FILM STUDY WORKSHEETS FOR DOCUMENTARIES offers two film study worksheets designed to help teachers quickly create lesson plans based on documentary films; one is for movies that are primarily informational and the other for films designed to persuade the viewer on a matter of political or social significance.

The worksheets assist students in analyzing the documentary. They allow students to take notes during breaks while watching the movie or when the film is over. The prompts on the worksheets can be used to facilitate class discussions or form the basis for writing assignments.

The worksheets for documentaries will help students:

– determine premise, theme and intent;

– look at the structure and form of the presentation;

– summarize important facts;

– articulate important lessons learned from the film; and

– identify scenes, images, or sounds that appeal to the viewer.


The worksheets are designed to be copied on the front and back of one sheet of paper.

The prospect of having to respond to the prompts assures that students will pay attention to the film. Classes should read the worksheet prompts before the movie is shown to alert them to the questions they will be expected to answer. This will encourage the class to think about the movie and its content. Students should be discouraged from taking notes while the movie is playing. The best practice is to allow several three to five-minute breaks during the film for note taking and an additional five or ten minutes at the film’s end for students to complete their notes.

Suggested instructions for the worksheets are set out below. They can be changed as necessary or appropriate for particular classes.

Read the questions before you watch the film so that you will know what to look for in the movie. At breaks during the showing or at the film’s end, you will have an opportunity to make short notes in the spaces provided. If you make notes while the movie is playing, make sure that your note-taking doesn’t interfere with carefully watching the film. You do not need to make any notes on the worksheet but after the movie is over you will be required to fully respond to the questions.

Complete the assignment by answering each question in paragraph form. Be sure that your topic sentence uses keywords from the question. You may use more than one paragraph if necessary to provide a complete response.

The worksheets are designed to be used in their current form or to be edited, with questions modified or deleted and new prompts added, depending upon factors such as available time and the abilities of the class. If the substance of the film relates to a topic that has been explored in class or will be taught in the future, questions specific to that subject can be added to the worksheet. Classes that have studied techniques of the cinematic arts can be asked to apply that learning to the documentary. See TWM’s Cinematic and Theatrical Elements in Film – An Introduction. Classes that have studied the elements of persuasion can be asked specific questions about different persuasive techniques used in the movie.

There are many ways that TWM’s documentary film worksheets can enhance lesson plans. For example, worksheets can serve as homework assignments or the prompts can be split between homework and in-class work. Students can be permitted to respond to some of the prompts through media other than written paragraphs, such as posters, poetry, essays, music, or drawings. As an alternative to question #5, students can be tasked with writing a script or storyboarding a short film which presents an argument which is different than or opposed to a position taken by the film. Another variation is to separate students into groups of four or fewer, with each group being asked to give an oral presentation in response to a question on the worksheet.




Many movie worksheets contain questions about specific scenes or details to test whether students have been paying attention. This ensures that students follow the film and don’t daydream or do homework. This type of worksheet is clearly beneficial when the film has educational value or is going to be used to drive assignments requiring the exercise of important skills. It’s certainly much better than simply putting the DVD in the player and letting the movie run.

Generic worksheet questions have the same advantages, however, they also ensure that students will use thinking skills of a higher level than those requiring students only to remember and regurgitate scenes or facts. General questions assure that students will understand the basic structure and elements of documentaries. For these reasons, TWM suggests that teachers use generic movie worksheets in their lesson plans. TWM provides movie worksheets that are specific to the film only in special circumstances. TWM has also developed generic movie worksheets designed to cover most types of fictional presentations. These worksheets stress the literary elements and devices of the story and engage higher level thinking skills. There are worksheets for:

These movie worksheets are designed to be modified for the abilities of the class, the curriculum goals of the teacher, the idiosyncrasies of the film, and specific literary, dramatic, or cinematic elements that the class has studied that may be evident from the movie.