This time of year is filled with fun classic movies. Whether we love them or hate them, they are a part of our American fabric, and there’s a good chance our students may never have seen them (probably because there is some newer version that pales in comparison to the original).
Here are some movies that either connect with literature or great universal themes worth starting a class discussion about.
Scrooged: This satirical remake of A Christmas Carol takes a television executive version of Scrooge and reminds him of who he once was and wants to be again. This movie reminds us that it’s the good in the world that matters and that we each have the potential for love and positive contribution if we choose that path.
A Christmas Story: This holiday classic is about a young boy who is desperate for a special holiday gift. His awkward interactions with his family and peers make for a very amusing and sometimes bizarre experience to watch. Although this is an older classic, I’d be surprised if students haven’t seen it. It’s another one that centers around how we sometimes focus on the wrong things in life, but ultimately find our way with the people who love us.
The Grinch Who Stole Christmas: There is a cartoon version of this, as well as a full-length movie with Jim Carrey as the Grinch. This story, adapted from Dr. Seuss’s classic, shows us that with the right encouragement, even the surliest creature on earth can find some holiday spirit and do the right thing. Sometimes our past turns us hard and makes us shut people out, but if we let new people in, we all can grow.
It’s a Wonderful Life: This holiday classic shows us the results of our actions by showing us the way life can turn out if we don’t choose the best paths. Much like A Christmas Carol, It’s a Wonderful Life shows us what we have to be grateful for and that gratitude is good for everyone. Showing parts of this movie to get students to respond thoughtfully to choices and appreciation can be a great way to teach about the holiday spirit. We all have options in life, and when we make them, they have consequences. Learning to make better, more compassionate decisions, leads to happier lives.
Emmet Otter’s Jug-band Christmas: This is a lesser known shorter program. It was a favorite of mine as a child. Emmet Otter and his mom don’t have a lot of money for Christmas, but they both want to do something nice for the other. They enter a contest where they share their considerable talents, and both seek to do right by the other. This wholesome and lovely show will allow students to engage in a conversation about the giving spirit and putting others first.
The Polar Express: This one is all about adventure and is based on the picture book of the same name. It’s a great book to talk about bravery and friendship and share both the beautiful picture book and the visually impressive movie with Tom Hanks. Kids of all ages will enjoy it.
Home Alone: This comedy is a reminder that the holiday season can be so hectic that we can make significant mistakes. As a parent, the idea of forgetting my child at home is entirely unreasonable, but in a big family, I’m sure it can happen. Kevin ends up learning some big lessons about how important family is and his family learns how special Kevin is. During Kevin’s time alone, he shows how resourceful and self-sufficient he can be, while fighting crime and protecting his family’s home.
Elf: This is a fun movie about a human elf named Buddy who seeks to find his biological father and bring joy to all those who he comes in contact with. Will Farrell plays a very amusing elf who has some strange personal habits and a love for Christmas. This movie is sweet and teaches us not to judge what we see first, but to open our hearts and let the magic of the holidays guide us.
All of these holiday movies offer opportunities to talk about family traditions, charity, making good choices, being a good person and treating other people the way we wish to be treated. In these times of judgment and misunderstanding, it is a great idea to engage in meaningful conversations about what we value in the world and using a movie to do that can be just the right kind of ice-breaker for students of all ages.
Sadly, there aren’t many movies that I’m aware of that address other religion’s holidays, and I would love to know of any suggestions. The only Channukah movie I could think of was Eight Crazy Nights and I didn’t really enjoy that one too much despite loving Adam Sandler in general.
What are your favorite holiday movies or books that help teach students about different life lessons? Please share.
Image: Liberty Films
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