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TeachNet Grant: Mastering Print Literacy through Film and Media Literacy
Keith Christiansen

Eagle Academy for Young Men
1137 Herkimer St
Brooklyn, NY 11233

Grade/Subject: English Language Arts - 7th Grade
About the Grant:

When watching TV or movies, students often have an almost instant understanding of plot, character, setting, genre and all of the literary elements they are expected to understand in the 7th grade. Most students can provide detailed and sophisticated explanations of story elements when observing films that don't effectively translate to their understanding of texts. The goal of this unit is to effectively bridge that gap of understanding while building students confidence in their own ideas and expand their vocabulary to discuss these items. After an introduction of these elements using short clips from films, they apply the same understanding of these elements in shared class reading.

The unit is completed after an in-depth analysis of Story and Story Elements as well as Character and Plot. Students taje a unit assessment and write a 5-paragraph essay explaining their understanding of the principles in relation to their text, The Last of the Mohicans.

This unit is designed to build students' confidence in their own understandings of ideas that seem abstract and distant when reading by an open discussion of plot and movies. To do this well, you will need to watch the first 5-10 minutes of A Fistful of Dollars and then Wallace & Gromit's The Wrong Trousers. This is an incredibly enjoyable unit and students comprehension and ability to discuss these elements is very fluid after a close review of these films. Worksheets and lesson plans outline specific discussion points, vocabulary and activities.

How This Grant was Adapted:

The goal of this unit is to expand students' understanding of story elements and to build their confidence in their own knowledge of these elements through the use of film and television. These allows for a very differentiated lessons and understandings for struggling readers as well as challenging analysis for more advanced readers. This unit is also coupled with the use of differentiated graphic organizers and differentiated assessments.

  1. Students will be able to understand literary elements through digital storytelling with the use of film and video clips using Hulu and iTunes.
  2. Students will be able to critically analyze print and film.
  3. Students will be able to write 5 paragraph essay responses to texts while applying their understanding of these concepts.
  4. Students will be able to list and describe in detail the literary elements and how they apply across multiple genres and media.
  5. Students will observe peer review and edit 5 paragraph essays using Google Docs.
  6. Students will collaborative closely with peers in print and online media.
Websites Used

Hulu: This site has movies and television shows, many of which are appropriate for the classroom. http://hulu.com/

How to use Google Docs - basic instructions and tips to get started http://google.com/google-d-s/tour1.html

iTunes - a free music and video player available for download http://apple.com/itunes/overview/?cid=OAS-US-DOMAINS-itunes.com

YouTube.com - hosts and plays videos of all kinds online. A great resource for visual media. http://youtube.com/watch?v=CF1rtd8_pxA

Standards Addressed:

NY Standards:

Students will read, write, listen, and speak for literary response and expression.

2.f: Identify literary elements, (e.g., setting, plot, character, rhythm, and rhyme) of different genres.

2.j: Interpret character, plot, setting, and theme, using evidence from the text, with assistance.

Students will read, write, listen, and speak for information and understanding.

1.f: Identify literary elements (e.g. setting…) of different genres.

1.j: Interpret setting using evidence from the text, with assistance.

Students will read, write, listen, and speak for critical analysis and evaluation

Lesson 1:

Story Elements - Characters

Objective: (SWBAT) identify and give a detailed description of the main character.

Using LASO (Looks, Acts, Says, Others Say), students will examine how the author makes choices Mini Lesson – Key Points q When we start a new book we are like detectives. A detective wants to solve a mystery, while we, as readers want to figure out what's going on in the book.

As we read, we are going to be detectives and find out everything that we can find out about the main character.

Active readers LASO their characters; in other word, they notice the characters Looks, Actions, Says, Others say.

Authors make choices, so every detail the author includes is purposeful. Active readers think deeply about WHY the author is including the details he/she does.
Model/ Guided Practice

Using the short clip from the first 5 minutes of Fistful of Dollars, model for scholars how we can LASO characters.

Model: “I noticed the characters were dressed in a particular way…” Elicit scholar response to finish statement. Then, as a class, discuss what this says about the characters and why the author/director made this choice.

