20+ Powerful Short Films that Teach Students About Ethics and Morality

In a previous blog post, we presented 15+ fantastic short films with ready-to-use lesson ideas. Since this is one of the most-read posts on our blog, we decided to offer you an extra series of inspiring short films with accompanying ready-made lesson activities.

The selected short films all tell a message related to topics like ethics, morality, inclusivity and diversity. They offer students food for thought and interesting topics to discuss in class. You can therefore use them in religion, philosophy or citizenship lessons, as well as in language classes, where they allow you to work cross-curricularum goals. Social-emotional learning (SEL) is also addressed in all these short films and the accompanying lesson plans.

⚠️ Remember, always preview the entire content of the videos to ensure that they are appropriate for your grade level and students. Also keep in mind that topics such as disability, exclusion, identity, bullying, violence, and more can be very sensitive with certain students.

All the digital exercises are free to use and created with BookWidgets. You can find these ready-to-use short film lesson plans in this group. You can create a free BookWidgets account (if you don’t have one already) and copy the widgets to your account, which will allow you to make some changes where necessary and receive your students’ answers in your account. We’ll explain how this works at the end of this blog post.

But first - drumroll please 🥁 -, BookWidgets proudly presents the selected short films. Click on the name of the film to get the synopsis and the ready-to-use lesson ideas.

Engaging short films for Primary School students

Engaging short films for Middle School students

Engaging short films for High School students

Engaging short films for Primary School students

These short films for primary school students tackle important morality and ethics themes like life goals, living with a disability, respect, civil rights, war, and more. As the short films are all animated, they work well with younger learners. Of course, these are still valuable lessons to teach to middle school students, high school students, and even adult students.

Coin Operated

🎬 Director/Producer: Nicholas Arioli & Jennifer Dahlman

🗣 Language: None

🎲 Topics: childhood dreams, life goals

🍿 Synopsis: Childhood dreams and the brevity of life may sound like heavy topics, but they are presented in a very approachable manner in Coin Operated. The story starts with a boy who has the dream to travel in space. He overcomes a first disappointment when a rocket kiddie ride doesn’t help him to reach his goal. He then decides to start selling lemonade to make enough money to get into space one day. Will he eventually get there? Watch the short film to find out.

👩‍🏫 Lesson idea: There are quite a few interesting YouTube comments about Coin Operated, so it’s a nice idea to ask your students to read some of the comments and discuss them, before writing their own comments.

Short film - Coin operated - Youtube comments lesson activity

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The Present

🎬 Producer: Jacob Frey

🗣 Language: English (subtitles in other languages available)

🎲 Topics: video games, living with a disability, pets

🍿 Synopsis: A boy is playing a video game when his mother gives him a present… a puppy! But the puppy is missing one leg and the boy doesn’t seem to be interested in it anymore. The puppy then starts playing by itself and it doesn’t take long before the boy gets infected by its joyful enthusiasm. When he decides to go outside with the puppy, it turns out the boy is also missing a leg.

👩‍🏫 Lesson idea: The main theme of the story is living with a disability, but The Present could also be used to introduce topics like video games, pets, free time … with elementary school students. Besides, you could ask your students to analyze the emotions of the different characters (the mother, the boy, and the dog).

short films - The present - english listening comprehension activity

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🎬 Producer: François Caffiaux, Romain Noël, Thomas Salas

🗣 Language: None

🎲 Topics: war, sports

🍿 Synopsis: In the animated short film Versus, two samurai tribes (a red one and a blue one) try to conquer an island that lies right in the middle of their territory. They are very creative when it comes to finding new war techniques and even get inspired by different sport disciplines to beat the enemy. If you want to find out which tribe wins, you’ll have to watch the short film ‘till the very end (there’s a last plot twist after the closing credits).

👩‍🏫 Lesson idea: The short film Versus allows you to discuss a heavy topic such as war and its senselessness with younger students.

