Lesson plan based on cartoons: useful tips and strategies

How to create a lesson plan based on movies

How to create a lesson plan based on movies


  • Activities
  • Tips & Strategies
  • Methodology

There is nothing more engaging than conducting a lesson based on a popular and beloved movie.  

We have collected some tips in case this  is your first time creating a lesson plan based on a movie. 

Reasons to consider using movies in your ESL class

But first of all, let’s look at five reasons to implement movies into your class routine:

1. They are engaging

Needless to say working on a  worksheet based on an interesting movie is much more exciting than going through some plain textbooks. In no time you will see how engaged your students become when they get a chance to discuss something interesting, popular, and new.

2. Students get a chance to interact with authentic materials

Learners tend to be afraid of referring to authentic materials, especially when they only started their ESL journey. Using movies is a great chance to change their mindset and prove that you will never be 100% ready to start interacting with authentic materials. Therefore, you have to start somewhere.

3. Movies are thought-provoking

It is definitely easier to naturally come up with some topics for discussion after watching an interesting movie and encourage even the shyest people in the room to express their opinions. Using movies is actually a great way to make everybody speak.

4. Movies are challenging

Challenges never hurt anyone. Especially when students are reaching the point of being sure they know everything. A good movie can indeed become a great way to promote a life-long approach to learning languages and motivate your students to never stop. 

5. Students get acquainted with slang, accents, and much more

There are certain things you will never see in any textbook. And this is where literature, movies, and music help us. Students have to be exposed to such materials constantly to keep in touch with real-life communicative trends.

The success of the lesson depends not only on the lesson plan itself but also on the movie that you initially picked. While deciding which movie to present to your students, think of:

  • Their age. You need to be sure that the plot is clear and age-appropriate
  • Their background. It would be better to exclude experimental movies, old films or movies with vague plots. Your priority is to make further discussion accessible for everyone no matter what their previous experience is. 
  • Their beliefs. Be attentive to the potential triggers and try to avoid picking up movies on various topics that might turn out to be very controversial for students. There is nothing bad about a healthy debate, however, be careful with your students' feelings.
  • Their taste. Obviously, you can’t be sure what genre your students are fans of. However, don’t pick anything as specific as horror movies or musicals. Try offering a movie that everyone is likely to enjoy or at least something with multiple characters students can relate to.
  • Length. It is important to pick up a movie of manageable length that will suit both freer people and those with a busier schedule. By the way, length correlates with age a lot.

Create effective lesson plans

Analyze the details

Note everything that might be useful for your lesson, and once you make sure all of the following things suit your goals and your students’ level, you may start working on your lesson plan and movie-related worksheet:

Identify relevant info

After you have picked up the movie, rewatch and carefully analyze it. Are there any cool phrases? Do the characters use some specific grammar? Does this movie cover any specific topics you are particularly interested in? Does it include slang words or harsh accents which might be hard to grasp?

You may focus on such things as:

  • Vocabulary. Movies are always great for getting acquainted with a lot of new vocabulary. You can use movies or TV shows if you want to spice up the vocabulary list from the textbook.
  • Grammar. Introducing grammar topics with the help of examples from the movies is always very memorable. 
  • Functional language. Watching movies is always helpful for discovering actual phrases, the newest slang, etc. Surely, nothing like that can be found in English textbooks. And movies are a great way to remind your students that language is always changing and evolving.
  • Pronunciation and intonation. Undoubtedly, movies serve as a great example of how certain words are pronounced. What is more, movies can be used to practice intonation and stress with your students to make them sound more fluent and natural. 
  • Themes and cultural references. Finally, students can definitely engage with certain movies for the sake of further discussion or debate . Reflecting on the specific plot always helps to motivate even the least productive students to speak and participate in various discussions. Moreover, movies usually raise a lot of diverse and important issues which can be easily integrated  into the lesson plan.

Best tools and apps

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Assess the level-appropriateness

The most important issue is how level-appropriate the movie is. Estimating this detail requires a lot of attention and accuracy as well as knowledge of key topics for each level. Still, it is the most important step because even the most interesting lesson will go in vain if the students struggle with understanding what is going on. 

The best thing you can do to clarify whether a certain vocabulary or grammar topic is level-appropriate is to refer to CEFR and compare the topics listed with those you consider adding to your lesson. 

However, if you don’t want to assess the difficulty of the movie on your own, you may always look for the recommendations of other professionals on the Internet. 

Here are some of my picks listed by levels:


“Up” (“Forward and Up”)

“Finding Nemo”


“The Wizard of Oz”

“The Lion King”



“Toy Story”


“Forrest Gump”

“Charlie and Chocolate Factory”


“Mona Lisa Smile”


Set the rules

If you want this lesson to be successful, you have to come up with rules. No matter how good your lesson plan is, it won’t work if students come to the lesson unprepared.

Here are some of the most important principles for me:

  • emphasize and remind your class that they have to watch the film in advance if they want this experience to be fun and useful.
  • if you plan to watch the film altogether, stress that students have to be attentive as there are some tasks they are supposed to complete after watching. 
  • while completing speaking activities, motivate your students to base their answers on the plot and generally reflect on the movie as much as possible; even if the students didn’t get all the details, such a discussion can help to clarify the plot and exchange the questions
  • make sure students have a chance to practice new vocabulary or grammar after watching and presenting.

These steps might sound strict but they are crucial. There is no problem in turning movie watching into a fun endeavor. Still, it is a learning experience first and foremost and it requires some discipline

Give space to develop all the skills

It is also important to not turn watching a movie into a solely listening activity. This is a great chance to practice all the skills.


You may assign students a fill-in-the-gaps or matching activity based on the movie. 

It may require knowledge of the plot (for example, matching a character with his/her characteristics) or become the first step to working on a new piece of language or grammar (for instance, filling in the gaps with the correct word from the movie or matching the word form with the most suitable sentence).


You may assign students a  classical true-false activity based on a movie you’ve been watching or fill in the gaps of activity that is done while listening to the extract.

Also, you may turn any listening activity into a fun game by assigning your students to write down as many adjectives that describe a person's character as possible (for example). Such activities make a great introduction to the further discovery of the new vocabulary.


The most popular writing activity based on a movie is definitely writing a review. 

Still, you can be more imaginative and ask your students to work in pairs and create an interview with the movie characters, for example. Also, writing prequels, sequels, and fan fiction in general is a great way of practicing both new vocabulary and various grammar topics, particularly – tenses.


Creating a speaking activity based on the movie might be the easiest. Students may answer the questions, exchange their opinions, react to controversial situations depicted in the movie, debate and so much more. 

As soon as you supply your students with all the necessary functional language, they will be ready to talk about the movie for hours!

The best way to use the resources of the movie to the fullest is to create a movie-related worksheet that will help to keep these diverse activities altogether. 

Here are some resources that might be helpful if you are looking for some inspiration:

5 ESL speaking activities

Read more
Article authors & editors
  • Arina Kravchenko

    Arina Kravchenko


    Teacher of General English & IELTS



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