Jack London’s “To Build a Fire” Movie with Lesson Plan

If you’re looking for a blockbuster “To Build a Fire” movie, you’re probably not going to find it. The narrative doesn’t exactly lend itself to cinematic drama. If you’re looking for a movie that’s exactly 1:55 less than the average length of a high school class, you’ll find it here.

And if you’re looking for a blockbuster “To Build a Fire” lesson plan, I have one.

Actually, I have a lot of blockbuster “To Build a Fire” lesson plans. I love this story!

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You'll find a bevy of great stuff at the link above and on this post. If that's all you need then don't buy this"To Build a Fire" Teaching Guide. It's only $4.50 and pretty much gives you a week's worth of lessons, handouts, assignments, graphic organizers, and notes. It's all ready to use. Just print out the pdf file and make copies. Boom! It's a teaching breakthrough and I'm not talking about breaking through ice. Oh, it also includes rubrics and a 15 question multiple choice quiz. See, I told you all you have to do is make copies and let your expertise take care of the rest.

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But first, a movie review.

What a great movie to watch in June, when it's 106 degrees outside.

I'll be honest. When this movie started, I totally planned on mocking it. It's not exactly high on production value. But after about 5 minutes, the lack of production value mattered little. It's actually pretty good.

It's more of an audio book with video and musical interludes than an actual movie, but it's engaging enough. It's narrated by Orson Welles. You old timers (from Sulphur Creek or elsewhere) will know who that is.

In fact, all five of my kids wandered on over to watch and didn't want me to stop it. In fact, they kept asking a bunch of annoying questions, so I told them to just read the story already.

Be alert at the 9:10 mark there's inappropriate language. Be prepared to turn down the volume for three seconds.

Perhaps you’re wondering how you could turn this into a lesson plan involving ELA Common Core standards?

Do it with a chart.

  1. Divide or fold a paper in half, long ways.
  2. As you’re reading or after you’ve read  To Build a Fire,” list 6-10 things in the left column that are important to the story.
  3. As you watch the video, Write how those 6-10 things are portrayed in the video.
  4. If you’re really interested in continuing the learning, do a basic comparison paragraph with a judgment on how accurately the film portrays the short story.

Don’t forget to write one of these on fire standards on the board

  • RL.9-10.7 – Analyze the representation of a subject or a key scene in two different artistic mediums, including what is emphasized or absent in each treatment.
  • RL.11-12.7 – Analyze multiple interpretations of a story, drama, or poem (e.g., recorded or live production of a play or recorded novel or poetry), evaluating how each version interprets the source text. (Include at least one play by Shakespeare and one play by an American dramatist.) (Bradbury is technically an American dramatist).

Other suggestions for the "To Build a Fire" movie.

  • The "To Build a Fire" movie makes a great review before the quiz.
  • Read the story first and then watch the movie while students complete one of the assignments included in the "To Build a Fire" Teaching Guide.
  • OK, it's Friday and you have papers to grade. Just watch the dang movie and have kids follow along using the text. Get up every 10-15 minutes to "check progress" and have a few discussion questions ready in case your principal walks in. Oh, and don't forget to write one of the above ice cold objectives on the board and there'll be no icy stare from Mr. Nofun.
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