Teaching a Books and Movies Elective Class

Hey friends, 

If you follow me on instragram, you know that I teach an elective class called, "Books and Movies." Every time I post about it, I get a ton of questions (which is totally understandable, because I think it's a teacher's dream to teach a class like this). I finally got around to talking about it. 

I don't think I have super mind-blowing information on how I teach it (just a fair warning) but I do love to tell others about how this class works. 

Question One: How did you create this class? 
A: I didn't ha! My current school is a public charter school. We have seven class periods a day and our seventh period of the day is when all of our middle schoolers (6th, 7th, and 8th) take an elective class, while our SPED, Rti, and Gifted kids go to Academic Support and Enrichment classes.  

Question Two: Who gets to take the class?
A: Students used to be able to choose which electives they could take. That meant that 6th, 7th, and 8th graders would all be in a class together. The benefit was that kids could choose. The downside to this (even though I never experienced it) was that when you have 6th and 8th graders in a class together it annoys the crap out of 8th graders because of the maturity levels. 

There also wasn't a good mix anyway because 8th graders got first dibs, so they would all tend to be in the same elective anyway, while 6th graders were placed wherever they would fit. So now it is a strictly 6th grade elective and we choose the electives for each grade. 

Question Three: How does the schedule look for your electives?
A: Again, teachers used to see kids every day for a semester, and then would switch with another class at second semester. This was done, when kids picked one elective first semester, and another elective second semester. Since we went to our new schedule. We currently have two class in each grade level of 6th, 7th, and 8th. 

Now we have an A/B schedule where I see my A class on Monday, my B class on Tuesday, My A class on Wednesday... and so on. This goes on all year long, and the other 6th grade elective is a science/weather elective. 

Just for curiosity sake, 7th grade electives are applied math and science (or sometimes nutrition/health) and Triple A (First-Aid, CPR type stuff). While in 8th grade, they have STEM and Creative Writing. 

Question Four: How do you read the books?
A: I know that the previous teacher of the class would ask the kids how much they wanted to read, and then they would spent most of the class time reading. 

The elementary teacher in me struggled with that. I was worried that some kids would want to keep reading but would have to stop based on what the class chose, while other kids would never get done and would have homework or just wouldn't read. 

I also knew that by middle school, read aloud can become a thing of the past, so I committed to either having the audiobooks for us to listen to or I just read them aloud. 

During this time, some kids do read ahead (I kind of encourage it if they ask). When they finish the book, but we're still reading, they usually just start the next book in the series and just block out the audio or my voice. If it's not in a series, then they just read a different book. The types of kids who do this are your big readers so it's easy for them to do this and it doesn't disrupt other kids who haven't read the book yet. 

Question Five: How do you pick the books? 
A: This was a bit of a learning curve for me, especially with 6th grade. I have started the last two year with Holes, because it's one of my favorites, it's a good length, and the movie is pretty well done. After that I would let them pick, but this is what I've learned about 6th graders: They pick books based on the "cool" factor. Meaning, they want young adults type books, but don't really realize the commitment they're making. 

Every year, my kids choose The Maze Runner, and every year it about kills me. I LOVE The Maze Runner, but it doesn't lend itself to this type of class. First of all, it's LONG, and it take a long time to build up to the good parts. For 6th graders, it's just hard as a read aloud. The Hunger Games was also as challenging for the same reasons. Both are great books, but for now, I don't think they will be options. 

That being said, I try to find high interest books in the 100-250 page range. Because I see them every other day, this allows us to get through the books in a timely manner, it keeps their interest, and allows us to get through more books. 

