5 Fun Ways to Use Disney Pixar Shorts in Your Literacy Classroom.

Disney shorts are great! They are short videos that are made by Disney and can be easily accessed through a Disney+ account. Even though they are short, they are packed full of emotion, plot, engaging characters, and everything else that make a story great. Here are 5 ways to use Disney Shorts to teach literacy skills in the classroom.

  1. Use it to teach plot. Teaching a unit that involves plot? Using Disney Shorts is a great way to introduce and solidify the concept of plot. I particularly like to use “Party Central” that can be found on Disney+. It is 7 minutes long, rated PG, and is part of the Monsters University realm. In this short, Sully and Mike use door stations to bring monsters that are at another party to their own party. The actions build as they find more and more creative ways to use door stations to bring monsters to their party and the climax occurs during something called “door jamming.” Allow them to watch the video a couple times and the have them complete a plot template, such as one found here.

  2. Use it to discuss character. I like to use both “Auntie Edna” and “Jack-Jack Attack” (found on Disney+) to teach about character in fiction. These videos are both under 7 minutes, are spin-offs from “The Incredibles,” and are hilarious. They both have to do with the baby Jack-Jack and the hilarity that ensues from a baby superhero who does not yet know how to control his powers. Watch the videos a couple times, then have a class discussion about what makes Jack-Jack and Edna such amazing characters. Finally, have students create their own characters and then write a story using the characters that they created.

  3. Use it to teach setting. One of the amazing things about using videos to teach setting is that it is very easy to see it. I like to use “Wind” on Disney+ to teach setting. In this 8 minute short, our two main characters are trying to escape a hole. In this hole, rocks float and it is a magical place. There is a separate setting at the end of video. I would show this video to students having them pay special attention to the setting. I would then have them sketch out the setting either at the beginning or the end. An extension activity would be for students to draw their own magical realism setting and then write a short story that take place in the setting that they drew.

  4. Use it to teach juxtaposition. Students struggling with the concept of juxtaposition? Show them “Day & Night.” In this short, we have a character of day and a character of night. Both characters are translucent and we can see the same setting through the two characters, but one during the day and one during the night. These two characters are originally at odds with one another, but soon start to show the other what is special about the world during their time of day/ night. Do watch this one before showing it to your class to make sure it is a good fit for your class. It is rated G, but does involve the two translucent characters fighting with one another at the beginning and does show a cartoon character in a bikini. Watch it with your class, have them complete a Venn Diagram on day and night and how they are portrayed, and then have them write a response discussing how day and night were juxtaposed in the short.

  5. Use it to teach metaphor. “Bao” by a Disney Pixar is an 8 minute short about a mother who accidentally creates a dumpling baby. We watch as the dumpling son grows from a baby to an adult and then moves out of the house. It is at this point that we meet the mother’s real son who looks suspiciously like the dumpling son and realize that this short isn’t about the dumpling son at all. Show your students the short and then have them discuss in groups and/or write a response around the following prompts: What is the short about? Do you think there was a real dumpling? Why or why not do you think this? What is the metaphor and how it used in the short?

Disney Pixar shorts are a great way to teach elements of literacy. They are short, interesting, and sure to grab your students attention! It is amazing how much Disney is able to pack into each of these videos. Let me know in the comments your favourite Disney Short to use in the classroom.

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