Overview: Movies and television are rich sources of intercultural content when you know what to look for. This activity will help guide you to select a clip, show or film to engage your students in a lively discussion about culture, stereotypes, bias and more. We’ve even curated a bundle of media sources to get you started.

To access the video recording of the webinar detailing this lesson, please click here.

Learning Outcomes:

  • Students will gain a better understanding of cross-cultural interactions through watching and discussing teacher-selected media sources (i.e. movies, tv shows, cartoons, commercials etc.). 
  • Students will reflect on the values and attitudes underlying intercultural interactions in order to gain empathy with members of marginalized, underrepresented and/or minority groups. 

Learning Objectives: 

By the end of the activity, students will be able to… 

  • Identify similarities and differences in behaviors and attitudes among characters in the show/clip. 
  • Share examples about how this new knowledge of behaviors and attitudes helps them process past and present interpersonal situations. 
  • Express how these similarities and differences in behaviors and attitudes are applicable to his/her own life moving forward. 


  1. If this is a first lesson with students to discuss/interact with the theory of culture, it is important to start with an inquiry/discussion with students about “What is culture?” to ensure that there is a baseline understanding. The basic premise is that there are aspects of culture that are more obvious or visual to most and other aspects that are harder to discern. Consider this video from the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs or this video from Khan Academy to help explain various theories of culture to students with images and descriptions.
  2. There is a wide variety of media (i.e. films, TV programs etc.) with intercultural themes.
  3. Depending on the content area, grade level and/or learning objectives, students might watch a complete film/TV program or only parts of it, as one or two key scenes can be enough to illustrate a linguistic or cultural point.
  4. It is recommended that teachers consult reviews and/or view the selected media firsthand in order to determine if it is appropriate for the content area and desired lesson.
  5. Depending on the content area and/or grade level, it may be helpful to provide students with a brief introduction to the selected media or a particular scene before they watch it.
  6. Various free (or paid subscription) resources for media include:

Activity based on source: Roell, C. (2010). Intercultural Training with Films. English Teaching Forum, 48(2), 2–15. Retrieved from https://americanenglish.state.gov/files/ae/resource_files/48_2-etf-intercultural-training-with-films.pdf 

7. Consider using any of the extension activities listed after the discussion questions. 


  1. Lead discussions prior to watching the selected media. Have students analyze the title or a read a brief synopsis and make prediction about the theme or plot. Show a ‘still’ (i.e. captured image from a scene) as a prompt for students to speculate about the theme or plot.
  2. Introduce the task:
    1. Media (i.e. films, TV program etc.) are authentic cultural products, and many tend to be culture- bound.
    2. As media viewers, it is your task to watch the selected media and pay attention to the behaviors and interactions.
    3. While watching, be sure to pay attention to:
      1. Any stereotypes shown or held by a certain culture. o Different cultural traditions and inter-generational conflict due to cultural expectations.
      2. How individuals and/or cultures show a preference towards individualism (i.e. value self-sufficiency and independence) and collectivism (i.e. value group involvement when it comes to making decisions or attaining goals).
      3. Differences between your own culture(s) and the culture(s) depicted.
  3. Share the selected media with students using the preferred educational tech tool/platform or online resource.
  4. When all have watched the selected media, have students share their reflections on how cultural norms, attitudes, attitudes and values influence behaviors, intercultural communication, relationships and interactions with others.
  5. Lead students through the discussion questions.


  1. What cultures, communities or group of people were shown in the film? 
  2. What behaviors did you notice? Why did the character behave like that? What were their attitudes or opinions about themselves, other people and life in general? Explain their reasons – even if you disagree or would have behaved differently.
  3. Think about a conflict or miscommunication between characters. What was the cause? What was the effect? Was it resolved or unresolved? Why?
  4. Could the conflict have been avoided or resolved differently? 
  5. Describe how could a similar conflict or disagreement might happen in your community? How would you resolve/fix it?
  6. Which character(s) do you understand the most or feel most connected to? Why? 
  7. Which character(s) do you understand the least or feel least connected to? Why? 
  8. Do you think the characters were more like stereotypes or more like real-life people? Why do you think that?
  9. Did the characters deal with an imaginary problem or a real-life problem/challenge? What did the film teach you about the problem/challenge?
  10. What did you learn about the characters’ culture or community? 
  11. How does the film help you better understand a culture or group of people? 

Extension activities:

  1. Fly on the Wall: Have students reconstruct a movie scene from memory, as if they were ‘unseen witnesses’ watching it. To strengthen their descriptive abilities, students can analyze characters in a film and write descriptive portraits of the characters’ appearance, education, profession, relationships, likes and dislikes, and other qualities. After writing down their accounts, they re-watch the scene to check their recall and revise the details if necessary.
  2. Perspective-taking: Have students to put themselves into a character’s shoes and write a diary entry from the character’s point of view. To help students build empathy and understanding, assign them the antagonistic or “bad” characters whose behavior may be unacceptable or negatively viewed. Have student engage in discussions with students writing the diary of other characters. During this discussion, have students defend their assigned character’s viewpoint by identifying the characters’ behaviors, feelings, attitudes and other influential factors.
  3. Feelings Flow: Have students focus on a specific scene depicting a conflict. Using a graph, have students plot the intensity of characters’ feelings in this chosen scene and label each the moment of event of the conflict.
  4. Relationships Chart: Have students create a diagram of the characters, their relationships, and their feelings towards each other.
  5. Critical Incident: Have students analyze a specific intercultural interaction/encounter that led to a misunderstanding or conflict. Have students create diagram to explain the cause-and-effect connections as well as other contributing events and factors. See example below.

Extension in the content area:

Elementary Humanities: Ratatouille, Dumbo, Inside Out, Cars, Wonder, Ferdinand, The Little Prince

Language Arts: Supergirl/Superman, Little Women, To Kills a Mockingbird, No Country for Old Men

Math: Hidden Figures, Good Will Hunting, A Beautiful Mind, Mean Girls, Gifted

Social Studies: American Experience, Lark Rise to Candleford, Sacred, Somewhere South

Science: Big Bang Theory, Young Sheldon, Bill Nye, Bones

World Language: Like Water for Chocolate, Coco, The Book of Life, Casa de Flores

Family and Consumer Sciences: Julie & Julia, The Hundred-Foot Journey, Spanglish

P.E. & Wellness: The Cutting Edge, Karate Kid, Cool Runnings, Mighty Ducks, G.I. Jane, Step Up, Flashdance, Hoosiers, Rudy, The Blind Side. Dodgeball

Art: Mona Lisa Smile, Frida, Midnight in Paris 

General Movie Recommendations:

Queen of Katwe – Chess, Culture of Uganda, Social Status

Coco – Day of the Dead, Culture of Mexico, Value of Family and Respect

Karate Kid Part II – Martial Arts, Culture of Okinawa, Pride and Rivals 

Short Film Recommendations:

For the Birds: Cliques, Bullying

Soar: Grit, Determination, Collaboration

The Present: Inclusion 

Cultural Commercials/Short Clips:

Race Stereotypes: Short video clip addressing stereotypes from African males depicted in Hollywood movies.

Woman who speaks 7 languages: Short video clip of a woman in an office setting who tells her boss she can speak 7 different languages and cannot.

Cultural Faux Pas: HSBC commercials each depicting a cultural misunderstanding. 

For more lesson plan ideas, please visit the AFS-USA Teacher’s Toolbox.

For questions, comments or suggestions, please email us at [email protected].

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