Tuesday, September 18, 2012


Top 6 reasons I like MOONFLOWER to teach (and how!)

The Cover of Moonflower with Anthony Misiano.
You can read more about the movie at the official site.
1. Students won't have seen it before.
Since it was independently made, the odds of a student already having seen it are pretty low. That means it will be new and exciting to them so they won't get bored, and they will need to pay attention.
2. It is only 40 minutes!
It can be watched in classes as short as 50 minutes to COMPLETION! Awesome! No more remembering where the DVD left off. No more trying to squeeze it into one class by skipping “unimportant” parts. This movie actually fits a class time.
3. There are a lot of non-dialogue moments
The movie isn't all talking. This gives students a chance to infer, take a break from listening and still follow the movie's plot.
4. It is visually interesting
It isn't filmed in a known place (e.g. school). There's a desert, a forest, etc. These changing scenes allow students to easily plot the progress of the film and keep them engaged.
5. It is appropriate
In one scene the main character drinks a few beers before he goes to sleep; in another scene a pirate shoots another pirate (who is off screen). There is no bloodshed, cursing, nudity, sex, nor sexual innuendo. As such the movie doesn't make me want to fast forward at any point nor have my students plug their ears.
6. The price is right
Moonflower is LEGALLY available for download for just $4 online. I know that as teachers we are all strapped for cash, but that's less than a most medium drinks at Starbucks. Even making pesos in Mexico I am financially capable of buying it.

1. If you have used Romeo and Juliet before, OR they have learnt it in other classes you can easily use Moonflower with a Romeo and Juliet theme.
  • The movie recreates a scene from Romeo and Juliet. How is that scene appropriate to the rest of the film?
  • Early in the movie Scott says, “Be confident. Be romantic. Be Romeo.” Do you find Romeo to be romantic? Why or why not? Use EXAMPLES! (Alternatively compare and contrast Romeo to Scott)
  • Does Romeo and Juliet prove that “What young men do in the name of love is as much courageous as it is desperate” Use examples from Romeo and Juliet to support your opinion.
  • The yeti says, “I was in love once, at least I thought I was; I loved I know that for sure but I don't think now that I was actually in love.” Were Romeo and Juliet in love or did they just love? Use examples from the play to prove your point. 
2. To practice/reinforce idioms. We all know that idioms don't translate literally as such they can be hard for students to grasp. There are lots of ways to use this movie to teach idioms.
  • You can pre-teach the idioms (with pictures) and then see how many idioms they recognize during the movie.
  • With higher level classes you can just tell them to make note of any idioms they hear in the movie (this is hard for many students).
  • Alternatively you can simply teach the idioms before so that idioms aren't a problem for understanding the movie.
  • A fun activity to do would be to pre-teach the real meanings, watch the movie, and then have them draw the literal meaning on one side of paper and the figurative meaning on the other (using the scenes from the movie as inspiration).
Here are a list of some idioms used throughout the movie:
Break a leg-
Has a crush on you-
Ask him out-
Things were going real nice-
I wanna make it right-
I won't hold back my wrath-
Don't try anything funny-
You'll have hell to pay in full-
The men were hoping to have a word with you-
I think we can spare a minute-
Word is he's lost it-
I make a mean cup of-
I can't put my finger on it-
I am out-

3. Paragraph Writing. Saying what something symbolizes is great practice for writing paragraphs. Students write what something symbolizes (Topic Sentence) and then they have to say why (3 Main Ideas/Concrete Details) and provide support from the movie (Details/Examples/Commentary).
  • In one class I passed out a simple worksheet with a gap-fill of the movie (to make sure they paid attention). Each person was given a character (Post, The Pirates, or Big Foot) they had space to take notes on what their character, looked like, said, and basically did throughout the movie. In the end they were given a blank outline where they had to argue what their character symbolized. I had some really great ones! The Pirates symbolized obstacles in life; the Others symbolized Scott's repressed selves, etc. (Sample worksheet:
  • Really any question involving symbolism would work, though some lend themselves to more research. For example:
    • He calls her first at 10:11, later he calls her at 12:10, when he wakes up it is 3:39 what significance could these times have? (Bible verses, Romero and Juliet lines, what the number spells on a telephone etc. Try to encourage creativity)
    • Research the plant called the Moonflower. How does it symbolize the movie?
    • Throughout the movie there are different beverages, water in the theater, beer at the house, and tea with the yeti. How do these symbolize Scott's emotional state? Or what else could these symbolize?
4. Random questions: Though these questions could also be answered in paragraph form they could also be simply answered.
  • In the picture with Sara he has his eyes closed. What significance does that have compared to the rest of the movie?
  • Appearances can be deceiving. Find examples of this in the movie (think about the yeti!)
  • The only advice in the book is “Be Clever.” What other brief advice could you suggest? Why?
  • Scott uses the key from the theater to open the door to another theater. Pretend you used your house key, what do you think you would find inside? How would it be different?
  • Scott's speech for the pirates to stop in the theater could be considered a speech to himself. Do you agree or disagree? Why?
5.Summarizing and Paraphrasing 
  • Summarizing is easy. Either, divide the movie into parts and have students summarize each part, or just have them summarize the whole movie. Giving them a word count or character count (like twitter) will help them really cut out unessential information.
  • Take out lines from the movie and have them re-write them in their own words. This works well with many of the yetis lines though the Sand Pirates work well too. Remind students to keep the meaning the same!
6. Movie reviews: Show them a sample movie review and then get them to write one of their own. 

 If you get a chance to use any of these ideas let me know! Or, if you have any ideas on how to change an activity or use the movie differently please share!

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