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Paley Center: Now That's Funny: On the Set of TV's Hottest Comedies


Does the Media Really Represent Me? Brittany Stahlman


To critique the sitcom family, students will be shown 4 five minute clips from four different family sitcoms. They will fold a piece of paper into five columns. In the first four columns, the students will observe the sitcom families in certain categories, such as how their family looks, what their house looks like, how they interact, their conflicts and the family's social status. In the last column, the student will put observations about his own family in those categories. The student will then write about how these families are different and similar to their own families. Then, the students will get together in groups to discuss their answers; they will then talk about what this mass media idea of family does for real families.


Sports Films

Lindsey Saunders

1. Present clip of 


The Blind Side as an example of a popular sports film.
2. Remind students that this film was Oscar winning and grossed more 305 million dollars.
3. Ask students why they thought the film was so popular? What elements of the film related to audiences?
4. Have students discuss with a partner if the film deserves to be named a "classic" sports film like Rudy or Remember the Titans.
5. After discussion, take a vote with students. Ask: "Is The Blind Side a classic sports film?" Yes or No? Allow students time to defend their opinions to the class.
6. Explain "film genres" to students and give examples of film genres. Say that The Blind Side belongs in the sports film genre.
7. Pass out worksheets with 4 boxes on them. Have students try to label the first box with what happens at the beginning of the "sports film" genre, the second two boxes with action in the middle of films in this genre, and finally the ending of films in this genre.
For example:  Box 1: Character is shown as underdog.
Box 2: Character works harder to improve his "game."
Box 3: Character wins or achieves greatness.
Box 4: People who doubted character change their minds.
8. Ask students if labeling these boxes was easy or hard?


9. Allow students to then fill in the four boxes with a short story fitting the "sports film" genre.



Cooking Shows and Society

Megan Gorvin


To help teach students about the cooking show genre, I would focus on how the cooking show has evolved from highly trained chefs cooking exotic foods to be more focused on everyday people and common ingredients.  To do this, I would show a clip from an older cooking show (such as this one from The Frugal Gourmet http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PkjcUc8ekRY&feature=related). I would contrast this with a clip from a modern cooking show (such as Rachel Ray http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iHgvkq3aCqQ). Students would then discuss how the cooking shows differ. To get them thinking about this, they could answer questions such as: How is each chef dressed? What kinds of ingredients does each chef use? Who prepares the ingredients? What techniques do each use? Eventually I want students to be able to think about the audiences for each show and how cooking shows have changed their format to cater to their audience. I also want them to think about societal changes have affected the focus of the cooking shows (for example, how has the emergence of working mothers changed the agendas of cooking shows?)



Yep...that's real?

by Cory Damone Enriquez


The form of the documentary has been around for quite a long time, but it was only a matter of time before it evolved. A new type of genre has emerged from the form that made Ken Burns millions of dollars. The mockmentary is a type of media that seeks to create meaning and knowledge out of revealing the dissonance and incongruities between real life and the imagined world. Since it is becoming more relevant to media today (with popular shows like "The Office" circulating our media sphere), it also become important for students to process the mockumenatry appropriately.

Lesson Plan:

1) First I would show case a mockumentary like "Best in Show" without any type of introduction or explanation

2) After viewing, I would begin to question the class on what they just saw. The important part of this is to ask leading questions to create analytical processing. Some of those questions would be: Is what you just saw real? What is the topic matter at hand? Can you relate to the topic matter? What kind of characters do we see here?

3) Then, we would break down each question to reasonings why we got to that answer. So, if we determined that, in fact, the media is not "real" then how did we come to that conclusion?

4) At this point, we should establish the fact that what we just saw was a mockumentary. From here, I would introduce the topic of the day to be "the mockumentary". This will be followed up with another film clip from a mockumentary.

5) More processing would occur through comparing the two clips and how they both conveyed a message. Some characteristics that should be mentioned are the fact that both clips attempted to achieve some kind of knowledge transfer or message, the usage of multiple characters, the use of prescribed reality, and how it compares to a documentary (a lead in to a future lesson plan or another topic of discussion).



