How to Compare Books & Movies

Girl reading a book.
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While some people prefer to read the book first and others want to see the movie before reading the book, there is value in comparing books and movies. Not only will students learn to identify similarities and differences, they'll also become more proficient at forming an opinion and supporting it with clear examples from the text or the film.

1 Read the Book

A girl takes notes while reading.
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Ask students to read the book first, encouraging them to take notes while reading, write down questions they have and identify the literary elements in the book. As students read, they should list the characters, setting and key plot points. In the "Harry Potter" books, for example, students might write a list of character traits for Harry and the other protagonists, and record several adjectives describing the setting. The same could be done for "The Hobbit, "The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe" or "Lord of the Flies." In addition to giving students an in-depth analysis of the book, these facts will be useful when it's time to watch the film adaptation.

2 Watch the Movie

Teenagers watching a movie.
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Once students have read the book, they can watch the movie. Using graphic organizers, they can compare and contrast the book and the movie. Encourage students to take notes on similarities and differences they notice, such as the fact that in "Matilda," by Roald Dahl, the little girl protagonist, plays three tricks on her parents in the book, but in the movie, she only plays two tricks.

3 Form an Opinion

Students in a classroom with raised hands.
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Have a class discussion or ask students to write an essay describing what they liked better from the book and what they liked better in the movie. For example, students might like seeing Dorothy leaving her black and white home behind as she steps into the colorful world of Oz in the movie "The Wizard of Oz," or watching Charlotte spinning words into her web in the movie "Charlotte's Web." Encourage students to back up their opinions with examples from the book or movie.

4 Extend the Lesson

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Ask students to choose one part of the movie they thought was disappointing when compared to the book. Ask them to rewrite the part they didn't like to be more appealing to them. Have the children share these with the class. A teacher might also assign parts and have students act out key scenes for the book as another way to explore the similarities and differences. Ask students to choose a book and movie combination, read the book, watch the movie and then write an analysis of the two to present as an in-class report. Potential examples include "Jurassic Park," by Michael Crichton, "The Hunger Games," by Suzanne Collins, or one of the "Twilight" series by Stephenie Meyer.

Sara Ipatenco has taught writing, health and nutrition. She started writing in 2007 and has been published in Teaching Tolerance magazine. Ipatenco holds a bachelor's degree and a master's degree in education, both from the University of Denver.