The Moments in Focus site provides classrooms with free access to HBO’s groundbreaking series, films, and documentaries, along with accompanying lessons and activities developed by Scholastic.

Search the tips below to learn more about how these great year-round resources help build critical thinking skills and inspire discourse among middle and high school students.

 

What’s My Name: Muhammad Ali (Grades 7–12)

In this lesson and documentary film, students analyze how Muhammad Ali used his public role as a boxing hero to speak out against racism in America.

Themes

  • Muhammad Ali
  • civil rights
  • social justice
  • social change
  • activism
  • African American history
  • sports figures
  • boxing

Instructional Elements

  • research
  • primary sources
  • secondary sources
  • historical analysis
  • discussion
  • evidence-based essay
  • creative project / expression
  • documentary film
  • video

Calendar Tie-Ins

  • Black History Month
  • Olympic Games (summer)

Subject Areas

  • history / social studies
  • civics
  • ELA

 

What Happened on September 11 (Grades 6–8)

This 30-minute documentary is an introduction to the events of 9/11 for a young audience. In the companion lesson and activity, students will analyze the film, answer viewing questions, and use critical thinking to demonstrate historical knowledge of 9/11. Through an optional art and writing project, they will be able to synthesize and reflect on what they have learned by developing an essay, poem, drawing, painting, or sculpture.

Themes

  • 9/11 attacks
  • World Trade Center
  • historical events
  • historical perspective
  • commemoration
  • heroes
  • community
  • terrorism

Instructional Elements

  • research
  • primary sources
  • secondary sources
  • historical analysis
  • discussion
  • evidence-based essay
  • presentation
  • creative project / expression

Calendar Tie-Ins

  • September 11

Subject Area

  • history / social studies
  • civics
  • ELA

 

 

 

Icebox (Grades 10–12)

The film Icebox tells the story of a young Honduran refugee who flees to the United States for asylum. In the accompanying lesson and activity, students conduct research and analysis to gain historical perspective and understanding of U.S. immigration laws and policies.

Themes

  • asylum

  • immigration

  • immigration laws

  • immigration policies

 

Instructional Elements

  • research

  • primary sources

  • secondary sources

  • historical analysis

  • discussion

  • evidence-based essay

  • presentation

 

Calendar Tie-Ins

  • Immigrant Heritage Month, every June

  • Ethnic or cultural events in your community

  • Holidays connected to immigrants:

  • St. Patrick’s Day (Irish), March 17

  • Cinco de Mayo (Mexican), May 5

  • Columbus Day (Italian), second Monday in October

 

Subject Area

  • history / social studies

  • ELA

     

 

Fahrenheit 451 (Grades 9–12)

This modern film adaptation of the classic dystopian novel by Ray Bradbury portrays a futuristic society that burns books as a way to suppress thought and maintain order. In the accompanying lesson, students study the film’s themes and make connections to issues of today.

Themes

  • censorship

  • dystopia

  • “fake news”

  • science fiction

  • suppression of truth

  • totalitarianism

 

Instructional Elements

  • critical thinking

  • debate

  • discussion

  • research

  • paired reading

  • text analysis

 

Calendar Tie-Ins

  • Constitution Day, September 17

  • Freedom of Speech Week, third week in October

  • National Science Fiction Day, January 2

 

Subject Area

  • ELA

 

 

 

King in the Wilderness (Grades 9–12)

In this documentary and accompanying lesson, students will study the pressures and struggles that Martin Luther King Jr. and the civil rights movement faced in the last years of Dr. King's life.

Themes

  • civil rights movement

  • freedom of speech

  • nonviolent resistance

Instructional Elements

  • discussion (class and small group)

  • critical thinking

  • essay writing (persuasive)

  • panel discussions

  • presentations

  • research

  • timeline project

Calendar Tie-Ins

  • Martin Luther King Jr. Day, third Monday in January

  • Black History Month, February

 

Subject Area

  • history/social studies



 

VICE Environmental Documentaries (Grades 6–12)

Students will study video segments that highlight environmental problems, then brainstorm and evaluate possible solutions.

Themes

  • environmentalism

  • environmental problems

  • global warming

  • green energy

  • pollution

 

Instructional Elements

  • brainstorming (solutions)

  • critical thinking

  • discussion

  • research

  • PowerPoint presentation

Calendar Tie-Ins

  • Earth Day, April 22

  • World Environment Day, June 5

  • World Oceans Day, June 8

Subject Area

  • science

     

 

 

The Words That Built America (Grades 6-9)

Students watch an unabridged reading of America’s founding documents as part of lessons that help them understand the words and historical contexts of the documents, and learn about the people involved in their development.

Themes

  • Bill of Rights

  • Constitution/Constitutional amendment process

  • Declaration of Independence

 

Instructional Elements

  • critical thinking

  • discussion (group)

  • historical context

  • timelines

  • writing

Calendar Tie-Ins

  • Constitution Day, September 17

  • Election Day, first Tuesday in November

  • Presidents Day, third Monday in February

Subject Area

  • ELA

  • history/social studies