Thirteen Ed Online
Lesson Plans
Making Movie Storyboards
Overview Procedures for Teachers Organizers for Students

Procedures for teachers is divided into five sections:
Prep -- Preparing for the lesson
Steps -- Conducting the lesson
Extensions -- Additional activities
Community Connections -- Real world actions for students after completion of the lesson


Media Components

Computer Resources:
  • Modem: 56.6 Kbps or faster
  • Browser: Netscape Navigator 4.0 or above or Internet Explorer 4.0 or above
  • Macintosh computer: System 8.1 or above and at least 32 MB of RAM
  • Personal computer (Pentium II 350 MHz or Celeron 600 MHz) running Windows® 95 or higher and at least 32 MB of RAM
Specific Software Needed:
  • PowerPoint
  • Adobe Acrobat Reader


Students would need the following supplies:
  • Chart paper, magic markers
  • Television
  • VCR
  • A videotape of the Charlie Chaplin movie THE GOLD RUSH

Bookmarked sites:

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Introductory Activity:
(One 50-minute class period)

  • Tell students that most movies contain many different elements that all work together to help the audience understand the movie’s story. These elements include the images, the dialogue and the music and sound effects. Write these elements on the board. Tell students you are going to play them a clip from a movie, and that they should think about how all of these different elements are used to help tell the story. Tell them to look and listen for specifically for:
    • Images: How gestures and facial expressions help the audience understand what is happening.
    • Music/Sound: What type of mood the music seems to set when it starts and stops.
    • Words: What types of things people say and whether what they say helps further the story.

  • Play a clip from WILLIE WONKA & THE CHOCOLATE FACTORY, starting as Charlie passes some parked cars and sees a coin in the gutter (this scene starts roughly 31 minutes into the movie and lasts roughly 3 minutes). Stop the clip on the close-up of the front of the golden ticket.

  • Ask students to talk about the elements listed on the board, as well as the items they were asked to look and listen for. Ask them for specific examples of each element and how they thought it furthered the story. Here some examples you might use:
    • Images: You might touch on items such as Charlie’s many emotional facial expressions and the shopkeeper’s hand gesture asking for payment.
    • Music/Sound: The use of music when Charlie sees the coin and again when he learns that there is still one golden ticket remaining.
    • Words: The moment when Charlie overhears the crowd saying that there is, after all, a golden ticket yet to be found.

  • Tell students that although filmmakers use all these different elements to tell stories, in this lesson they will focus specifically on how filmmakers use pictures to tell stories. Ask them where they think the word “movie” comes from. Tell them it is short for “moving picture.”

  • Tell students that they are going to watch a scene from a silent movie (you may want to tell students that a silent movie is a movie without sound). Tell students that as they watch, they should think about what is happening and how they are able to understand the story even though there is no sound. Tell students to watch for facial expressions, gestures, props, the setting, and other “visual clues” that will help them to understand and interpret the story.

  • Play the clip from Charles Chaplin’s THE GOLD RUSH starting when the Tramp (Chaplin) walks in to town with a shovel and offers to clear snow from the doorways for a fee. (This scene starts roughly 45 minutes into the movie. The clip lasts roughly 1.5 minutes.) Note: Some later versions of this movie have voice-over added in, if this is the case, mute the sound as students watch the clip. Stop the clip after the Tramp tosses away the shovel and exits the frame.

  • Ask students what they think was happening.
    • What season is it?
    • Why was the Tramp shoveling snow?
    • Did he want something in exchange for clearing the snow?
    • Did the Tramp get what he set out to get?
    • Was the man in the house angry or happy?
    • Was the scene funny or serious?
    • Are the two men friends?
    • Who is the stronger of the two men? The smarter?
    • How were the students able to follow the story?

  • As students answer these questions, write their responses on the board. Play the clip again. This time, ask students to write down some key “visual clues” (such as facial expressions, gestures, descriptions of the setting, and so on) that helped them understand what was happening.

  • Go down the list of student responses to the questions. You may need to replay the clip and freeze frames. For each response, ask students what the “visual clues” were that helped them reach each conclusion. For example, if students said they felt the man in the house was angry, they might say that his facial expression helped them reach that conclusion, the snow and clothing of the characters helped communicate what season it was, etc. You might play through the clip and pause on items as you discuss them.

  • Leave the list of the visual clues on the board and tell students to keep this list in mind throughout the lesson, as it is a good checklist of cues to think about when telling a story visually.

    Learning Activities:

    Activity One:
    Part One:

    (One 50-minute class period)

  • Tell students that now that they have identified “visual clues” used by filmmakers to help the audience interpret a movie, you’d like to discuss another communicative tool filmmakers use. Write the terms “close-up shot” and “wide shot” on the board.

  • Tell students that it isn’t just what filmmakers show, but how they show it, that affects a movie’s meaning. Explain that a close-up sounds just like what it is, that the filmmaker shows something close up. Tell students that in a wide shot, the filmmaker shows things from further away. Ask students to think about what information these shots might best convey.