Oh, the horror...the horror! Examining cliches and the horror genre

 by Allison Witham 


After reading a classic, such as Frankenstein or Dracula, or modern piece of horror literature, The Shining etc., I would ask the students to create a series of lists.  The first list would be qualities of good films such as logical progression through the story, well developed characters, the film leaves an impression on the audience, etc.  I would then ask them to think of horror movies they have seen and jot down what are some common features of horror movies like, plot holes, graphic violence, graphic nudity, sequels, etc.  Finally, I would ask them to create a venn diagram with their two lists to figure out what are the earmarks of good horror movies are.  After hearing from the students about the common characteristics they found between good movies and horror movies, I would ask the students about the horror characteristics that did not meet the "good movies" criteria they established.  After hearing from students and writing their observations on the board, I would introduce the idea of cliches.  We would have a brief lesson on cliches and their uses and then move on to the second half of the activity.


The students would be broken into groups and asked to imagine they are the producers of Dracula (or whatever novel they are reading).  I would then pass out reviews and stills of previous versions of the film or, (depending on the grade level and appropriateness) perhaps even show some clips.  After they materials have been passed out, I would ask the students to devise criteria for the film to make it a "good horror film."  Ex. Count Dracula's accent should be legit, the costumes should be period and not just about showing off the actresses' chests, and the characters should have some depth to them instead of being wooden.  Afterward, the groups would be invited to pitch their films to the class and vote on who should be produced. 



A brief description of a classroom activity for teaching students about Epic Fantasy archetypes

by Zach Nyhus


After having a lesson and a class discussion where the students formally learn about the Epic Fantasy genre and its classic character archetypes, I would have the students break into groups of three and choose a film they have all seen which portrays some of these mythic archetypes.  Each group member would choose a different character from the film as an example of an archetype, and together, they would write a modern newspaper-style "Personals Ad" in the voice of that character, careful to not mention any specific character names.  (I would give the students more than one class period to accomplish this.)  


The students would then read their Personals Ads in front of the class, and the rest of the class would have to guess which archetype had written each ad, and explain their rationale for that conclusion.  Hopefully, this would be fun and entertaining, and lead to lively class discussion of the motives and expectations behind each of these archetypes.



Lesson plan: Discussion of Science Fiction vs. Fantasy:  By Brian Erlich
Begin by having the class brainstorm classic films from the Science Fiction and Fantasy genres. They will most likely list Star Wars as a Science Fiction and Lord of the Rings as a Fantasy.
Then, show the class short clips from Star Wars and Lord of The Rings.
Then ask them, "What genre is Star Wars?"
The students will most likely respond: "Science Fiction, of course!"
Then respond: "Nope, contrary to popular belief, based on the traditional characteristics of genres, Star Wars is actually a fantasy, set in a futuristic world. 'Wait, that doesn't make sense! I thought science fiction was anything set in the future!'"
Then explain the differences between Science Fiction and Fantasy:
Science Fiction: Emphasis on imagined science and technology- issues with, future of , inventive technologies and science, etc. The key aspect of science fiction is that the narratives COULD happen based on our current technology and laws of nature. Therefore, much of science fiction does take place in futuristic settings, but definitely does not need to.
Fantasy: Imagined worlds using magic and other supernatural powers and phenomena. Often involves the hero journey coming into their own person through depredations and initiations. Often involves binary communities of good versus evil.
The main difference between Science Fiction and Fantasy is the issue of realism. Science Fiction is POSSIBLE, while fantasy is totally imagined and IMPOSSIBLE to actually occur in our universe.
THEREFORE: Star Wars is actually fantasy: It is an imagined universe with a supernatural phenomena of "The Force" and the Jedi's versus the Dark Side (good versus evil binary). Finally, Luke Skywalker is the typical hero/journey character.


Lesson Plan: Understanding the purpose of science fiction

Jake Westrum


First, in groups of three, the class will brainstorm 3 ways which technology helps them, and 3 ways it hurts them.  These instructions should be kept this vague in order to allow the student to see it as he/she sees fit...anything from "my cell phone lets me talk to friends more" to "automobiles kill more people than the bubonic plague" become acceptable.


Second, in a large group, we discuss.  Each group lays out their three of each category, and they're listed on the board.  A "master list" is created.  The top three from each side.  Then they're examined: imagine the flip side to each one.  Example: the cell phone lets you talk to friends more, but does it invade into time you could/would be spending in more productive, happier ways?


Third, we move into the aims of science fiction.  Can we take them "literally"?  If not, what purpose do these stories serve?  What do they tell us about our own society?  