These are the books we have read and how it went:
  • Holes: Always a winner. Usually everyone's favorite. 
  • Freak the Mighty: Another favorite. The book is quick, engaging, and relatable to them. The movie is pretty good too. It's also my favorite which ups the engagement factor for them.  The movie is called The Mighty
  • The BFG: My 6th graders didn't LOVE it. It was just a little too babyish for them, but they did like the movie. 
  • The Maze Runner: They loved it at the end and they love the movie, but it takes FOREVER.
  • The Hunger Games: Exactly the same as The Mazer Runner. I also went on maternity leave right in the middle and the long term sub was kind of disastrous, so I don't think that helpedI'd be willing to try again though. 
  • Number the Stars. Loved it. They loved learning about the true story it's based on. It's a quick and easy read. The movie isn't exactly from the book, but it's a movie about the Danish Resistance. It's called Miracle at Midnight
  • Bridge to Terabithia: In general, they liked it. It was a quick easy read and the movie is good. 
  • Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone: In any other scenario this book would have been too long for them, but it's my favorite so we do a lot of fun stuff with it. Most ended up loving it and the movie. 
  • The Lorax: This is my favorite picture to read with them. It's great for their age group. 
  • Horton Hears a Who: I had a few days to kill at the end of the year and this was another good one. They loved it too. 
  • The Polar Express: If I'm being honest, this wasn't a favorite. I think they liked that they got to read a picture book around Christmas time, and then watch the movie, but it's not as appealing to 6th graders as some other picture books. 
  • The Secret Life of Walter Mitty: English teachers across the world may hate me, but I think the short story is super weird and confusing haha. But the movie is great so we loved this one too. 

These are some books I have class sets of that I want to read with them or at least have the option of: 
  • The Giver: I love this books and really want to add it to the mix next year. I also have a class set of them. 
  • The Outsiders: I actually don't like this for 6th grade. I think it's a perfect 8th grade book and this year I read it with my 8th graders to teach narratives. I won't be able to do that anymore because we are going to a four-day week, but I do have a class set of them. 
  • Akeela and the Bee: I've never had a desire to read this one with them (not for any particular reason haha). But the book was written after the movie so it might be a good one. 
  • Middle School: The Worst Years of My Life: I don't have a class set of this book but have you read it?! OMG it's nothing like you would expect and it's so freaking good. This is next on my list to get a class set of. 

Question Six: What does a class period look during a books and movies class?  
A: This is actually the most asked question. I seriously keep it as simple as possible. My goal of the class is to expose them to books, for them to enjoy reading, and for them to be able to hopefully see that the book is always better. 

The only time the schedule below really changes is when we watch the movie, and depending on the length we just spend two-three full class periods watching the movie. Afterwords, I don't even have to say anything. They seriously just talk about all the differences themselves, so I don't beat it to death with a worksheet or Venn diagram, because they're discussions are natural and authentic anyway.  

This is the daily schedule. 

I just use the Bell Ringers that I created for my 6th graders when I taught 6th grade ELA at my previous school. I don't worry about them getting every single bell ringer because I see them every other day. So one week, my A class will get Monday, Wednesday, Friday bell ringers, while my B class will get Tuesday and Thursday. But the next week it switches, so it all works out. Here is a blog post on how I make bell ringers work in my classes. 

Question Seven: What resources do you use?  
A: Like I said, I keep it really simple while we are reading a novel. I really don't believe in worksheets or even novel studies. When I taught 5th and 6th, I created my own reading units that essentially used books as a way to teach the standards. I was never trying to teach the book. I wanted to teach the kids. I use the same philosophy in books and movies. 

So I just use my own reading units. While we are reading, I might pause and ask one or two comprehension questions. Then when we finish I will ask them the interpretive question, we will have a discussion about it, and then they will write a reading response based on our discussion. 

Being the last hour of the day, I usually just grade it right then and there, and tell them it's their ticket out the door. I never have issues with kids not finishing, and they know if they do a crappy job, I will make them go back (no they can't just take the bad grade and leave) and make it better. 

These are the units I have done that work perfectly with books and movies. If you are trying to make this a class and need it to be more standards-based, the nice thing about all these units is that they are 100% aligned to the Common Core.  

If we have a book that I want to teach, then I work on creating a unit and questions to go with it as we go, so some are half-finished because I was trying to make them us as we went. 

You can select any unit to check them out on my TPT store

Well I hope that answers all of your questions. Feel free to ask any more you have and I can add the information to this post! 



  1. I work in a charter in Englewood NJ. We are expanding to 8th grade next year (k-8) .I love this idea of novels and movies as an elective. If possible, I would love to see what your weekly schedule looks like with all the other subjects/classes involved . PM me at .thanks .

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