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How to Get the Most Educational Value Out of Watching a Movie

Updated on November 26, 2012

Films and Learning Can Go Hand in Hand

Movies can be an enjoyable and high-impact supplement to a homeschool curriculum if they are used deliberately. Rather than just tack on a relevant film to the end of your unit study, spend a few moments to plan how the movie will reinforce the themes your children have learned.

Of course, there is nothing wrong with watching a video simply for fun, but if you want to get more educational value out of a movie, remember these tips.

Learning with Movies

To take notes as you watch, or to write summaries after you finish the movie.

What you do while you watch may vary depending on the type of movie. Here are three primary types of movies that fit well into homeschooling objectives:

Historical Fiction Films

Movies that portray a time in history through a fictional (or embellished "based on fact") story can truly make history come alive for a learner. Here are areas to discuss or write about during or after the movie.

  • Discuss or write about the differences between historical fact and Hollywood's interpretation.
  • Discuss or write about the screenwriter's filling in the gaps of what is unknown from history. Was his creative license believable and true to the time period?
  • Jot down events as they occur on a one page timeline or graphic organizer.


More factual in nature, documentariesare a video textbook.

  • Take advantage of the abundance of facts offered in documentaries by asking your children to take notes.
  • Watching a documentary is also a good time to work on outlining skills. Ask your children to identify main topics and sub-topics in the presentation and outline those in the traditional format.
  • Discuss or write about how the visual element of the documentary adds to your understanding of the topic. If the medium were text only, what would have to be added to achieve the same results?

Narrative Films

Movies can be studied as literature. Whether it is a movie adaptation of a famous novel or just a good story, a narrative movie can be an opportunity for learning the elements of fiction.

  • Take notes on the elements of fiction -- characters, plot, setting, point of view.
  • Discuss or write about the primary theme of the movie and any secondary themes.
  • Write about how the theme underlies all of the events in the plot.
  • Talk about how the character is portrayed -- through dialogue, through actions, through visual images, or a combination of these.
  • If the movie is based on a novel you have read, list the parts where the movie varies from the original. Discuss or write about why the screenplay writer would modify the story and whether or not the changes are effective.

With some conversation, even family movie night can be a time to subtly strengthen literary skills.

Share Your Experiences

What is your favorite type of movie to use in homeschooling?

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Getting the Whole Family Involved

One of the best parts about using a movie in your homeschool is that everyone can be involved. Dad and siblings can all watch the movie and participate in the discussions that occur afterwards. 

In fact, the family discussions that happen after watching a movie are not just educational but valuable for building relationships. During those talks, parents have a great opportunity to pass on values and to learn more about their children's feelings.

Family watching television together
Family watching television together | Source

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