Choose three science fiction movies and examine: what do they enlighten to us about our own world.  This enlightenment can be based upon society or purely technological innovation.





Dark City


Star Wars


What does this "other" mean?  Who do they REALLY represent?  Authority?  Chaos?


Lesson Plan: Why We Love the Heist

By Dan Thompson


Objective: Students will identify and compare the elements of heist movie plots and characters. Ultimately, they will understand the purpose behind these tropes in the greater context of the genre.



This can be accomplished a number of ways. This is but one. Open a discussion of what students know about heist movies. Make a list of examples on the board. Ask them to brainstorm with their classmates (in groups) about what makes a heist movie a heist movie. If desired, you could assign each group a certain aspect: the protagonist, the antagonist, the love interest, the plot, the resolution, etc. Ultimately, they will build up to a presentation about either this aspect or the entire heist genre as a whole.


Assuming the groups all brainstormed on specific aspects, ask them to report this to the class by writing in the characteristics on the board. Then, ask students to take home a film from the teacher's collection (he's very trusting, but just in case the DVDs are all labeled because he's not THAT trusting), and they will need to identify the elements of a heist in that particular film. The class could create its own worksheet/framework for this based on the elements described in the class discussion.


After a sufficient amount of time has passed, students can share these presentations with the class. They could be assigned a certain aspect of the film on which to focus, and they should prepare a clip that exemplifies the tropes of their aspect. (Alternatively, they could consider how a film diverges from these tropes.) What purpose do these tropes serve in the greater context of the genre? How does this trope limit the genre?




Analyzing Cooking Shows (by Emily)

To start, I'd have students write/discuss whether or not they enjoy cooking. What do you enjoy making? How did you learn? Even if they don't enjoy cooking, all kids like to eat, so we could discuss some of their favorite foods and food traditions. Students could also discuss what it's like to work in a restaurant.


It would be fun to have students do a spoof of a cooking show, something like "Delicious Dish" on SNL (but hopefully not as raunchy). Students would first need to study how realistic the cooking is on cooking shows. They would notice that on a cooking show, all the ingredients and supplies are there, every step in the process goes right the first time, the host is always positive and encouraging, there are usually time-lapses where hours could pass in real life, nothing ever gets spilled or messy, the host doesn't have to interact with anyone except the audience, and the final product always turns out great (and in the exact amount of time promised). Students would take these features and exaggerate them or turn them around. For instance, they could show something catching on fire and the flustered host having to carry on.


Students could also analyze the "character"/persona of one or more of the Food Network hosts. They could look at how they the recipe, what personality traits they display during the show, what they wear,how they speak, etc. The overall point is that cooking shows are a form of reality TV that, like other reality shows, can be manipulated for entertainment purposes.



Looking at the Reality TV Show Top Chef from a Feminist Point of View by Jenna Sethi


See blog for clips/pictures


For undergraduate students I would divide them into several groups and have clips from different seasons available of Top Chef especially scenes where women and men have confrontations or women contestants are criticized by male contestants. I would have them consider cultural constructions of myths around gender differences and then carefully analyze the clips to consider what might be problematic for women viewers.

We would also take a look at what rules effectively "govern" this type of reality show as well as consider our assumptions are about this type of show. We could consider if anything (at all) was different about the season that a woman won top chef. Did she have to work harder to prove that she was indeed a chef rather than a cook? How do these shows help or hinder women who aspire to be chefs or just enjoy cooking and want to learn more? Does a show like this reinforce stereotypes? How could BRAVO do a better job? Why would they want to?


Post your genre teaching activities here (this is for teaching activities; put your PP presentations on the post PP presentations page)


TvTropes: Wiki of tropes--repeated patterns--found in genres




25 Best Horror Films of All Time


Ivy: Spoof on Reality TV shows set on the Cornell University campus


Video: Reality TV Editing


New York Times: rise of the occult in current television shows


What happens after the credits roll? Moving from the Idealistic to the Realistic by Jennifer Sherman

For this assignment, students will be asked to extend the story of a romantic comedy. They will watch the film of their choice and summarize the basic plot points of the movie. However, they must then continue the story after the couple gets together and the credits roll. How do these two coexist? Do they truly find their happy ending? What problems will they have to encounter that the movie did not show? The students should show one or two more scenes that brings to life how these characters live together and what issues of conflict they will have to endure.

