Lesson 5
Take Action - Making Films

Developing a Structure
for Documentaries


After this lesson, students will be able to:

  • Plan a beginning, middle, and end for their films


Students have started to define the elements of a documentary style film, thinking about what their own films will look like. After considering topic, focus, angle, and the four key questions, students will develop a structure for their film, planning a beginning, middle, and end.

Guiding Questions:

  • How might we structure our documentary to accomplish our goals as defined by the 4 key questions?

Recommended Time:

90-120 minutes

Common Core State Standards:



4 Key Questions Handout

Lesson Design:

  • Explain to students that documentaries follow the conventions of most genres of writing, in that they have a clear beginning, middle, and end.
  • The beginning of students’ documentaries should be the ‘hook’ that captures the viewers attention and introduces the topic, focus, and angle.
  • The middle of the film should include the who, what, where, when, and why of the issue. It is the most informative part of the film.
  • The end of the film should include the call to action. Viewers should have a take-away in response to the question, “What can I do to help?” This is the most persuasive part of the film.
  • In groups, students brainstorm ideas and develop a plan for the beginning, middle, and end of their films.