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LESSON 3 – Silent Film

Students will consider the elements of silent film, and how early filmmakers used cinematic devices in their works. Students will analyze a specific silent film to identify specific aspects and how they are used to present a specific message. Students will collaborate to present their findings.


Media Studies

  • demonstrate critical thinking skills by identifying the differences between explicit and implicit messages in media works *
  • identify key elements and techniques used to create media works in a variety of forms and analyze how these elements and techniques contribute to the theme or message *

    Developing Listening and Speaking Skills

  • communicate orally in group discussions for different purposes, with a focus on identifying explicit and implicit ideas and comparing and contrasting key concepts and supporting details; *
  • communicate in group discussions by assigning tasks fairly and equitably; using verbal and non-verbal cues to signal a change in topic or speaker; contributing ideas, supporting interpretations and viewpoints; *
  • extending and questioning the ideas of others; summarizing the progress of the groupís work; checking for understanding; and negotiating consensus when appropriate; *
  • apply techniques of effective listening and demonstrate an understanding of oral presentations by summarizing presentersí arguments and explaining how vocabulary, body language, tone, and visual aids *
  • enhance presentations (e.g., make and confirm or revise predictions; identify the purposes and perspective of a presentation;
  • plan and make oral presentations independently, adapting vocabulary and using methods of delivery to suit audience, purpose, and topic (e.g., identify purpose and audience; gather ideas and information;

    Writing (see pages 30-31 in Ontario English Curriculum, 1999)
  • Organize ideas and information in written work, revising drafts, editing, proofreading and publishing, apply spelling, punctuation, grammar and usage *
  • Locate and summarize information and ideas from print and electronic sources, including interviews, surveys, statistical data banks, reports, periodicals, and newsgroups (e.g., conduct an electronic search for information on regional Canadian authors; summarize and paraphrase information and ideas in point-form notes and in graphic organizers) *
  • produce written work for a variety of purposes, with a focus on interpreting and analyzing information, ideas, themes, and issues and supporting opinions with convincing evidence (e.g., state and support an opinion; compare and contrast the treatment of similar themes in two different works; explain how the images or setting in a work of fiction contribute to the overall theme) *
  • revise drafts to ensure that ideas are adequately supported by relevant details and facts and to achieve clarity, unity, and coherence *
  • make constructive suggestions to peers in a writing conference (e.g., identify ways to address problems of control in writing such as redundancies or inappropriate level of language; create checklists based on established criteria and use them when discussing a piece of writing); *
  • consider reactions of teachers, peers, and others in revising and editing written work. *
  • edit and proofread their own and others’ writing, correcting errors according to the requirements for grammar, usage, spelling, and punctuation as per the Grade 10 Ontario Curriculum Guidelines. *
  • Grammar and Usage

  • use parts of speech correctly, including the infinitive and the gerund *
  • construct a variety of complete and correct sentences (including compound-complex sentences), using prepositional, adjective, and adverb phrases; infinitive, participial, and gerund phrases; and noun, adjective, and adverb clauses; *
  • use verb voice (i.e., active and passive) to suit purpose and audience; *


  • use knowledge of a wide range of spelling patterns, rules, and strategies to analyses and correct spelling errors; *
  • spell specific historical, academic, and technical terms correctly; *
  • use a variety of resources to correct errors in spelling (e.g., dictionaries, spell checkers); *


  • use punctuation correctly, including the semicolon (e.g., use the semicolon to join principal clauses and to separate elements in a list that contains commas); *
  • use the comma, dash, and parentheses correctly to set off non-restrictive elements in a sentence; *
  • use punctuation correctly when quoting short passages from texts. *
  • Instructional Methodologies

    Part A: Introduction to silent film

    Students will review the Lady Lumberjack website and outline the elements of silent film, and the process of silent filmmaking. They will also consider how silent film differs from present-day Hollywood films and filmmaking.

    Discussion questions:

    1. How does silent film different from the Hollywood films we have today?

    2. What challenges might filmmakers have faced in the 1920’s? 1930’s?

    3. Elements of silent film:

    a. What are the elements of silent film?
    b. How does silent film differ from the Hollywood films we have today?
    c. What challenges might filmmakers have faced in the 1920’s? 1930’s?

    2. Once students have explored the Silent Film portion of the website, and the activities of the Port Arthur Amateur Film Society, discuss their answers to the above questions.

    Part B: View Film and Prepare Analysis

    1. Students will divide into small groups (3-4) before viewing the film. Questions for the entire class are:

    a. Is “Race for Ties” a “typical” silent film? Why or why not?

    2. Each group will select one element to analyze as they view the film:

    a. Story line / Plot: create a graphic organizer explaining the story

    b. Sets, props, interiors/exteriors

    c. Character outlines / acting

    d. Use of language / Title cards
    - humour
    - terms
    - flow and pacing
    - art work

    e. Historical Context
    - clothing, language

    f. Technology / Filmmaking techniques
    - camera angle
    - lighting
    - continuity errors
    - cinematic effects

    g. Analysis of music and sound effects

    3. As a large group, students will view the silent film, “Race for Ties”, and then conference in their small groups to complete a description of their assigned element. Results will be presented in a graphic format: poster, graphic organizer, storyline, flow chart, checklist. See Rubric.

    Pacing/Time Management

    20 minutes – overview of silent film
    50 minutes – view film
    5 minutes – explain assignment

    75 min - Students will work to complete their analysis.

    TOTAL: 2 x 75 min.

    Students will present at end of unit.

    Assessment/Evaluation tactics

    See rubric.

    Unit Test.


    Lady Lumberjack Text: short story, “A Race for Ties (Its Inception)”, pp. 125-128.Silent movie DVD: A Race for Ties
    Lady Lumberjack website:
    Computer Lab
    DVD movie projector

    Specific Expectations
    Possible Adaptation for Special-Needs Pupils
    Resources / Aids

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    Canada's First Amateur Feature-Length Film: A Race for Ties
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    The Fatal Flower Project | Educational Resources