The purpose of this activity is to have the students question what the movie left out. Often times romantic comedies will suggest that once love happens, everything else fades away. This activity, however, forces readers to wonder where everything else went. It forces readers to question the assumption that love is the ultimate cure-all.

These movies or representation are able to create a message or theme by leaving out important elements of an argument. These movies create an argument that many people blindly accept because they do not take the time to question and dissect the argument that is being made. They do not pull out the foundation of the argument and see the issue with all of its questions and concerns in mind. They do not see the bigger picture as they become trapped in the incomplete and one-sided representation that is being played out in front of them. This assignment asks the students to question the argument that is being made and to put the themes and issues of the narrative into a real world setting. This assignment asks student to move from the idealistic to the realistic, as they take the idealistic plot and theme of the movie and they place it into the expectations of reality.






Past and Present by Scott Spicer

Pick 3 modern and 3 historical (40 years or older) TV/Film clip examples that exemplify a genre. Compare and contrast stereotypical characterizations between the two time periods, and speak to its cultural context for the time. In other words, from what perspective did the audience perceive characters in the film?


Mockumentary by Nathan

In this activity students will examine their schools through the lens of Mockumentary. Students will outline the different roles and power structures embedded within their school. They will then use creative (yet respectful) ways to mock these roles. This project will allow students to examine the inner workings of their school and get research paper help any time.


In the true spirit of creating a Mockumentary students will create extensive backgrounds and character sketches for the characters and settings that they will create. However, they will not script anything. Students will be encouraged to learn enough about their school so that they can ad lib the actually scenes that they will preform. Final projects can be in-class performances, podcasts, or iMovies.


The Mystery Genre - Genevieve

One way to teach the mystery genre in the high school English classroom would be to pair appropriate episodes of television shows such as Veronica Mars or CSI with texts like Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes stories. Barry Levinson’s movie, Young Sherlock Holmes, rated PG-13, could also be used, as could Andrew Flemings’ new movie, Nancy Drew. Scaffolding for the activity might include reading very basic mystery texts like Donald J. Sobol’s Encyclopedia Brown stories or an excerpt from Carolyn Keene’s Nancy Drew series. Students can identify the basic elements of the mystery genre in the scaffolding texts then build on those elements while viewing the suggested television shows/movies. Students should be prompted to examine whether the elements of mystery are better conveyed in texts or in visual format such as television/movies.



Film Noir - Suzanne (Fall 2007)

Film Noir is a genre that depicts moral ambiguity and sexual motivation. Have students watch the Maltese Falcon and LA Confidential - compare and contrast the primary characters. Is there a female archetype in both? Identify the moral ambiguity and primary themes in both films. If your version of the Maltese Falcon is black and white, how did that affectyour viewing experience? Did you find the color of LA Confidential a distraction or an enhancement? What were the women characters like?




Satire is an important concept to "get" especially in civics/history since we spend alot of time analyzing political cartoons. For a more current example of yesterday's political cartoon, students could view a segment of the Daily Show with John Stewart. After the viewing have students respond to the following questions: Who or what is the subject? What is the message? Who is the intended audience? What is the tone? Is it amusing, funny, sarcastic, powerful, attention getting? How would changing the tone/facial expression/body language change the meaning? Why is satire important? Ask students when they think satire is inappropriate? How does it get "lost in translation" or misused?


The Spin by Meaghan

This assignment would be used for a film/media class where the students have already worked on creating their own films. After studying various genres and lenses, the students will split into small groups. Every group will have the same generic script written by the teacher. For example, a three-page script (equaling a roughly three-minute film) puts three people discussing how they cannot leave until they come up with the rest of the money they need. The groups would then each choose a different professional resume writer to create a film, using the same script. The class would view each film, noting the choices of lighting, camera angles, character portrayals, costumes, tone, etc. The class would then discuss the differences amongst the various genres, strengths and weaknesses, and why the students made the decisions they did.


Mockumentary by Chris

This could be an interesting look into the lives of students. In small groups, they will have to create a five-ten minute mockumentary about some aspect of their own lives. This could take the form of basketball practice or a Halo gaming team-whatever really. Explain to the students that what they are doing is not actually mocking the subjects, but rather illustrating the inherent humor in their eccentric lifestyles or the ernestness in which they carry themselves. Students would then show their videos in class and explain how they analyzed the subject content. The goal of the lesson would be grounded in creating humor through satire and sarcasm. I have no idea if this would truly work, but it would be a pretty awesome assignment.