  • To help students understand this concept, show them an example of a scene from WILLIE WONKA AND THE CHOCOLATE FACTORY that uses both types of shots. As you show the clip, turn off the sound so students pay attention to the visuals. Play the clip from WILLIE WONKA AND THE CHOCOLATE FACTORY starting on the shot of the double doors as Wonka emerges from the factory to greet the crowd (This scene starts about 43.5 minutes into the movie and lasts roughly 2.5 minutes). Stop the clip when Wonka reaches the gate and says, “Thank you.”

  • Ask students what type they think each shot is. If they are unclear, explain to them again that a close-up shows something close up, or at a very close distance, as if the viewer were very near to the subject of the film. A wide shot shows things from a distance, as if the audience is standing further away from the things or people in the shot.

  • Show students the clip from WILLIE WONKA again. Ask them to raise their left hand every time they see a close-up shot, their right hand every time they see a wide shot.

  • After it is clear that the students understand the concept of close-ups and long shots, show the clip again. This time, tell them to describe the types of things the director chooses to show in close-up shots versus in wide shots.

  • Underneath the terms “close-up shot” and “wide shot” that you’ve written on the board, ask students to volunteer examples of each that they saw in the clip. After compiling two lists based on student responses, ask students why they think the director chose to use wide or close-up shots when he did. Record student responses. Some possible answers might be:
    • In wider shots, the audience can see action (someone walking around a house, running down a street, etc.) and the general layout of the setting (where things are, how far apart or close things are to one another, etc.). Wide shots can also show what two or more characters are doing at the same time.
    • Close-up shots help an audience understand what the characters are feeling, and make the audience pay attention to just one character or item for a moment.

    Part Two:
    (One 50-minute class period)

  • Tell students that filmmakers often plan out the pictures as carefully as they plan out what the actors are going to say or who is going to play each role in the film. Ask students if they can think how filmmakers might create a plan of the pictures to help make their movie.

  • Explain that filmmakers create storyboards to help them plan a visual story.

  • Show students examples of storyboards at the Web site listed below. Ask them how these storyboards could be helpful to a filmmaker.
  • Ask the students what is happening in the storyboards on the Web site. As they are looking at the storyboards, ask them to refer back to the list of visual cues they created in the Introductory Activity, and to think about the two types of shots (close-up and wide) that they’ve just learned about. Can they see examples of the visual cues in the storyboards? What are they? Can they see examples of close-up and wide shots in the storyboards? Ask them to list examples.

  • Ask students to storyboard the following scene in five to seven shots: Bill walks into the classroom. He sits down at his desk. On his desk, he sees that someone has left him a valentine. Embarrassed, he looks around the room to see who has given the valentine to him, but no one is looking at him.

  • As students create the storyboard, tell them to use both wide and close-up of shots and to include some of the visual cues they listed earlier in the lesson.

  • Break students into pairs and have students share their storyboards with one another and give one another feedback on whether there are enough visual clues to understand the scene. Creators should revise if others think the story is not clear through their storyboard. Then, have students explain why they chose the type of shots they did (i.e., close-up or wide shots) and how that was dictated by the story itself.

  • Display the storyboards on a wall in your classroom. Allow students to view one another’s work. Bring the class back together as a group and ask them to comment on what was similar about the storyboards and what was different.

    Activity Two:

    (One 50-minute class period)

  • Send students to the Web site below, where they will complete a storyboarding exercise in which they will write a story based on randomly organized storyboard images. Each group will come up with a different story based on these images. Ask students to print out their finished story. Each group will then present their storyboards to the class and read the captions they had created for the images.
  • Follow up by asking students how the order of the images affected each story. Ask students how they think the different shots could have different meanings depending on what is seen in the previous shots.

  • Hang the storyboard printouts around the room so students can review them.

    Culminating Activity/Assessment:
    (Two 50-minute class periods)

  • Review with students what they’ve learned so far in this lesson: types of visual cues filmmakers use to tell a story; two different types of shots (close-up and wide) and how they’re used; and how the order of shots can affect a story’s meaning. Write these elements on the board.

  • Break students into groups of two to four. Ask students to pick a page or two from a book they are currently reading that they would be interested in storyboarding.

  • Have students plan and create a storyboard using the STORYBOARD ORGANIZER.

  • When students are finished, have them recreate their storyboards in PowerPoint, or import the storyboards they’ve already drawn into PowerPoint. Minimal text might be added to the presentations to help where story elements are unclear from the images only. Tell students that even in silent films, title cards were used sparingly to help fill in some blanks.

  • Have a slideshow film festival in which students present their work to the class. Invite another class over to view the storyboard slideshow.

  • Follow the slide show with a question and answer period in which the filmmakers field questions and comments from the audience. Encourage students to talk about their choices, and what they hoped to achieve with their drawings.

  • You might finish by posting the presentations on the Web for others to experience or show them to other classrooms.


    • Take the class to a movie and ask them to write a film review in which they mention visual cues and the type of shots the director used.
    Community Connections:
    • Ask a film student or film professor to come in and discuss the work they’ve done on film productions. Have the visitor give students feedback on their storyboards and movies from the Culminating Activity.

    Overview | Procedures for Teachers | Organizers for Students