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    6 Cool Inquiry Lesson Ideas Based on Popular Movies

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    6 Cool Inquiry Lesson Ideas Based on Popular Movies

    Who says inquiry lesson ideas have to be boring? Information quests and inquiry-based lessons can be fun and exciting. They can focus on discovery and critical thinking in any classroom. 

    Of course, you can't go wrong giving students inquiry lesson ideas based on the movies we know and love. Here are some overviews below. Vampires, vigilantes, hobbits, monsters, and more await the curious student mind.


    Becoming Batman

    (The Batman Trilogy, 2005–2012)

    How can we determine the true limits of our physical and mental endurance?

    It’s time for students to explore the limits of our human physical and mental capabilities. What is it possible for us to realistically achieve in terms of fitness conditioning? How would extreme repetitive physical and mental effort and punishment affect us over time? And do crimefighters who battle unstable on-the-edge villains need to be just a little bit unstable themselves? There’s no better way to explore these questions than through the cowl of the Dark Knight himself. Get ready to Become Batman.

    Subjects: Science, Math, Language Arts, Physics, Health and Fitness, Kinesiology, Psychology, Technology


    Monument or Monster?

    (Frankenstein, 1931—2014)

    What are the consequences of interfering with the laws of nature?

    Humanity has always been curious, but there are some forces we were not meant to disturb. The immortal monster created by Victor Frankenstein is a symbol of the cost of meddling with aspects of nature that we can't control. Human augmentation and "reanimation" experiments have been a reality since at least the mid-1940s. Imagine if a present-day Frankenstein were successful in creating the superior being he desired—what would our world be like now, and in the future? What happens when our mortality is suddenly called into question by one man's actions? It's up to students to decide and to justify. Would Frankenstein's creation be a monument to scientific greatness or a monster that would end our way of life?

    Subjects: History, Science, Literature, Humanities, Social Sciences, Technology


    Satires are Like Onions—Lots of Layers!

    (Shrek, 2001)

    How does satire change our opinions and perceptions of the subjects it makes fun of?

    The DreamWorks 2001 animated comedy masterpiece Shrek is brimming over with satirical moments. Many of them happen so fast that they’re easy to miss if you aren’t paying attention. Part of the fun of watching a film like Shrek is waiting for that next big (or little) piece of satire to happen. How many do you think your students can list as the film goes on? Next, have the students discuss these points and how they have been satirized. How has this changed their awareness and opinions? And now for the real challenge: how can students creatively shine a light on current events, issues, or interests using satires of their own?

    Subjects: Language Arts, Media, Film Studies


    We're All In This Together

    (The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring, 2001) 

    When is collaboration a key element in problem-solving, and why?

    "It takes a whole village to raise a child," goes an old African proverb. For Frodo Baggins, the humble hobbit "ring bearer" in J. R. R. Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings trilogy, it takes a council to destroy an evil ring. When Frodo accepted the task of carrying the ring of Sauron to Mordor, he had no idea what he was getting into. He knew only that an important task needed to be done, and that he was the one to do it. As such, the Fellowship of the Ring formed when wizards and warriors from all walks of life stepped in to help. Could he have done it without them? How far would he have made it on only wit and survival instinct? When is it better to go it alone, and to call on the expertise and support of others to aid you in a problem-solving quest?

    Subjects: Language Arts, Collaboration Fluency, History, Literature


    Feeling the Fear (and Doing It Anyway)

    (Harry Potter Series, 2001–2011)

    Why is important to learn how to face our fears in life?

    Chances are students won't be facing the trials and tribulations of boy wizard Harry Potter. That doesn't mean they won't have things to fear in life, though. The Harry Potter stories are full of instances of young people facing their darkest fears and overcoming incredible odds in the process. Discuss the many instances of characters facing their fears in the Harry Potter films, and the outcomes of this. Why is this important to learn in life? What can make us afraid and unable to act? What are the real-life consequences of giving in to our fears? What does it take to, as the saying goes, feel the fear and do it anyway?

    Subjects: Psychology, Film Studies, Literature, Language Arts


    Twilight Perspectives

    (The Twilight Saga, 2008–2012)

    How can different character perspectives change our perception of a story?

    The Twilight stories, although told mostly from Bella Swan's standpoint, are full of exotic characters with their own perspectives. Hearing from Bella, we get our most familiar sense of the timeline of Twilight events. Suppose, however, the story was told differently. How would the saga change if certain moments were shared through the eyes of Edward Cullen or Jacob Black? How would our viewpoints and opinions change if we could have gone deeper into their psyches? This is a lesson idea that can also work with any other series of books that is popular with students.

    Subjects: Language Arts, Creative Writing

    Editor's note: This post was originally published in 2017 and has been updated for comprehensiveness.

    Originally published Jul 6, 2017, updated October 15, 2021

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