„Donnie Darko” as an example of a troubled and misunderstood teen in a juvenile delinquent movie. Esl movie-related classes. The students should watch the film before the lesson.

Adam Chmielowiec, Piotr Drąg, Jakub Wieczorek

Środki dydaktyczne

Formy pracy

  • work in groups or pairs

Metody pracy

  • group discussion
  • ordering the events
  • reading activity
  • short-answer questions
  • discussion in pairs

Przebieg lekcji

Overall goals for the lesson: introducing several terms related to the topic; enabling the students to practice their speaking skills, especially the ability of persuasion; a reiteration and interpretation of the crucial points in the movie’s plot; alerting the students to various interpretative possibilities;

Stages Procedure Sub-aim/detailed aim Time Materials/aids
Students’ term introduction.
Students are divided into 7 groups (or fewer, depending on their number) and each group is given a term from the 3rd exercise to shortly explain to the whole class. The teacher can allow them to use English-English dictionary.
To introduce the terms in preparation for the lesson.
~10 minutes.
The worksheet, English-English dictionary (optional).
1st exercise from the Worksheet
Students are asked to individually order chronologically some of the key events in the film.
To briefly revise the movie’s plot, to set the stage for the subsequent activities.
~5 minutes.
The worksheet.
The nature of madness vs. the nature of time; reading and discussion in pairs.
The class is divided into two groups; each group is given one of the articles regarding the movie – one arguing that Donnie is a schizophrenic, and the other arguing that he is a time traveler (with the backstory from the director’s cut version of the film). After the students have read their articles, students from the opposite groups are paired to argue their cause and try to convince each other of their perspective’s claims.
To practice students’ speaking skills and to let them, via discussion, reinforce the main points and arguments of the movie.
~5 minutes (reading) and ~10 minutes (discussion in pairs).
„Teen Schizophrenia: Donnie Darko” by Jared Rapfogel (2002) for the first group.
„Understanding Donnie Darko” by Siobhan Calafiore (2014) for the second group.
Quick survey
The teacher asks which answer is more appealing to the students – the time travel or the schizophrenia perspective – and counts votes through hand raising. The score is then written on the blackboard.
(ADDITIONALLY: This activity should be repeated after the second worksheet exercise)
To check which opinion was more convincing for the students – was the class division stable or were individuals more convinced by arguments raised during the discussion than by the ones mentioned in the articles.
~2 minutes.
The blackboard.
2nd exercise from the Worksheet
When checking the answers, the teacher should encourage a class discussion, so that the students’ views can be shared publicly.
To more deeply evaluate both hypotheses, based on the evidence in the movie.
~15 minutes.
The worksheet.
Homework or additional activity if there is some time left: 3rd exercise from the Worksheet
These worksheets can be easily collected for assessment at the beginning of the following lesson. Alternatively, students can read some of their answers aloud. It will probably serve as homework, but it can be used as a closing activity during the classes.
The revision and check of understanding of the terms introduced in the first activity.
~10 minutes.
The worksheet.

Additional guidelines for teachers: remember to monitor the class carefully and thoroughly during the pair activity. Every material you might need is attached to this plan. Furthermore, remember to emphasize that every scene in the movie is open to interpretation, and every opinion is valuable – there are not just plain right or wrong answers here.


Ex. 1.

Create the timeline of the movie; place every event in the sequence shown in the film.

1. Gretchen dies.

2. „The Destructors” are banned and the English teacher loses her job.

3. Jim Cunningham visits the school.

4. Donnie finds a gun.

5. Donnie dies in his bedroom.

6. School’s dance competition.

7. Gretchen starts „going together” with Donnie.

8. Donnie calls his mother „a bitch”.

9. Roberta Sparrow tells Donnie that „everyone dies alone”.

The correct order of the events:…………………………………………………………………

Ex. 2.

Understanding the movie’s plot: in which way did Frank affect Donnie’s actions?

What Frank makes Donnie do in the film: The way in which it might be interpreted as an action of…
a mentally ill, rebellious teenager? a savior of the world?
Donnie sleepwalks out of his house.
Donnie floods the school.
Donnie burns down Jim Cunningham’s house.
Donnie shoots Frank.

Ex. 3.

Define the terms:

juvenile delinquent film ______________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

the style of the uncanny ______________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

multiverse ______________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________



Bush/Dukakis debate


a „cult” film


teen romance (+ examples)


tytuł: „Donnie Darko”
gatunek: dramat
reżyseria: Richard Kelly
scenariusz: Richard Kelly
zdjęcia: Steven Poster
obsada: Jake Gyllenhaal, Jena Malone, Holmes Osborne, Mary McDonnell, James Duval, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Patrick Swayze, Beth Grant
muzyka: Michael Andrews
rok prod.: 2001
czas trwania: 113 min
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