This customizable viewing guide, writing response and rubric can be used not only for BBC's Planet Earth Series, but for any nonfiction documentary to teach students both the skill of critical analysis of non-print texts, and the skill of crafting writing to fit a particular purpose and audience. These are the 21st century skills that the Common Core standards are all about!
This lesson plan can also be used as a back-up lesson plan for when you are sick and have a substitute as it can be used to help students think more deeply about viewing a non-print text (what they might call movie day--except they have to really think!).
The student handout is a front/back two pages handout, and I've included a page of rationale, explanation and scaffolding/extension activities. The final page contains a rubric to grade their written response.
To be honest, I created this lesson plan years ago on a day when I just needed a break from standing in front of the classroom. Imagine my surprise to find that a "break" turned into a great day of really deep thinking for my kids. They were analyzing a non-print text for its different entertaining and expository elements. They were learning about ecosystems and wildlife. They were learning about purpose and audience. It was a hit and I have continued to use this strategy to teach my students 21st century thinking and writing skills.
If you have ideas for how you could use this approach to teach other content areas (Social Studies documentaries, etc.), please leave a note! I'd be happy to create some other handouts that go along with other contents.
This particular lesson for BBC's Planet Earth Series could be used in a Science or English classroom. You could easily substitute another documentary you have access to.