Teaching Genre and Theme

One of the best things about teaching kids about movies is the excitement on their faces that very first day.

Whether they’re studying film appreciation, video production, or the art of screenwriting, the students always seem to be thinking the same thing: Are we really going to learn about movies? This is an actual class? There must be some kind of catch!

If there is a catch, it’s this: When we learn about movies, we are learning about a variety of arts and disciplines. We’re studying storytelling and photography. We’re investigating the power of music to influence emotions. We stretch our abilities to articulate complex ideas while also considering the meaning and the human experience.

It’s this multi-faceted power of movies that the Being a Screenwriter curriculum aims to harness as it empowers kids to dream up and write their very own screenplays—and it does so while helping them develop skills that can be put to use in school or elsewhere in their lives. Take the “Introduction to Genre and Theme” lesson.

In this action-packed unit, kids are asked to consider some of their favorite movies as they learn to identify the basic building blocks of not just film, but literature, too!

In the “Name That Genre” game, students work in teams to identify genres by watching clips from movies like Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (Fantasy) or Into the Woods (Musical). They can rack up points by not only correctly identifying the genre of each film but also its themes.

After the game, students are invited to use their own personal inspirational journals to reflect on the kinds of genres and themes they are most drawn to—and the genre of film they might like to write on their own!

Much of what kids practice in this lesson parallels the way genre works in both storybooks and great works of literature–and the kind of narrative writing they might be tasked with in high school and beyond.

By learning to identify patterns in how fictional characters interact and react in a given situation, they learn to also make meaning in the world around them. Interested in trying a similar lesson with your own students? Try this:

You can create your own version of the Name that Genre game with free resources online.

This video from Film Camp for Kids offers a quick and engaging overview of some of the most common movie genres including comedy, horror, mystery, action, and westerns.

If you want to dig even deeper, you can find more comprehensive lists of genres and their tropes at the Library of Congress or by visiting Filmsite.org.

Choose a handful of genres your students might be familiar with. You can also find a variety of free video clips by simply clicking here and heading over to MOVIECLIPS.

Once you’ve selected a good variety of clips, play them one at a time and allow students to guess which genre they’re watching. Students can take turns guessing, or you can have them compete for game-show style—ringing in with a buzzer or bell.

Or if you want a ready-made lesson, you can have everything you need (including vocabulary words, activity sheets, and the complete “Name That Genre” game) in the Being a Screenwriter course. If you’re looking for a single lesson plan, you can also visit our Teachers Pay Teachers store and download a free lesson plan!

If you found these links helpful, keep a lookout for more discussions and resources to come in the near future!

We’d love to hear your feedback or any questions that you might have. You can email us at any time by sending a message to info@commlearning.com.

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