The Internet TESL Journal

Is the Movie the same as the Book?

A Classroom Activity Comparing Novels and Movies

Donna Hurst Tatsuki, Nishinomiya, Japan
tatsuki [at]

When a film is based on an adaptation of a novel, small discrepancies are often introduced. For example, the characters may be different in appearance, or their dialog may be altered. This activity uses video as a motivation for the careful reading of selected passages and may be used as a starting point for group based project work.

Preparation: Select some short film segments and their corresponding reading passages. Look for discrepancies in setting (time of day, location), characters (age, sex, appearance, number), dialog (sequence, forms of expression), actions and events (sequence, consequence to plot).

In class: Remind students that very often there are differences between films and the novels upon which they are based. Show them a selected film segment once and then provide the corresponding reading passage. Ask them to note (or underline) the visible (setting, characters, actions and events) and verbal/aural differences (dialog). This may be done individually or in small groups. Show the film segment again upon request until they are satisfied that they have found all of the possible differences. To give them a goal, tell them how many differences you found.

Projects: Divide the entire film into larger segments (several scenes in each) and assign one segment to each group. The students must find the corresponding pages in the novel and all of the discrepancies. As well as examining visible and verbal differences suggest that they note structural changes (sequence, deletion or addition of scenes). To conclude the project, the group will provide possible explanations for the changes and the effects of the changes on the understanding and enjoyment of the story.

Although I encourage teachers to select their own favorite movie/novel pair, here are some suggested segments and passages from The Graduate.

The Internet TESL Journal, Vol. III, No. 2, February 1997