Then students read a shared class text independently: The Last of the Mohicans by James Fenimore Cooper. Exit Slip

While the class work will be an informative tool for assessment of the objective, scholars will complete an exit slip that requires them to synthesize all of the details they gathered about their character(s). This will not only provide information pertaining to the objective, but will also serve as a tool to assess potential synthesizing breakdowns scholars may be having, which makes understanding the characters difficult despite the isolation of details.

HW Independent Reading forms focusing on Character and Character traits.

Lesson 2:

Lesson Topic: Setting

Objective: (SWBAT) describe the setting of story, including the time period, place, and the unexpected “happening” within that setting; SWBAT infer why the author places the book in this setting.

Mini Lesson q Good readers make note of the details of time and place so that they can describe the setting of the story. They try to figure out why the author has the story take place in this setting.

Connect this aim to a popular movie. For example: ask about a popular movie with the kids—ask where it takes place. Have them brainstorm why it takes place there. Then say something like: XX takes place in New York City because …. Books are the same way, except that you get to act as a detective to figure out details about the setting. And that’s what good readers do. Good readers search for clues in the text to figure out where and when the story takes place—the setting.

Today we are going to find clues in the text that will help us figure out WHEN and WHERE the book takes place. Then, we’re going to think about why the author has the book take place here and not in some other place or time period.

As I think about setting, I’m asking myself these two questions: Why did the author choose this time/place? and What is important about the setting?


Show the trailer of Dog Day Afternoon and/or Fistful of Dollars.

Discuss setting and author’s choices in regards to specifics with setting; reference how setting feeds into characters, initiating event, problem, etc.

Stop and record details about the setting

Think-pair-shareà Questions from column 2 on graphic organizer

Guided Practice:

Students read independently, searching for clues about setting. Then, as a group, record something you learned about the setting in the graphic organizer.

Share out as a class Independent Practice

Students continue reading.

Share Out:

As a class, share out what we learned about the setting, why the author choose this setting, and why it might be important as the story progresses.

Lesson 3:

Lesson Topic: Peer Revision

Objective: (SWBAT) peer revise paragraphs with writing partners.

Mini Lesson:

You will peer revise your writing. This means you will read over their essay and fill out the peer revision form. The goal is to give peers honest feedback to help them become stronger writers.

Students focus on lengthy descriptions of character and plot elements, utilizing the language we have used while exploring films and movie clips.

Model walking through the peer revision process using the model piece. - Begin by simply reading the paragraph aloud - Read over it again and mark it up - Complete Peer Revision Form Peer Revisions

Students take 15 minutes to read and make comments on each others' work, then discuss. It should take the entire time, focusing on basic grammatical and content errors.


Students work on drafts of their paragraphs.

Lesson 4

Unit Review & Assessment

Objective: (SWBAT) review for their reading assessment.


Scholars will review for their unit assessment by watching “Wallace and Gromit: The Wrong Trousers

As they are watching, they will record small problems faced by both Wallace and Gromit.

I pause the film 5 times for a think-pair-share. Questions will focus on the unit skills that we have practiced and developed: setting, conflict, character analysis, initiating event, protagonist & antagonist, and the plans characters make as well as the idea of Character Change.

After watching the film, scholars will work as a literature group to answer reflection questions at the end of the worksheet.

Reflection/ Share Out:

After watching the film, scholars will work as a literature group to answer the reflection questions at the end of the worksheet. It may be helpful to have scholars complete these questions independently and then discuss as a small group.

Share out as a class. Clear up any misunderstandings; answer any questions. Focus on theme question.


Students write 1 paragraph explaining one of the characters' plans in Wallace & Gromit's The Wrong Trousers. Assessment based on character the next day.

Lesson 5:

Post Assessment

Final Draft of 5-paragraph essay written and published in Google Docs. Students use paper-based peer review skills to collaborate on online documents.

Keith Christiansen is an English Language Arts and Culinary Arts Teacher at the Eagle Academy for Young Men at Ocean Hill, Brooklyn, New York, an all-boys Middle School. He creates content-driven units and lessons for his students, focusing on media literacy to drive print literacy. Keith is in his 4th year of teaching in Brooklyn, after several years as a web content developer and professional chef. Currently, he is using movies and short films to develop students' understanding of plot and character elements of classic American literature.



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