Short films - Versus - learning the vocabulary of sports

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🎬 Producer: ESET

🗣 Language: English

🎲 Topics: Cyberbullying, social media

🍿 Synopsis: Cyberbullying is a short film for elementary school children that shows how quickly a seemingly funny photo on social media can lead to cyberbullying.

👩‍🏫 Lesson idea: Although they are not yet officially of the age allowed, many elementary school children are active on social media. This short film and accompanying questions in the video quiz helps to show and discuss the dangers of it.

Short films - Cyberbullying

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Our friend Martin

🎬 Producer: Janice Sonski

🗣 Language: English

🎲 Topics: Martin Luther King Jr.’s Life, The Civil Rights Movement, Equality and Justice, Friendship

🍿 Synopsis: Although technically not a short film, we wanted to include “Our Friend, Martin” in this blog post since it’s a very powerful and well-made animated movie for Primary School students. This video animated children’s educational film delves into the life of Martin Luther King Jr. and the pivotal moments of the Civil Rights Movement. The narrative centers around two middle school friends who embark on a time-traveling journey, encountering Dr. King at significant junctures in his life.

👩‍🏫 Lesson idea: We’ve turned Our Friend, Martin into a video quiz for primary school students, click on the image below to open it. If you want to explore the film more after this video quiz, you can inspire lessons on character analysis, historical context, and teach about The Civil Rights Movement.

Short films - Our friend Martin

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Engaging short films for Middle School students

The following short film activities for middle school students tackle morality and ethics themes like stereotypes, Elderly people, dissabilities, bullying and more. You can share these video lessons with elementary school students and high school students as well. Just, make sure to watch it first to see if it’s appropriate to share with your grade level. And, remember, you can always change the questions or parts of the assignment by duplicating the activities to your BookWidgets account.

Snack Attack

🎬 Producer: Andrew Cadelago

🗣 Language: None

🎲 Topics: stereotypes, young vs old, politeness

🍿 Synopsis: If you like plot twists, you’ll love Snack Attack. An old lady sits on a bench in the train station, when suddenly the boy sitting next to her starts eating her cookies. As a spectator, you’ll quickly think the boy is extremely rude and has no respect for elderly people, but things turn out a bit differently…

👩‍🏫 Lesson idea: This short film is a great resource to introduce the danger of stereotypes and judging people too quickly with middle school students. You could start your lesson with pictures of an old lady and a young punk-style boy and ask your students to tell the first things that come to their minds when seeing these pictures. Write them down on the blackboard before watching Snack Attack. It is a good idea to pause the short film a couple of times and ask your students what they think will happen, like in the digital short film activity you can find below.

Short films - Snack attack - English lesson about stereotypes

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Jamais sans mon dentier

🎬 Producers: Students from the bachelor 3D Art Animation program at Bellecour École

🗣 Language: None

🎲 Topics: Cooperation, Elderly people, Rebellion

🍿 Synopsis: Four retirement home reseidents want to watch their favorite series Never without my denture, but the remote control is taken away. As a result, they team up to get their remote back.

👩‍🏫 Lesson idea: This light-hearted short film is an ideal introduction to get middle school students thinking about their own lives and how they would see themselves when they are elderly. Consequently, this assignment fits perfectly into life skills classes. Besides, this short film can also be used as an introduction to group work since it shows the importance of setting goals, collaborating, and possible failure.

Short films - Jamais sans mon dentier

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🎬 Producer: Tahneek Rahman

🗣 Language: English

🎲 Topics: disability, being different

🍿 Synopsis: A girl who is deaf encounters a boy who is paralyzed from the waist down, but neither of them know about each other’s differences.

👩‍🏫 Lesson idea: Using the video quiz below, have your middle school students reflect on how it feels to be “different” and what impact it has when those around you do not immediately realize these differences.