Dislocated Character by Jessie

The class will be divided into small groups of 3-5 students. They will each be assigned to reasearch and present a short 5-10 minute report of the usual script and the prototype characters or "usual suspects" of that genre. For example, Romantic comedy would go something like: boy and girl meet cute, they are kept apart by an obstacle and the romantic tension grows because they cannot be together, they get together, there is a fight and they seperate, they get together again, the end. Each group will choose the prototype character that they can go into the most depth with and write that character up on a notecard. They should include the character's wants, drives, usual apperance, faults and anything else they can come up with. The cards will be shuffled and other genres will receive their character. They must write the character they receive into their genre. For example, femme fatales will be written into romantic comedies and flawed detectives will show up in romantic comedies. After they have finished, as a group they will tell the new story. Through this activity, the class will critically examine the stereotypes that run through film and television media, the way this serves media, and ways these characters may or may not differ from real, flawed, complex people.


Denise & Katie: Romantic Comedy Movie Genre

Romantic comedies are full of male/female stereotypes. This lesson would study the characterizations of male and female roles in romantic comedies and compare those characterizations with male and female roles found in different types of literature. Students can compare and contrast personality traits and physical traits of gender roles in romantic comedies and different types of literature. The goal of this lesson is to identify which genres of literature might benefit from the same gender stereotypes that are used in romantic comedy movies.



Let's Play a Game! by Angela


Television gameshows. We've all seen them. We had Let's Make a Deal (love that one!), Scrabble, Match Game, $10,000 Pyramid, and Classic Concentration. Now we have (and still have) Wheel of Fortune, Price is Right, Who Wants To Be a Millionaire, Jeopardy, Greed, and Deal or No Deal, among the hodgepodge of reality shows, like the Amazing Race or Survivor, which have game-like qualities. Students would look at the trends in television game shows and how they run parallel or are affected by social/political changes within society. The final project would involve pairs of students developing a game show based on contemporary society. If time and circumstances allowed, the game would be played by the class. This would allow students to visually see their classmates thoughts in action as well as provide a fun opportunity for students to get a hands-on look at how the television genre reflects stereotypes and value assumptions.


Fall 2007 Genre Teaching Activity by Crystal Bieter


Students are expected to read a book from a selected genre each semester as part of our school-wide independent reading program. As a way to incorporate media in this unit, it would be fun to have them also critique a film or tv show that fits into that genre as well. It would be fun to have them present their findings in small groups and have them post these to the class wiki site. Students would be reminded that they would need to include the following criteria:

1) What are the familiar shows within this genre today? What were the favorite shows within this genre a decade ago?

2) How has the genre changed or not changed comparing the present to the past decade.

3) Have students look at the familiar roles people play in this genre.

4) What are the familiar settings in this genre?

5) What are some of the familiar problems faced with the characters in this genre?

6) What are some of the most important value assumptions made about this particular genre?

7) Are there any clear stereoypes being portrayed and if so what?

8) In comparing a book and a movie/tv show in the same genre, which one did you enjoy more and why?


Eve and Annie Fall 2007 Genre Teaching activity

Have students list all the romantic comedies they can remember watching. Then,

put students into groups based on which movies they've seen, so that all

members of the group has seen at least three of the same movies. Then, have

them meet and answer the following discussion questions:

1. are romantic comedies realistic?

2. why do romantic comedies appeal to more women over men?

3. what values do romantic comedies support?

4. what makes for a appealing leading actor/actress


Maggie Fall 2007 Genre Teaching Activity


Students must watch a movie, especially romance comedy or tragedy, of their choice and write about how it is gothic (almost any movie could be considered gothic). Students watch a movie and must write at least five paragraphs addressing elements of gothic nature within the film.

These elements would be:

1. identify who the characters are in terms of lightness and darkness, and explain why they are what they are.

2. address what issues may be morally ambiguous with supporting detail.

3. discuss how characters might be attracted to death, or life through their fear of death with support from the movie.


