SUBJECTS — Dance; Drama/Musicals;

SOCIAL-EMOTIONAL LEARNING — Breaking Out; Friendship, Peer Pressure; Father/Son; Talent;


AGE: 8 – 14; No MPAA rating;

Musical; 2006; 98 minutes; Color. Available from Amazon.com.

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TWM offers the following worksheets to keep students’ minds on the movie and direct them to the lessons that can be learned from the film.


Film Study Worksheet for a Work of Historical Fiction and

Worksheet for Cinematic and Theatrical Elements and Their Effects.


Teachers can modify the movie worksheets to fit the needs of each class. See also TWM’s Historical Fiction in Film Cross-Curricular Homework Project.


Troy is the star of the basketball team. The big game is coming up but Troy discovers that he enjoys singing, especially with his new friend Gabriella. Troy is afraid of how his teammates and his father/coach will react if he auditions for the school musical. Gabriella is a “brain” who would rather read than party. She also likes to sing, especially with Troy. After some false starts, the kids at the school decide that they should support their friends Troy and Gabriella rather than imposing the strict limits of the group culture.


Selected Awards:



Featured Actors:

Zac Efron as Troy Bolton, Vanessa Anne Hudgens as Gabriella Montez, Ashley Tisdale as Sharpay Evans, Lucas Grabeel as Ryan Evans, Alyson Reed as Ms. Darbus, Corbin Bleu as Chad Danforth, Monique Coleman as Taylor McKessie, Olesya Rulin as Kelsi Nielsen, Chris Warren Jr. as Zeke, and Bart Johnson as Coach Jack Bolton.



Kenny Ortega.


This film will help combat the power of peer pressure. It has a lot to say about respect, caring, friendship, and the importance of being your own person and following your own dream. It teaches that kids from different cliques at a school can work together and be friends. A subplot about Troy’s relationship with his father/coach will be helpful for kids whose parents seek to re-live their youth through their children.

Academic benefits are limited to 1) vocabulary building; 2) an introduction to Broadway-style dance and singing performances; and 3) a comparison with Romeo and Juliet.


MINOR. The resolution of the plot involves rigging the electricity at the basketball game to go off when Troy and Gabriella are scheduled to audition for the musical. To release Gabriella from the academic decathlon competition the students make a chemical reaction that causes an odor forcing the evacuation of the room. There are two ways to handle this. One is to ignore it and focus on the strengths of the film in social-emotional learning. The other is to discuss what the students did and point out that it could have backfired and gotten the kids into serious trouble: for example, they could have been suspended and their teams could have forfeited their competitions.


Watch the movie once with your kids. To emphasize the lessons of the film in social-emotional learning, simply take them seriously. In the car on the way to school or at meal or bedtime, make comments or ask questions about the movie.

For example, a parent might say, “I was really impressed with how quickly Chad [Danforth] realized that he had to support his friend Troy. The basketball team shouldn’t have played that trick on Troy by videotaping him, but once Chad saw that Troy was unhappy, Chad supported Troy’s decision to sing with Gabriella. That was pretty impressive.” Another technique is to warn children that the movie doesn’t really show how strong peer pressure can be in middle school or high school. A parent might comment that, “It’s too bad but many kids stop doing things they really like to do out of fear of what their friends might think.” See Discussion Questions which focus on the strengths of the film in social-emotional learning.

The lyrics to the songs express most of the lessons of the movie. (Many families have bought the CD of the songs from the movie.) Ask your kids what the lyrics mean and start a discussion from there focusing on the lessons of the film in social-emotional learning. If you do this, the lessons of the movie will be repeated each time your kids hear the song. In addition, the movie is an excellent vocabulary builder. With younger children, explain some of the references or words they may not understand. (See Building Vocabulary.) A fun activity will be for parents and children to cook strudel, scones, apple pandowdy or anything else they may want to bake and serve it as dessert. You can also foster reading by bringing home the book written to accompany the movie.

Pick and choose just a few of the comments or discussion questions suggested by this Learning Guide that will be most important to your children. Don’t try to do too much. Avoid being preachy. A few comments over the course of several weeks will get your kids to think seriously about the lessons of this movie.


This modern adaptation of the Romeo and Juliet story (with a happy ending) is recommended not for its help with curriculum, but for its character building potential. It also shows some good ensemble dancing.

Many of the lessons in this film that relate to social-emotional learning are from the songs: “Start of Something New,” “Get’cha Head in the Game,” “Stick to the Status Quo,” “Breaking Free,” and “We’re All in This Together.” See the Discussion Questions.


1. Standard Questions Suitable for Any Film.


2. What is the origin of the term “status quo” and what does it mean?

Suggested Response:

The term is Latin, which was the language spoken by the Roman Empire. The Romans conquered England. Many words used by the Romans were adopted by the English. “Status quo” means things the way they are, the existing state of affairs.


3. Compare the plot of the movie to the plot of Romeo and Juliet. For each difference, describe what act of friendship made that difference.

Suggested Response:

The most important difference is that “High School Musical” has a happy ending. The kids realize that they need to support their friends and stop trying to tear them apart. None of the members of the families of “Romeo and Juliet” tried to help the young lovers. Only the maid and the friar tried to help them. It was only after Romeo and Juliet died that the families came together.


Breaking Out

1. See the Quick Discussion Question.


2. What is the song “Start of Something New” about?

Suggested Response:

If you’re willing to start things that are new, the possibilities are endless.


3. What are the actors telling us in the song “We’re All in This Together”?

Suggested Response:

Here are some of the lyrics: ” … our dreams have no limitations/That’s what it’s all about/Everyone is special in their own way/We make each other strong/We’re not the same/We’re different in a good way/Together’s where we belong.” These themes stress the uniqueness of each individual; the fact that if we try to reach our dreams we can accomplish things we didn’t think we could; and that we should work together to help each other.