Short films - Different

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The labels we carry

🎬 Producer: BeecherFeature Productions

🗣 Language: English

🎲 Topics: bullying, judging people

🍿 Synopsis: In “The labels we carry,” we see a man where all the negative comments he receives literally stick to him. Needless to say, he doesn’t walk around looking very happy, until one time, someone gives him a positive comment….

👩‍🏫 Lesson idea: When teaching English, you could ask your middle school students to write down all the labels that show up and then have them search for the antonyms. This way they immediately learn a very extensive vocabulary for describing people. Another idea is to ask your students to read some of the YouTube comments for this short film and discuss them, before writing their own comments.

Short films - The labels we carry

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Thai Good Stories / Ripple / Giving / Mr Indifferent / When nobody’s watching

🗣 Language: English

🎲 Topics: good deeds, caring, helping others

🍿 Synopsis: These five feel-good short films are all about helping or supporting fellow citizens, even though you may not know them and may not always get something in return. The five films deliver a beautiful message in an increasingly individualized society.

👩‍🏫 Lesson idea: The WebQuest below details 5 possible lesson ideas for middle school students: a character analysis, a comperative study, ethical dilemmas, a reflection journal, and a creative expression.

Short films - Caring

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Louis’ Shoes / Cuerdas

🎬 Producer: Théo Jamin, Jean-Géraud Blanc, Kayu Leung, Marion Philippe / Pedro Solís Gracía

🗣 Language: French (with English subtitles) / Spanish (with subtitles in multiple languages)

🎲 Topics: school, inclusivity, autism, physical and intellectual disability

🍿 Synopsis: These two short films show that a school is not an easy setting for students who are different.

In Louis’ Shoes, a boy named Louis has to introduce himself to his classmates in his new school. He gives viewers an insight into his life and the additional challenges for students with autism.

Cuerdas is about a student with a disability who enters a new school. He is viewed strangely by most of his classmates, but there is one girl who thinks otherwise and involves him in all activities.

👩‍🏫 Lesson idea: In our society, students are often expected to achieve the same goals. Yet everyone is different, so this is not always realistic. Therefore, it is important to engage in conversation about inclusivity to have students understand classmates’ and other people’s thoughts and actions.

Short films - Autism

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Short films - Cuerdas

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🎬 Producer: Steve Cutts

🗣 Language: None

🎲 Topics: money, capitalism, the rat race

🍿 Synopsis: In Happiness, the spectator gets a dark image of the quest for happiness and fulfillment. This engaging animated short film shows the rat race we’re all living and leaves no one unmoved.

👩‍🏫 Lesson idea: There are quite a few interesting YouTube comments about Happiness, so it’s a nice idea to ask your students to read some of the comments and discuss them, before writing their own comments.

Short film - Happiness - Youtube comments lesson activity

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Engaging short films for High School students

Some of the short film lessons below leave a big impact as they are about heavy ethics and morality topics like racism, bullying, disabilities, religion and more. As engaging with these topics is important, it’s essential to check whether these short films might for high school students not come across as inteded with students in your classroom. Always make sure to check the provided lessons and make changes when necessary.


🎬 Producer: KJ Adames & Stella Davis

🗣 Language: English

🎲 Topics: identity, masking, conforming

🍿 Synopsis: In a school where students conceal their true selves behind masks, a girls confronts a liberating truth that sets her free.

👩‍🏫 Lesson idea: This short film has a story with a lot of depth and different meanings. A thorough analysis of the film and its references (e.g., Plato’s Allegory of the Cave) is a very valuable activity. Of course, you can also discuss with your high school students in what ways the masking of the film is recognizable to them.

Short films - Identity

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The Power of Words

🎬 Producer: Andrew Cadelago

🗣 Language: English

🎲 Topics: handicap, beggers, words

🍿 Synopsis: When an unknown woman adjusts the text on a blind beggar’s sign, he suddenly receives much more money from passersby. However, the woman claims that she wrote the same text, only worded differently. Do you have any idea what she wrote?

