Lesson Plans

Lesson Plan #11

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Screening the Silver Screen: Writing Movie Reviews

Grades 7 to 12

Language Arts, Journalism, Media Studies

In this lesson, students examine the style and techniques of the "Movie" column found in your local newspaper. Using these reviews as a model for writing, students develop their own descriptive, persuasive movie reviews for favorite films.

Students can also use the information provided on SchoolNet News Network's website http://www.snn-rdr.ca/snn a to learn journalism writing styles (see SNN Newsroom). The SNN website is also a safe, structured environment for students to publish their writing.




1. WARM-UP/DO-NOW: In their journals, students respond to the following question:

  • Other than its storyline, what elements make up a movie?

Students should think about the final product and the process of making that product (e.g. acting, tone, cinematography, music and characterization). Students share their responses and the teacher creates a list of responses on the board.

. As a class, read movie reviews provided by teacher as well as the SNN Reporter movie review ‘Gladiator'. The teacher should choose a wide variety of films from the Movie Reviews selecting different types of movies. At least one of the films to be reviewed should be a bad review. Discuss the reviews, focusing on the following questions:

  • What is the plot of this film, and what are the reviewer's views of the plot?
  • How did the reviewer feel about the actors' and actresses' performances?
  • How would the film be classified? (drama,comedy,horror,science fiction, documentary)
  • What specific descriptive words are used in the review to illustrate the writer's opinions of the plot, acting, or other elements of the film?
  • Had you heard of this movie prior to reading this review? If so, did this review change your opinions of the movie, and why? If not, does this review encourage you to see the movie, and why?

3. Once discussion is completed, each student selects a movie, either currently in the theatre or an old favorite, for the focus of a movie review modeled after the samples provided. The teacher should make sure that students should select different movies. In class, students should "prewrite" their reviews. All reviews should include the following:

  • Names of stars of the movie
  • Name of the director
  • Rating
  • Length of movie
  • Evaluation of the plot of the movie
  • Evaluation of actors' performances
  • Any other elements of the movie that make this film unique (soundtrack, famous cinematographer or producer, etc.)
  • Clear opinion of the film illustrated throughout the review, apparent in the analysis of the plot, characters, and other elements of the film
  • Use of descriptive language throughout the review (use a thesaurus!)
  • No more than 100 words (excl. names of stars, director, rating, and length)

4. WRAP-UP/ HOMEWORK: Students write and edit their movie reviews, making sure that their language is descriptive and their opinion is apparent in the analysis of the plot, characters, and other elements of the film.

Students should also review the SNN Writing Guide on writing a review. Students can publish their reviews in their own school newspaper or submit them to an online youth ezine.



Students will be evaluated on written journal responses, participation in class discussion, and thoughtful, descriptive movie review modeled after those discussed in class.



These reviews follow a basic structure, which can be used to critique any kind of artistic activity whether it's a book or writing of any kind, live performance (dance, music or theatre), recorded music (cds), or visual art.

In the opening paragraph, the reviewer offers a description of the book, cd, play, movie or concert and explains whether it was a positive or negative experience to watch, read or listen to it. This is the reviewer's thesis or the main argument they would like to make about this work.

In the next few paragraphs, the reviewer sets out to prove that thesis. If the book or movie was excellent, the reviewer will focus on elements that make it work so well, including characters, scenes, dialogue, description, pace, plot line and theme. If it was flawed in some way, the reviewer will try to establish that by offering evidence of those flaws. The same is true for music --if the reviewer says this is a group's best album in years, then he or she needs to offer some reasons and some examples of why this is true.

At the end, the writer leaves the reader with an overall opinion of the work in question and a recommendation on whether or not the book, movie or cd is worth their time and money. The reviewer may discuss some of the thoughts and feelings he or she was left with after this work.

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