Lisa Fall 2007 Genre Teaching Activity

Students would choose one network (i.e. NBC, ABC, CBS, etc.) that has separate news casts in the morning and evening. They would watch two broadcasts from two different days on each time slot. In other words, they will watch NBC's The Today Show and Nightly News broadcasts on two separate days. They will then compare and contrast the differences between these shows. How are the anchor's different? News stories? "Fluff" stories? Segments? Why does the morning broadcast have a meteorologist? Why does the evening broadcast have only one anchor? They will then look at how these shows fit into the genre of television news and how they differ. Students will give a 5 minute presentation about their findings.



Jennifer Sellers and Theresa Haider

Ask students to choose a profession (doctor, nurse, teacher, police, fireman/woman, etc) and watch a show that is focuses on that profession. Then the students interview a member of that profession and ask them how accurate the show's portrayal is of their profession. Make a short presentation to the class on their findings.


Ligia Hernandez and Andi Larson

Sports Films:

Ask your students to write a small paragraph about a time where they have worked really hard in order to win at a sports event or a competition. Have them explain all the hardships and preparation they went trhough in order to achive that goal.

Have them discuss in small groups if they learned any lessons by winning or losing at that particular event.

Prepare a table with several sports movies such as Ruby, Remember The Titans, Invincible, Coach Carter,Glory Road, Bend it Like Beckham, Miracle, Ice Castles, Cutting Edge, Bring it On, Cool Runnings. Have the small groups come up to the table and choose a movie. They will watch it at home and then try to find any similarities-in terms of character, behavior, struggle, lessons learned, etc-with the movies and their own experinces (the ones they wrote about).

Have them share their insights about the movies with the class and how did writing about their own personal experiences help them understand the movie.

We believe that pedagogy and curriculum should be seen as relevant to their lives and how they can apply it to their personal lives.


Mary Voigt, Alma Mendez, and Patricia Mcgurk


To give students some idea of Cold War politics I may ask students to view various science fiction programs, particularly Star Trek. Using the show as a model I would ask them to find evidence of three key American ideals to start: positioning as first on the world stage, optimistic hopes for the future and how they are intricately connected with the expansion of our democratic ideals, and a mixed relationship between technology and the fate of the individual. Once these three themes are established I would ask them to view other science fiction from the same cold war era and see if they believe they can find these same themes played out. They would do this by conducting a Formalist/ Structualist approach to the movie or show they chose to view.


Sarah Thomes and Emily Peckscamp

Fairy tales are a special genre in and of themselves. Students can read several classic tales, and identify some of the conventions of this genre. Then, students will read some fairy tales that have been rewritten to parody to original. An example is a collection of "politically correct" fairy tales. Students can then compare the differences between the two, and what conventions were kept the same or changed in the rewrite.



Jarrett and Nate


The romantic comedy is one of the most formulaic genres around. To understand what Hollywood thinks romance is, the students will view a few clips from various romantic comedies. The focus will be on the main character. The teacher should show both male and female protagonists. The teacher should split the class in half and ask one side to look list the characteristics of the males and the other side to examine the female protagonists. Show the film clips so that everyone can view typical examples of romantic comedies. Have the students work in groups (by which gender character they had) to decide what commonalities they see through the various films’ protagonists—personality, events, goals, etc. Have each group come up with a list of the five main similarities. Be sure the students DO NOT label their list as male or female and do not put their names on it. The teacher will then collect the lists and hand them out randomly to the groups. The groups must then decide whether the character is male or female and how they know. This activity should lead to a group discussion on what expectations are attached to males and females.



Rebekah Ignatowicz and Justin Crum


To help students understand how to classify films into different genres, We would have the class all write up their own short stories. As a class we would go through each of the individual short stories and identify the characters, plot, and setting. We would then compare those elements to films and tv shows that we see in the media. We would look at how they are similar and different, and classify them into different genres. In doing this process we would go over the basic elements that make up the different genre types, so students can correctly recognize and identify the different categories of media.


Abbey Weis and Karen Keller


Most students are familiar with the movie Shrek, but when taught wit a focus on its genre, they will view it with a more critical lens. Students will first be given a list Propp's character roles: villian, hero, donor, helper, princess, father, dispatcher, and false hero. They will match each role with a character in the film and analyze how the character defies the stereotypical archetype classification. In other words, they will list counter-characteristics to the traditional ones. (An example of a traditional fairy tale could work as a starting for them to analyze the typical portrayals, etc.) Students will also identify characteristics that make Shrek a Quest genre. In addition, they will idenify other possible genres that the film could coincide with and explain how and why.


