Are classic books worth the time and effort? Are they relevant to today’s time and place? Some adults: parents, teachers, and librarians swear by it and feel, if the students haven’t read any classics – they have wasted their time! However, with the changing times, some find that classic books must be shared with the young. It could be done by incorporating movies.
What makes a book a classic? Italo Calvino’s 14 Criteria for What Makes a Classic.
Fundamentally, the work focuses on the style of writing or if it is a new entry in a particular genre. Secondly, it addresses fundamental topics in beauty stimulating visual delight or describes the complex nature of the socio-economic-political structure of a specific place and time. Thirdly, the book reflects values that transcend race, time, and location, providing profound wisdom and teachings of life.
A way to engage students in delving into classic literature might be to introduce students to movies based on these classics. Discussing value systems, character, the period the story was written in, settings, and/or author’s purpose. For example, using Little Women by Louisa May Alcott, you could describe the lifestyle of the girls that grew up in those times and compare and contrast them with the present times’ virtues, and freedom. Discuss the role of women and men who lived in those times and now, in the present. How much has changed and what has remained the same? How can we change and evolve? Why should we develop, grow and change?
Another example could be Frankenstein by Mary Shelley. Why did she write this book, what prompted her to write? What are the experiments related to stem cells? Could these experiments have been influenced by the story or any other literature? How are the different characters in the story relatable? What conditions or situations in the story remind you of our present-day problems? How were outliers viewed in the previous century as compared to the present day? Here are some links to peruse and use for classic analysis with films.
PBS Movies with lesson plans
Youtube list that houses a variety of Classics
When students watch the movie and read excerpts from the book, impressions about the character, research on the topic, debates and writing reflection can become an interesting learning experience. Variations in the film and its narration can sometimes be taken off from the book narration, those experiences or topics or themes can be analyzed and discussed.