Peer Pressure and Friendship

4. Chad Danforth, Troy’s friend, did one really good thing in this movie. What was it?

Suggested Response:

Chad saw that Troy was upset because he had promised the basketball players that he would not try out for the musical. Chad realized that as Troy’s friend, he needed to support Troy in Troy’s desire to sing with Gabriella. Once he realized what was happening to Troy, Chad lost no time in doing this.


5. What is peer pressure?

Suggested Response:

Peer pressure can be described as influence on a person by other people who are about the same age or by their friends or classmates. It usually refers to kids. Usually, peer pressure makes young people act in the same way that their friends act. For example, Troy’s basketball buddies wanted him to focus only on basketball. Singing didn’t conform to their view of what basketball players did. The “Braniacs” wanted Gabriella to spend her time preparing for the academic decathlon.


6. Troy’s father told his son, “If your friends laugh at you, maybe they’re not your friends. Do you agree or disagree? Explain your reasons.

Suggested Response:

People do not laugh at their friends when their friends try to do something new or try to do the right thing. Instead, they should support their friends. Therefore, the answer is “yes”.


7. In this movie, both Troy and Gabriella had to overcome something in order to try out for the musical. What was it?

Suggested Response:

Troy had to overcome the peer pressure to conform to the limited view of who he was that was held by his group of friends on the basketball team and by his father. Gabriella had to overcome her shyness.


8. What is Troy singing about in the song “Get’cha Head in the Game”?

Suggested Response:

He’s having trouble concentrating on basketball. He keeps thinking of the callbacks and Gabriella. “Why am I feeling so wrong/My head’s in the game but my heart’s in the song/She makes this feel so right”.


9. What is the song “Stick to the Status Quo” about?

Suggested Response:

It’s about peer pressure (the influence of groups of friends or of people who are the same age or who are in the same class at school) and the conflict between peer pressure and the natural desire to be your own person and follow your own interests and dreams.


10. In the song “Breaking Free”, what are the kids breaking free from?

Suggested Response:

The kids are breaking free from the view of who they are that is held by their parents and their group of friends. Another way to see it is that they are learning to be themselves and that this understanding allows them to break free of restraints that are limiting their lives and to soar to new heights. Here are some of the lyrics: “You know the world can see us in a way that’s different than who we are/ Creating space between us until we’re separate hearts/ But your faith it gives me strength/ Strength to believe … /There’s not a star in heaven that we can’t reach if we’re trying/Yeah we’re breaking free/ … climbin’ to get to the place/To be all that we can be/ … Now’s the time /… So we’re breaking free.”


11. Gabriella told Troy that he was a cool guy but not for the reasons that his friends thought. What was she referring to?

Suggested Response:

She liked the fact that he was caring, truthful and authentic with her.


12. Have you ever had an experience in which you felt pressured by your friends to do something or not to do it? What happened?

Suggested Response:

There is no one correct answer to this question. In the discussion, adults should express approval of resistance to peer pressure and regret at examples in which peer pressure won out.



13. What happens to talent when it is not allowed to come out because of peer pressure or for some other reason?

Suggested Response:

It goes underground and may be lost forever.


14. How does Gabriella deal with her stage fright?

Suggested Response:

She focuses on Troy and sings to him.



15. What did you think of the relationship between Troy and his father?

Suggested Response:

It was pretty good. His father made some mistakes but they were close and they spent a lot of time together. Troy’s father gave him some good advice and, in the end, came through for Troy.


Discussion Questions Relating to Ethical Issues will facilitate the use of this film to teach ethical principles and critical viewing. Additional questions are set out below.


The first three questions set out below should be asked in sequence. They will correct for a possible problem with this movie.


1. Troy, Gabriella, and their friends, once they decided to work together, did two things which could have gotten them into a lot of trouble. What are they?

Suggested Response:

They were rigging the electricity for the basketball game to go off and disrupting the academic decathlon competition with a stink bomb.


2. What could have happened if the kids were caught trying to disrupt the basketball game and the academic decathlon?

Suggested Response:

They would have been in serious trouble. They could have been suspended and their teams could have forfeited their competitions.


3. Can you think of a better way to handle this situation?

Suggested Response:

Talk to the adults, including the principal, about the scheduling conflict. Schools have to work out this type of problem all the time. The principal would most likely have changed the time of the callbacks to allow Troy and Gabriella to audition.


4. What did you think about the basketball boys secretly recording Troy and giving it to the scholastic decathlon team to show to Gabriella.

Suggested Response:

It was underhanded. The basketball boys were not being truthful with Troy and Gabriella.



(Treat others with respect; follow the Golden Rule; Be tolerant of differences; Use good manners, not bad language; Be considerate of the feelings of others; Don’t threaten, hit or hurt anyone; Deal peacefully with anger, insults, and disagreements)


See questions relating to Peer Pressure and Friendship.


1. What is the role of respect in friendship?

Suggested Response:

True friends respect each other.



(Be kind; Be compassionate and show you care; Express gratitude; Forgive others; Help people in need)


See questions relating to Peer Pressure and Friendship.


2. How does the concept of caring apply to friendship?

Suggested Response:

It is the basis of friendship. People cannot be friends unless they care for and help one another.


1. Assignments, Projects, and Activities for Use With Any Film that is a Work of Fiction.


2. Write a new ending for the movie telling us what would have happened if the basketball boys and the kids on the academic decathlon team had not decided to respect their friends and support Troy and Gabriella in their effort to sing in the musical.


3. Have a class party and allow students who like to cook bring their favorite dessert, even if it’s scones, strudel, or apple pandowdy.


Children who love the movie might also like the book written to accompany the movie.


This Learning Guide was last updated on December 10, 2009.

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