Greg Gustafson, Steve Paul, and Rob Bennett

I'd start out with an easy genre like film noir. First I'd have the class brainstorm some different genre's, and they would probably come up with things like comedy, drama, action, etc. I would have them give characteristics of each one, as well as examples that the class feels would fall into each of the categories. then if no one came up with film noir, I would tell them about it; the shadows, the femme fatale, etc. I'd end the unit by showing an old film noir and a new one if we had enough time, then at the end we'd discuss it, as well as what characteristics they found similar between the old and new noir films.



Karen Keller and Abbey Weiss

A great source for teaching students various film genres is a video series called American Cinema. Each tape in the series covers two film genres. I have created several study guides that go along with these videos that help teach basic components of the genre. The videos are available at the Hollywood Video store in Uptown as well as on Amazon.com or Netflix. If you'd like a copy of the study guides I have made, just e-mail me


Here is the link to descriptions about each video in the series.


Kerry Newstrom/Sara Speicher


Ask students to get into groups of 6. Have one student write as all students tell what movies they’ve seen, television programs they watch, and books they’ve read in the past few months. Have the students categorize shows according to genre - and encourage them to come up with genre categories of their own. Next, have the students place all of their movies, shows, and books into a genre category. Have the class get together to share their lists.


Katie Houlihan and Sarah Staples

To teach students how the Western genre films' portrayal of Native American male characters generally reflect status-quo values, you could teach students from a "critical or ideological" approach in which "students critically examine the normalizing force of genre texts in defining what is considered to be normal based on the need for order, consistency, control, and regularity versus instances of abnormality or deviancy in society" (Beach, 67). Taking early Western films, from the John Wayne era, students could brainstorm what was considered to be a "normal" male (cowboy, sherrif, etc.) vs. a deviant male (savage, uncivilized Native American). Then, reflect on how those notions of normalcy were mediated through old Western films and why such notions existed - what/how did these portrayals control society? Students could then study Western films from the past twenty years and compare the more modern portrayals of Native American males to their earlier portrayals. What has changed? What hasn't? How does this reflect what notions have prevailed in our society over time, in consideration of Western expansion? Have students work in small groups to craft an outline of a movie script in which Native American males were portrayed more truthfully. Once they share their ideas with other groups, discuss whether these screenplays would be "blockbusters" or not, and why. Also, ask what these alternative versions of the same issue reflect.


70's Sitcom vs. 80's Sitcom: Family roles and race

Dan Richardson & Nate Schultz

Students watch clips from "The Jeffersons" and "The Brady Bunch" and discuss the differences in how the families are portrayed (for example, the Jeffersons live in an apartment in the city, the Bradys live in a house in the city). Students could be provided with a list of questions or a graphic organizer to help them focus on the similarities and differences between the father in each show, the mother in each show. The students then watch clips from the "Cosby Show" and "Family Ties" in order to make a similar comparison between the charaters on these two shows. I want to suggest that an additional layer of discussion can focus on how depictions of race change over time. How are the Bradys depicted differently than the Keatons ("Family Ties")? How are the Jeffersons depicted differently than the Cosbys? What do students think is the relative accuracy of the 4 depictions of family? How did depictions of race change from the 1970's to the 1980's? These are difficult questions to answer, and we think the lesson would have to be more carefully planned than we have done here.


Genre Analysis Activity

by Miriam Krause - Fall 2009

Pick a genre that you do not usually like or watch for your analysis. Interview some of your fellow students and read online reviews to find out what fans of this genre like about it, common themes, etc. Based on this information, choose two examples of the genre to watch (two different films or episodes of two different TV shows) and write a review that includes discussions of the following topics (your review may be submitted in writing or as a video blog):

- why you do not or did not like this genre.

- why fans of this genre do like it.

- common themes found in this genre, including typical characters, settings, values, etc.

- how the two examples you watched were or were not representative of the genre, including brief synopses.

- whether learning about the genre and watching examples of it did or did not change your opinions about it, and why.


Film Noir Activity

by Molly Schned and Laura Hammond



Film Noir Activity:




In order to have students consider the elements and conventions of film noir, as well as engage with the stereotypes and limitations of it, groups of 3 or 4 students would receive a slip of paper with the title of a fairy tale or cartoon on it.  The students would then adapt the story and present it as a film noir.  Audience members would try and guess the story and take notes on the specific elements the other students used.  Alternately, students could take scenes from film noir and translate them into other genres.  These activities would help students become more aware of the elements that make up different types of film.


