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Activity Overview

In this activity, students will compare and contrast the novel with the film using the T-Chart layout. The column on the left identifies scenes in the novel that were not present in the film. The column on the right identifies scenes in the film that were not present in the novel.

The first example of a scene that was not present in the movie is when Kenny meets Rufus for the first time on the bus to Clark Elementary School. Another is when Byron comes to Kenny’s rescue, to fight the bully, Larry Dunn. Last is Mrs. Watson’s attempt to burn Byron’s fingers with a match, after she catches him lighting toys on fire.

The first example of a scene not present in the novel is when Byron, Kenny, and Joey meet their cousins in Birmingham, Alabama. The cousins describe the peaceful protests, their roles, and how they were arrested.A second element only in the films are the newscasts describing events of the 1960s that catch the attention of Byron and Mrs. Watson. The last example is when Byron and Kenny unknowingly attempt to order in a "whites only" restaurant.

Template and Class Instructions

(These instructions are completely customizable. After clicking "Copy Activity", update the instructions on the Edit Tab of the assignment.)

Student Instructions

Create a storyboard comparing and contrasting the book and film version of The Watsons Go to Birmingham

  1. Use the template your teacher provided.
  2. Describe three scenes in the novel that were not in the movie.
  3. Describe three scenes in the movie that were not in the novel.
  4. Illustrate each scene with appropriate characters, scenes, and items.

Lesson Plan Reference

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(You can also create your own on Quick Rubric.)

Compare and Contrast Texts/Renditions
Create a storyboard that compares the text with one or more texts, versions, or history.
Proficient Emerging Beginning
Comparison Analysis
Text and images include a clear explanation of similarities and/or differences between the categories or topics. These comparisons go beyond superficial elements and show strong understanding of the story elements.
Text and images include an explanation of similarities and/or differences between the categories or topics, but the explanation may lack clarity or show only superficial understanding in some squares.
Text and images may include no explanation of similarities and/or differences, or they may make only superficial or inaccurate comparisons.
Textual Explanation
The text clearly and accurately describes all the scenes and concepts depicted.
The text clearly and accurately describes most of the scenes and concepts depicted.
The text fails to describe most of the scenes clearly and accurately.
Storyboard Image and Effort
Student clearly shows effort to convey the setting, characters and specific scene of the book. The scene is clearly identifiable based on the graphic depiction.
Student attempts to convey the setting, characters, and specific scene through use of graphics, but the depiction may be confusing, disordered, or lack some detail.
Student does not clearly convey the setting, characters, and scene.
Spelling and Grammar
Student uses exemplary spelling and grammar. There are no errors.
Student makes one or two minor errors in spelling and grammar.
Student makes multiple errors in spelling and grammar.

How To Discuss the Historical References Present in “The Watsons Go to Birmingham”


Analyze the Story

Ask the students to read and analyze the story carefully to understand the different types of references present in the story. Before discussing the topic of historical references, give some background description of how real-world events can be covered in stories as well as how literature spreads awareness and inspires change.


Highlight the References

Give students examples of historical references used in other stories and novels that they are already familiar with so that they get an idea of the context. Once students have done some practice, ask them to highlight all the historical references present in the story and try to understand the context in which they are used.


Perform Background Research

Ask the students to pick any three major references from the book and perform independent research on those references. For instance, if a student picked The Civil Rights Movement, they can look into its dates, the causes and impacts, and significant figures involved to find out more about the history and the context in which it is used in the novel.


Consider the Impacts on Story

Encourage the students to consider the impacts of these historical references on the story. Students can look into how these references have impacted the characters and helped in the character development, or how they relate to the themes of the story. Students can also compare their perspectives on these events and initiate a healthy discussion.


Promote Thought and Conversation

Discuss the historical allusions and their relevance in the book with other readers to get their opinions. Invite contemplation on the ways in which these allusions still hold significance in the modern world. Guide the students to perform different activities in order to understand the novel.

Frequently Asked Questions About Comparing “The Watsons Go to Birmingham” Novel and Film

Which aspects of "The Watsons Go to Birmingham" are most different between the book and the movie adaptation?

One notable distinction is that, in order to meet the duration restrictions of a movie, the film shortens several sequences and leaves out key elements from the novel. Students can read the novel and watch the film as an activity for a comprehensive analysis of the differences.

Are the themes and ideas present in the film adaptation completely similar to the ones present in the book?

Yes, the film did a good job of expressing its fundamental ideas and underlying messages, which included the value of family, resiliency, and the effects of historical events on people. Only a few scenes might be considered missing from the film however, students use the film for their review and analysis as well as to enjoy the visual storytelling.

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