes a passion for the written word or not! Encourage under-inspired readers with guides that challenge them to think deeply and find ways to articulate these deeper thoughts without spending hours and hours trying to concentrate on the reading of the story itself. Cinema Studies for Literature Learning guides are not intended to REPLACE reading; they are intended to offer an alternative tool for development in teens who struggle to get through a long book list each year.

Teens who love to read but are carrying a heavy academic load in other subject areas for a season.

If Calculus and Physics hit difficult chapters at the same time that your local service project is eating up lots of hours in the week, taking a break from your usual reading schedule and using a movie with study guide in place of one book title might be just the margin your teen needs to keep from being overwhelmed. Again, movies do not take the place of reading books for high school students, but they can provide rich learning in a less demanding format, bringing balance to a temporarily overloaded schedule.


Watching a movie together and then using the guide in a discussion group is full of learning and FUN!

Can you really use movies as high school curriculum? You can!

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Movies as High School Curriculum

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.

7 Replies to “Using Movies as High School Curriculum – Is It Legit?”

  1. Do you have recommendations on how to handle the bad language and inappropriate scenes in the movies? Is there a filter you can recommend?

    • Hi Deb! Because each family’s standards for propriety are unique, we prefer to leave those choices to the parent. The guides we have created accompany movies that we felt comfortable viewing and discussing with our own teens, but we would never presume to make those choices for any other family. There is not a filter program that we endorse.

  2. Could I use the 2012 version of Les Miserables movie/musical with Hugh Jackman, Russel Crowe and Anne Hathaway instead of the actual book, with your study guide in your English12/Language Arts for my high school student?

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