Historical/Period Piece

Adam Reich


Watch a film dealing with a certain historical figure.  Analyze elements of the film(s) paying certain detail to historical accuracy.  Why did the filmmakers choose to make a film about this individual/event at this point in time.  Does the film reflect upon modern times in any way.  Have students analyze the film paying attention more on details than on general plot lines.  Are the costumes historically accurate.  What kind of language is being used in the film.  Is this the way the events actually happened?



Chris Miller & Sarah Rose

Teaching Genres



One way to introduce students to the idea of genres within film and television would be to play a four-corner activity. We would have the students stand in the center of the room.  Then we would say the name of a popular TV show, i.e. “If you like Grey’s Anatomy’s stand in corner 1” “if you like The Simpsons, go stand in corner 2” ,“if you like family guy…corner 2,” “House…corner 1” etc.  Once everyone had a corner to stand in, we would have them discuss:

            -why they like the show(s) they picked

            -what the shows have in common

                        -similar character(s)



and then come up with a name for that genre (may or may not be the “name” it has been given by mass culture).  We could repeat this activity for multiple genres.




The Musical—What’s the big deal?

By Josh and Meredith


Have students watch clips from different musicals and ask them to consider why this format has remained so popular among various audiences for so long. Provide students with discussion questions to jumpstart their thinking about the films, such as: what differences do you see in musicals aimed toward adults and those targeting children, why are so many set in historical eras, how does the use of music differ in the musical from other films, etc. This will push the students to think critically about the genre and compare different examples within it.





Brien Kelly & John Byrnes



Fairy Tales and Film Genres



Students would be asked to break into groups and choose a Fairy Tale that they are familiar with.  Then, each group would be assigned a specific film genre: Film Noir, Action / Adventure, Horror, etc.  Students would brainstorm and re-write their Fairy Tale in the genre that they have been assigned.  This would force students to think of the conventions of genre and how to apply them to a story.  After writing, the groups would share their stories with the class.



Medical TV Series Activity

By Karena H. and Elisabeth C.


For our teaching activity students would compare medical dramas with reality television shows about real doctors such as Hopkins. By comparing the dramas with realities shows, students would determine common elements, and differences between the two types of shows. Students would also read articles about how real doctors react to dramas about the medical world. The purpose of the assignment would be to get students to explore and understand how medical dramas compare with the real medical world and understand limitations of the medical drama genre.


Food Shows by Joe Babel
The activity I would have my students do would involve them making their own cooking show based on satirizing one of the shows we discussed. (Paula Dean, the Neely’s, Alton Brown, and Rachel Ray). This assignment would involve aspects of research and filming. First, the students would break into groups, and decide on which show they’d like to satirize. Satire is very intelligent and therefore difficult humor to achieve. This means that the students will have to be able to firmly grasp what the show is attempting to do, and how it does it. The students would have to decide on a recipe. They can use one from the site, or bring one from home. They would then watch clips from the various shows and take notes based on the characteristics of the show (thoughts on the host, setting, comedic elements, ease and time). Working together, each group would then discuss these elements and use their knowledge to create a satirized storyboard of the recipe they want to do, along with a script. They would then videotape their shows. They would then be posted to a class wiki, and students would be required to comment on other group’s work detailing what works and what could improve the clip.




Comments (1)

babe0022@... said

at 2:59 pm on Nov 4, 2010

Food Shows by Joe Babel
The activity I would have my students do would involve them making their own cooking show based on satirizing one of the shows we discussed. (Paula Dean, the Neely’s, Alton Brown, and Rachel Ray). This assignment would involve aspects of research and filming. First, the students would break into groups, and decide on which show they’d like to satirize. Satire is very intelligent and therefore difficult humor to achieve. This means that the students will have to be able to firmly grasp what the show is attempting to do, and how it does it. The students would have to decide on a recipe. They can use one from the site, or bring one from home. They would then watch clips from the various shows and take notes based on the characteristics of the show (thoughts on the host, setting, comedic elements, ease and time). Working together, each group would then discuss these elements and use their knowledge to create a satirized storyboard of the recipe they want to do, along with a script. They would then videotape their shows. They would then be posted to a class wiki, and students would be required to comment on other group’s work detailing what works and what could improve the clip.

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