Sometimes a lesson learned from sports goes beyond the scope of the playing field and into the realm of real life. Use this lesson plan to teach the Disney film, Remember the Titans, in your classroom. Students will not only analyze the literary and historical aspects of the film, but they’ll also unleash their creativity with innovative project ideas that will help instill positive character building lessons. Try any of these lesson ideas with students between sixth and twelfth grade.
- Define Titans in mythology and complete the allusion to the movie.
- Define segregation and research the source and reason for segregation of schools in the United States.
- Listen critically to interpret and evaluate the film for literary and historic relevance and draw parallels between the film and the allusions.
- Collaborate with students to research topics and present their findings through creative products.
- Write to persuade using text evidence.
Begin in Focus
According to Dictionary.com, the Titans were “any of the sons of Uranus and Gaea,” the creators of the Earth and sky. Their children were enormous in size, strength and power. How are football players — or any sports heroes — like Titans?
Ask students a guiding question before the film: Which would you prefer: physical power or the power to inspire? Students can respond to the question as a journal entry and then share their responses with the class.
Guiding Your Students with Practice
Literary Analysis An allusion is a reference to something outside of a story that brings new meaning into the story. The most
popular types of allusions are Biblical, historic and mythological. In the film, Coach Boone makes a reference to the Titans. How does understanding who the Titans were help you understand this mythological allusion? Students will create a T-chart outlining the characteristics of the Titans and compare how the 1971 T.C. Williams High School football team compared to the Titans of Greek myth.
Historic Analysis During the film, Coach Boone takes his football camp participants for a jog to the Gettysburg Battlefield during the early morning hours. What is the relevance of this act? In groups, students will read a copy of the Gettysburg Address as delivered by President Lincoln during the Civil War. Students will use a Venn diagram to compare and contrast the purposes, events and results of the Civil War and compare them to the film, Remember the Titans. What are the similarities and differences? How does this activity shed light on Coach Boone’s purpose? How does it unify the team?
Literary Analysis An epiphany is a moment of startling discovery, realization or revelation for a character or characters. Once a character experiences an epiphany, they do not return to their former frame of mind or manner of thinking. Students will identify the moments in the film when characters experience their epiphanies. Which actions brought on the changes?
Historic Analysis Provide groups of students with a copy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s 1963 speech, “I Have a Dream.” What did Dr. King envision for the future of the United States? What is Coach Boone's dream and how does it change the community?
Screenwriter Gregory Allen Howard was inspired by the story of Coach Boone’s 1971 football team, so he went on to write the screenplay and pitch the movie in Hollywood until Disney ultimately agreed to the film. Students will research a variety of inspiring true stories from past and present and choose one to write a story synopsis for a movie. Why would this be a good idea for a movie? Students will create a storyboard to support their film idea. Afterwards, they will “pitch” their story idea to their classmates and provide an opportunity for all to view the storyboard.
For a traditional assessment, students will use evidence from the film, from the allusion T-chart, and from historic sources to prove how Coach Boone’s team lived up to the film’s title. Use this information to write an essay to support their point of view.
Lesson Activity Ideas for Projects and Research
Students will design a motivational poster based on a theme identified in the film. The poster should include a symbolic image, the theme in bold lettering, and below it an inspiring explanation written in one or two sentences.
During the film, the music of Motown stirred the emotions of the players while away at camp and, later, unified the team while startling the opposing team’s players during a football game. Students will research the singers, bands, producers or songwriters of Motown. They can then create a mural and provide a brief presentation or coordinate a performance for the class. How did the music of Motown inspire the citizens of the United States during the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960’s?
Students will plan and film a public service message about tolerance, unity, friendship or any of the other themes presented in the film. What image would they create for a 30-second commercial so that viewers would be left with a lasting impression and feel the full effect of the learning moment?
One final option is to create a PowerPoint presentation outlining the events of the Civil Rights Movement in America.
Inspirational films like Remember the Titans can serve a greater purpose than to entertain. Bring them into your classroom to engage students in interdisciplinary topics and issues so they might experience the joy of an in-depth, multi-faceted exploration for the sake of their education.
Bruckheimer, Jerry. Remember the Titans Perf. Denzel Washington, Will Patton. Walt Disney Pictures, 2000.
Information on Remember the Titans: https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0210945/
American Football by trakowski under Public Domain
Martin Luther King Jr with Medallion NYWTS by Phil Stanziola under Public Domain
Abraham Lincoln Head on Shoulders Photo Portrait by Alexander Gardner under Public Domain