👩‍🏫 Lesson idea: You can have your high school students engage in a class discussion about beggars and the homeless, but the real message of this short film is about the power of the right words. In the ready-to-use short film lesson plan below, students discover several examples of sentences where wording has a big impact on how the message comes across.

Short films - The power of words

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New boy

🎬 Producer: Tamara Anghie

🗣 Language: English

🎲 Topics: racism, bulying, acceptance, violence

🍿 Synopsis: A young African boy, haunted by his past, begins his schooling in Ireland, where he swiftly learns the realities of being the new student.

👩‍🏫 Lesson idea: The short film in itself is extremely powerful, so simply watching this short film and discussing it with your high school students afterwards is definitely a very valuable activity. In the interactive lesson assignment below, there are also introductory questions provided and we suggest having students in groups each analyze a different character.

Short films - New boy

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🎬 Producer: Adil El Arbi & Bilall Fallah

🗣 Language: Arabic & Dutch (English subtitles)

🎲 Topics: religion, morality, drugs, violence

🍿 Synopsis: Brothers is a modern parable about two young persons from Brussels. Karim is exemplary and committed to the community, while Nassim goes down the bad path. Sometimes, however, things turn out differently than you might think.

👩‍🏫 Lesson idea: Since this short film has scenes related to drugs and violence, it is only recommended for older students. The film ends with an open-ended question about what is good and what is bad, an ideal starter for a class discussion.

Short film - Brothers

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A moral dilemma

🎬 Producer: Marcus Marinos

🗣 Language: English

🎲 Topics: Moral dilemmas, honesty, friendship

🍿 Synopsis: What would you do if you found a wallet with cash money on the street? Can you think of a reason not to return it to its owner? The main character of this short film does.

👩‍🏫 Lesson idea: Conduct a class discussion with your high school students about moral dilemmas. For example, ask them if they themselves have faced such choices like the main character in the short film. The video quiz below contains questions for a class discussion about moral dilemmas. Another theme subtly addressed in this short film is that it is not easy to make new friends. This is also something you can brainstorm with your students about.

Short films - Moral dilemma

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Instructions on how to use these digital short film lesson activities

Above, you can find the 20+ ready-to-use short film lesson activities by clicking on the image. You can use these lesson examples for free. Since they’re all made with BookWidgets, I’ve listed them in this BookWidgets group. Here’s what you need to do:

  1. Click on this link. It will immediately bring you to the group with all of the short film activities. If you don’t have a BookWidgets account yet, you’ll first have to sign up for free.
  2. Search for the digital short film exercice that you would like to duplicate. It might be in a (sub)folder. Select the widget(s) and click on the settings wheel, choose duplicate selected widgets. Choose where you want to save the activity in your BookWidgets account.
  3. Go to your saved short film lesson. You can now click on the black dropdown arrow next to the ‘Show’ button and select Edit.
  4. Make sure to Enable submitting in the Reports tab if you want to receive your students’ answers for these interactive short film activities. You can make others changes to the digital short film exercice (if you want), like adding or deleting questions, making some design changes, and more. When you’re done, click on Share in the upper right corner.
  5. Share the link to the short film activity with your students. When they click on the link, students can watch the short film and answer the according questions. When done, they can submit their answers to the teacher by clicking on the submit button.
  6. As a teacher, you go to “Grades & reporting” in BookWidgets to find your students’ answers.

Of course, now that you’ve got your own BookWidgets account, you can also create new digital short film activities or other assignments yourself!

Wrap up

Do you already use short films in class or are you planning to do so? I hope I gave you some new ideas about teaching with short films that might inspire you. From interactive video quizzes to class discussions, all these digital film resources will engage your students. Which of these ideas is your favorite? Let us know on Twitter! - @ibookwidgets

Or share your own widgets about podcasts in our Teaching with BookWidgets Facebook group so that in turn, you can inspire others!

And most of all… enjoying watching! 🍿

Dimitri Bongers

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