Music and film are two art forms that go hand in hand and teaching this music topic can be a lot of fun for both you the music teacher and your music students. As a middle school music teacher, you have the chance to incorporate creative and fun lesson ideas into your classes that will pique the interest of your music students and encourage them to learn more about film and music. Read on to find out 7 film and music lesson ideas that will help your students understand the history and purpose of film music, soundtracks, and how music is used in film.

The best thing about teaching film and music is that it is a great way to end the school year or even teach while there is testing going on in the school and you need some quieter music lessons! Personally, I always teach this unit as the very last one for our Year 7 music classes. Teaching film and music also gives you a valid reason for watching a movie in class! Just make sure that you program it into your lessons so that you comply with your schools’ guidelines for showing movies in class.

You can grab yourself a copy of the Film Music Unit of Work from my Teachers Pay Teachers store here. Everything in this blog post comes from this complete, low-prep and ready to teach resource!


Are you looking for some more lesson ideas to transform your music lessons? Then grab your copy of the 5 Ways to Makeover Your Music Curriculum here.


Definition of Film Music

Before teaching about film and music in your music class, it helps to know what defines “film music”. Below is one definition that should help you and your students have a basic understanding before starting any lessons for film and music in your classroom.

“Film music, also known as movie music or cinematic music, refers to the music composed specifically for films or movie productions. This type of music is created to enhance the emotional impact of a movie scene or to support the narrative and create a specific atmosphere or mood for the audience. Film music can take many forms, including orchestral scores, popular songs, and sound effects, and it can be composed by a single composer or a team of musicians. Film music plays an important role in creating the overall experience of a movie and is often recognized as a crucial component of the art of filmmaking.”


Lesson Idea for the History of Film Music

In this film and music lesson idea, teach your students about the origins of film music and introduce your students to some of the first films that included music scores. Using YouTube clips from classic silent films, you can help your students understand how film music evolved and became an essential aspect of filmmaking.

The lesson in the Film Music Unit of Work also covers how and why music was developed for the original silent films and that the music was played live in the theater by a single musician or even a whole band!


Lesson Idea for What is Film Music

For this film music lesson students are introduced to how composing music for a movie has been developed into an art form of itself. This lesson also introduces the idea of using a musical theme for an entire movie or even for a particular character in the movie.


Lesson Idea for What is a Movie Soundtrack

Today, our music students have grown up with film and music and will often know a movie simply by the soundtrack from the movie. But this wasn’t always the case, the music and soundtracks for films have evolved over time and have become a whole entire industry of their own. It’s important to teach your music students about this key part of music history.

Playing a film’s soundtrack in class can be a great way to help students learn about the role of music in films. In this lesson idea, students can listen to soundtracks from a variety of films, identify the various instruments used in the score, and analyze how the music changes the mood and intensity of different scenes.


Lesson Idea for How Music is Used in Film

The next lesson in this unit of work for music and the movies is to explore how music is used to enhance the mood, frame the story, and create suspense in films. In this lesson your students will be introduced to the 5 main ways that music is used in a scene for a movie –

  1. To establish, maintain or change the mood
  2. To accompany the main title of the film – The Overture
  3. To give a sense of location
  4. To create and support movement
  5. As a theme for a character

Once your students know these 5 main ways that music is used in a film, it is a good time to start watching a movie firstly with the sound off and ask students what type of music might be in the background. Then play the scene with the sound on and see who guessed the type of music correctly!


Film and Music Listening Lesson Activities

Throughout this unit of work there are Elements of Music listening worksheets for you to have your students listen to and complete. Each listening lesson uses music from a famous and well-known film, and if you don’t want to use that music, simply change it for something your students will engage with and keep the questions in the worksheets!

There are a lot of film music listening lessons included, you don’t need to complete every single one – just the ones that make sense for you and your students. OR why not try compiling these listening lessons into a Film Music Listening Journal and have your music students complete as an in-class assignment!

If you would like to know more about the Elements of Music, check out this blog post here.


Film and Music Songs to Perform in Class

Another feature of this Film Music Unit of Work is the inclusion of suggested songs to perform in class. You are given 10 songs with links to guitar chords and the actual song to listen to and learn.

Of course, you do not need to use the ones suggested and can use whatever music you have available to you OR choose music that will suit your students and their personal likes.


Suggested Movies to Watch & Study in Music Class

After completing the lessons for film and music, try watching a movie to see how the music is used. Some of my all-time favorite movies for this are – The Sandlot, this has a great theme music for a character, and uses music very cleverly to set mood, change up action and more. It’s certainly an old movie, but that is also the beauty of it – your kids probably have not watched it before!

Another few great ones to try are – Shrek, Lion King and School of Rock. Like the Sandlot, they also use music very cleverly throughout each film. The added benefit of these movies is that the music used in the films is a bit easier to access and perform in class. My own music kids could never get enough of playing I’m a Believer from Shrek!


Film and Music Composition Assignment

After completing the lessons on the film and music unit of work, you could have your students try to compose their own movie music. This assignment has everything you need for your students to compose their own film music. You just choose the pages you want your students to complete and let their creativity go!

You can get your own copy of the Film Music Composition Assignment here


Incorporating film and music into your music classroom lessons can be both fun and educational. By implementing these 7 creative and fun film and music lesson ideas into your middle school music curriculum, you can help your students develop a better understanding and appreciation for music and film. Whether it’s analyzing movie soundtracks or creating their own soundtracks, these music lesson ideas can inspire your music students and bring a new level of excitement to your music classroom.

Until next time

Happy Teaching

Julia from Jooya

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