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Wadjda the Movie: A Great Pairing With Persepolis

Updated: Mar 20, 2022

When I need to look over rough drafts of my students' essay, I put on a movie for my kids. I don't really care what anyone has to say about this because I am a practical teacher, not an idealist.  The reality is that English teachers are expected to spend many hours of their personal time reading and grading papers. I am not one of those English teachers.

But I do care about checking my students' work and making sure they are on the right track. After teaching the writing mini-lessons that I feel my students need at the time, I collect their rough drafts (or very detailed outlines) and quickly read through them. The purpose of the read through is NOT to provide detailed feedback, and the maximum time I spend on a paper is usually between 2-3 minutes depending on the class size. I typically have classes that are between 25-30 students and I give myself one 84 minute block to read through the papers. If a student in on track to earn an A/B, I leave 2-3 comments and move on. If a student is headed for a very low C or below, I meet with them for a few minutes during study hall or during class if I have time. (A note: there should only be a few students who are headed in this direction, otherwise the task is too hard for a majority of your students. Adjust the assignment accordingly so you only have to meet with a few students from each class.)

During this time, I put on a movie related to the novel at hand, and I tell the students that they can watch the movie, work on their papers, read a book of their choice. That's it. The kids mostly accept this deal because they have a choice between being productive or being relaxed, so everyone wins. I haven't had an issue with this setup since most kids are happy, but I suppose I should think of a consequence...just in case. Any suggestions?

Anyway, the point of this post is that if you are reading Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi and you need a movie, Wadjda, directed by Haifaa al Mansour, is a GREAT film to pair with Persepolis. Haifaa al Mansour is the first female Saudi Arabian director.  (Interview with Wadjda director:

I do not like showing Persepolis the movie because it's so so so so similar to the book, but Wadjda is about a girl growing up in Saudi Arabia who wants a bike. It's such a simple wish, but because of the oppressive society she lives in, she may as well be wishing for a ride to the moon.

After the movie, we spend 15-20 minutes informally discussing Wadjda, and I award participation points to those who jump in. We discuss the following:

1. How is Wadjda similar yet different from Marjane?

2. How is Wadjda's mother similar yet different from Marjane's mother?

3. How is Wadjda's father similar yet different from Marjane's father?

I showed Wadjda to my 10 honors class and they enjoyed it, but I wouldn't show it to students older than that.

Have you ever shown Wadjda to a class? How did it go? What other movies do you show with Persepolis

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