Filmmaking: Crafting Curriculum to Meet Their Interests

Teaching to Their Interests

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My eighth-grader has become passionate about filmmaking, from script writing to directing to camera-operating.

He started with a flip camera, then added a camcorder and a stop-motion animation program with a webcam. He’s been working all summer cutting grass to save money for a “really nice” camera. And, everything on his Christmas list is related to filmmaking (boom mic, lights, reflectors.)

Most of his free time is spent writing scripts–pages and pages of scripts.

Stop Motion Animation

My son has already produced both live-action and stop-motion movies to the delight of all of our family members (grandparents make an especially appreciative audience.)

Stopmotion Explosion: Animate Anything and Make Movies- Epic Films for $20 or Less has been a great jumping off point into the live action stuff that he really wants to do.

Follow Learning Table ‘s board Film Club on Pinterest.

For part of his literature/language arts and elective studies this year, we are incorporating film into our curriculum. It hasn’t been easy to find resources appropriate for teens. But, I have managed to put together some things that are working so far.

Free Resources

Educational guides and lesson plans for movies such as Because of Winn Dixie, Hoot, Where the Red Fern Grows, Bridge to Terabithia, Narnia, Holes, City of Ember, and more are available as free downloads from Walden Media. We have used these guides along with the novels and the movies as “going beyond the book” studies.


Scriptfrenzy by NaNoWriMo featured a young writer’s program, where participants write a complete script in one month. Their site is also full of resources for writers and teachers. You can download workbooks and a writer’s “bootcamp” for elementary, middle, or high school students. Sadly, Scriptfrenzy is no longer held, but the site still has some excellent free writing resources.


Other free filmmaking resources:

Filmmaking Curriculum

After checking out and reviewing some books from the library, I ordered Filmmaking for Teens: Pulling Off Your Shorts for us to use throughout the year, and it has turned out to be a great resource.

This book is one that you can hand over to your student for independent reading and project ideas. It is one of the best beginning filmmaking books we’ve found and could be used as a textbook for filmmaking.


Movies for English Class

I also found Movies as Literature curriculum from Design-a-Study. This will be the base for our coursework, with all the other above-listed resources as supplements to this course.

The Movies as Literature course is an intensive study of movies as short stories.

This program is not just about watching movies.

Each of the 17 movies studied includes 25 discussion questions, including topics for compositions and extended activities with either reading assignments, history research, or other movies related to the one being studied.

We use the discussion questions as conversation starters, and then my son chooses one topic to write about for each movie. This is giving him practice not only in film criticism, but also in literary analysis as he treats each film as literary art. He is also reading several works that correlate to the films, including Henry VTo Kill a Mockingbird, and A Raisin in the Sun.

Movies include both classic and modern selections:
  • Shane
  • The Quiet Man
  • Rear Window
  • The Maltese Falcon
  • E.T.
  • The Philadelphia Story
  • Friendly Persuasion
  • Arsenic and Old Lace
  • The Music Man
  • Emma
  • The Journey of August King
  • To Kill A Mockingbird
  • A Raisin in the Sun
  • Raiders of the Lost Ark
  • Henry V
  • A Man For All Seasons
  • Chariots of Fire

For Shane, we are reading the novel before watching the movie.

The topics studied in the Shane lesson include:
  • Character development vs. stereotypes
  • Film techniques
  • Plot development
  • Character motivation
  • Foreshadowing
  • Setting
  • Mood
  • Symbolism
  • Underlying messages about: what makes a man, what makes a hero, whether or not the end justifies the means, whether ‘A man who lives by the sword, dies by the sword,’ the positive contributions of God-fearing families to settlements in new territories.

The student workbook isn’t required for the program, but I bought it. I can make notes in my book and my son can have his own book to follow along in as we discuss the material. Although this is a high school level course, language arts is my son’s strongest subject, so we are using this for eighth grade.

Enthusiasm for Learning

Above all, I want my kids to be excited about learning, If I can incorporate their interests into our curriculum, a huge benefit of homeschooling, they will be more enthusiastic and motivated.

I love it when they ask me to “do school.”

I’d love to hear what you do for electives in your homeschool!

Related Posts:

Filmmaking for High School Fine Arts

A Twist on Homeschool Fine Arts

Ten Movies to Watch for School

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Comments (3)

  1. Sarah

    Thank you for this post!! My son has autism and will be homeschooled (7th grade) for the first time this fall. He has always loved movies and is constantly scripting (acting out movies he memorizes.) He wants to be a filmmaker when he grows up, so we’re taking advantage of homeschooling to learn more about his passion! Your resources have been so very helpful. I’ve been scouring the internet for how to teach about filmmaking for older kids and your post has been awesome. I think I’ll be ordering the Filmmaking Pulling Off Your Shorts book and maybe more. It’s a lot overwhelming, but we’re both excited about it. And a friend of mine gave me the Movies in Literature curriculum her son never used, so we’ve already got that ready to go! I love your site and your resources. Very helpful; thank you!!

    1. Anne Campbell (Post author)

      Thank you for your kind words, Sarah! I hope you will find some resources that click with your son. It’s been quite a journey for us–my son is now a college sophomore majoring in English and Film. He is still going strong with filmmaking and plans to make it a career. It’s so fun to see how the interests our kids have when they are young continue to grow. 🙂

  2. Elise Evans

    Hi Anne,
    Love your article and all the wonderful materials you provide. My husband and I homeschool and own a production company in Phoenix Az. After years of friends coming to us with children interested in our filmmaking business and a daughter who also was interested, 2 years ago we decided to create an online Film School for Teens (Homeschool teens that is 🙂 We just finished this monster project and will be launching this 18 week curriculum at the home school conventions this year. I wanted to share this with you as it encompasses most of what you mention above. We feel its essential training for any student in the media age. Love to give you a free trial for you or any other family members if you’d like to review it. We are pretty excited about it. Its call FS4T (Film School for Teens) Love to hear your thoughts especially with a son interested in this field!


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