Incorporating Netflix into your English Language Arts Classroom

I've never really thought of Netflix as a teaching resource per se, but it is definitely a great resource for information. It's fairly simple to incorporate various shows that stream on Netflix into your classroom, as the majority of students have an account at home and/or some schools offer wifi capability for this service to be streamed into classrooms. If you're lucky enough to have Netflix right in your classroom, then some of these ideas will be fairly easy to implement. 

 1. Incorporate a Trending Show

What's the best part about incorporating a trending show into your classroom? Netflix tells you what's popular at that time, so it's just a matter of scrolling to see what's hot right now. One way that I incorporated Netflix into my classroom was using the popular, limited series, Tiger King. Now, I know what you are thinking. I would like to note that I did not show this to my students in class, nor recommended that they view it, but the likelihood that they did watch it, was quite high. At least, that's what I was banking on. 

So, how did I incorporate this Netflix-exclusive series into my class if I didn't tell my students to watch it? The series depicts several different scenarios where exotic animals are being exploited for financial purposes. The print & digital versions of the Exotic Animal Ownership resource that I created for my students got them thinking about a species' welfare in both the wild, in public and private zoos, as well as in sanctuaries. 

The worksheets and activities within the resource do not reference the characters within the show or the ideas that were presented. Rather, the assignments are a reflection of one's own personal feelings on the general notion of the exploitation of exotic animals. They can, however, definitely refer to some of the ideas within the show to prove their points (if they had a chance to view it).  

2. Book vs. Movie

Another easy way to incorporate Netflix is to compare and contrast a book and a movie, providing the book is able to stream from Netflix, of course. 

Here's a few YA book adaptations that you can check out on Netflix:

  • The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo
  • The Maze Runner
  • The Wolf of Wall Street
  • To Kill a Mockingbird
  • P.S. I Love You
  • Pride and Prejudice
  • The Great Gatsby

Grab a FREE Compare and Contrast Essay Organizer HERE!

3. Watch a Documentary 

Watching a documentary is a great way to learn more about an individual in a relatively short amount of time. 

Here are a few ideas on how you could utilize a docuseries:

1. Research project on the individual
2. Written reflections on various themes within the series
3. Use a Venn diagram to compare and contrast the individual and the student

Here are some examples that could be incorporated into an ELA class:

  • The Last Dance: This series shares the story of Michael Jordan's career. It gives a great outlook on what it takes to be a true athlete and this series is a great way to teach students more about focus, perseverance and determination. 
  • Miss Americana: This series gives a first-hand look into the day in the life of popular singer, Taylor Swift. She shares a lot of her insecurities as a young adult, which most do not realize she likely had. Students would be able to make a lot of connections with Taylor, not realizing she shares similar teen struggles. 
  • Gaga, Five Foot Two:  This series gives fans an inside look into the life of Lady Gaga. She shares personal struggles about her health and trials and tribulations of what it takes to be a famous entertainer.

4. Using Documentaries as Life Lessons

One of the most powerful and memorable teaching moments I have ever had is when I told all my students to write one wish on a piece of paper. The majority of the wishes they wrote down were all very materialistic. After they all wrote down their wishes, I showed them a quick video about a man named Nick Vujicic, who was born without arms and legs. I had most of my class nearly in tears. Now, making them sad was not my intention. However, making them aware of others and people with real struggles was. For this reason, I am sharing a few documentaries that are worth watching and a great way to discuss one's life goals and values. 

You might consider a similar activity of asking your students questions prior to watching, like in the example I shared above. It's a great way for your students to reflect on their original response, once they've viewed an episode or entire documentary. 

Check out the trailers for these Netflix documentaries:

5. Use Kids' Movies as a Way to Reflect

A fun, nostalgic way to think about past books that your students might have previously experienced would be to share a list of books that are currently streaming on Netflix. Hopefully, with the list given, every student would have either read the book and/or at least be familiar with the book in some way. 

Once students select a past book that they have read from the list, you can ask them to go watch the movie (or at least part of the movie) and reflect on some elements of the story. While, they may think it's silly to watch a "kid's show" the purpose of the activity is for them to reflect on what made that story so memorable to them at that time in their life. After all, they picked it out from the list!

Here is a list of popular books that are currently streaming on Netflix:

  • Holes
  • Where the Red Fern Grows
  • A Wrinkle in Time
  • Harriet the Spy
  • Charlotte's Web

Here are some reflection questions that you can use for this activity:

  1. Watching the movie now, as a young adult, what do you think drew you to the original book?

  2. What memories do you have about the book of choice? Did you read it at home? In a classroom?

  3. Did the movie do the book justice? Explain your reasoning.

  4. What was different and/or the same in the book and movie?
  5. Would you recommend the book and/or the movie to a child? Why or why not?

I hope you found a few ideas on how you can incorporate Netflix into your classroom! If I missed any popular titles, please share them below!

Check out these other great resources that would work for incorporating books and movie adaptations into your classroom.  

 Movie Review / Film Review Writing

 Bad Movie Adaptations: What's so Good About Them?

Making a Murderer Teaching Bundle

TV Episode Review


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