Reading, Writing and History: Kenneth Branagh’s Film of Shakespeare’s HENRY V
There have been many film adaptations made of Shakespeare’s plays over the years. The best of these make for superb teaching tools. One such is Kenneth Branagh’s version of HENRY V, released in 1989. This film is an outstanding resource that can be used in the classroom in many ways. With this film guide, it is used specifically to provide material for writing a persuasive essay.
This video guide is intended for use by students who have experience in reading and analyzing Shakespearean text, although they need not have read Shakespeare’s HENRY V. The guide can be adapted for a variety of purposes, depending on your curriculum and instruction intentions.
➢ Students who have not read Shakespeare’s play will first make notes in response to a specific writing prompt. As they view the film, they will pause to answer questions posed on the guide. After viewing, they will write a persuasive essay responding to the prompt, using their notes as source material.
➢ Students who are about to read Shakespeare’s play will view the film as an introduction to their study. This provides them with a context for the play they are about to read, and should help with confusion over characters and setting. They will consider the same prompt but will hold writing the essay until they have studied the play. They then will be expected to write a documented essay based on the text.
➢ Students who have read the play will use the film as a concluding activity, considering the same prompt and writing a documented persuasive essay in response.
This guide to Branagh’s HENRY V contains the following elements:
➢ teacher’s notes with suggestions for using the video guide;
➢ a pre-viewing section with: (1) brief background information on the play; (2) the question that provides a focal point for student viewing and will become the central idea for a persuasive essay, and (3) six excerpts of Shakespearean text for students to analyze;
➢ a viewing section with: (1) a scene-by-scene breakdown of the film and (2) stopping points teachers may use to check for understanding, to allow questions and/or to prompt discussion or writing;
➢ a post-viewing section that prompts students to draft their persuasive essay according to class writing guidelines;
➢ plenty of room for written responses and note-taking;
➢ a teacher’s key;
➢ two scoring rubrics for teacher use, one for a persuasive essay and one for a documented persuasive essay, and
➢ just for fun, five wordles of HENRY V quotations that you can print and offer as cover sheets for student essays or as inspiration for them to make their own. You can also print and use the wordles as class decoration, or put them on your Smart Board.
You have many options on how to adapt this guide to your own purposes and time constraints. For example, you might want to change the prompt provided if you have another subject you wish your students to consider, especially if they have read or are about to read the play. If your students have read the play and have already analyzed the passages provided, there is no need to have them do so again. You may simply cut these excerpts before you make your student copies. Once you read through the video guide, you will see that it has many possibilities for classroom use and is flexible enough that you can easily adapt it. The guide is formatted in Word so that you may cut or revise as you need. Perhaps best of all, this guide requires your students to engage with text and film to formulate and defend their opinions, relying on themselves and (if you permit) their classmates to do so.
Sit back, relax and enjoy using this fabulous film in your classroom!