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KS4 English: Kes (1969)

Explore the relationship between text and film in this lesson on adaptation

Main image of KS4 English: Kes (1969)
AuthorJessica Hardiman
TopicKes - English Literature Exam Text
Key Words Kes, A Kestrel for a Knave, falconry, mining, north, theft, countryside, pathetic fallacy, football
Show full lesson spec

Ken Loach's much-loved classic is the basis for this lesson looking at how to 'translate' from text to screen.

This lesson helps students understand the process of adaptation. It asks them to think about how they might translate the written word into live action by pulling out key moments from an extract and visualising them using a storyboard. By asking students to consider imagery, characterisation and action, this lesson encourages students to think about the ways in which texts are translated into film.

Lesson Objective

  • To begin to be able to show analytical skill when exploring the effects of character and action.


Begin by looking at 'Kes' the novel - give students the short extract from where Mr Sugden leads a football match. Start at: "They started to run at speeds ranging from jogging to sprinting..." to "Billy raced after them without even bothering to pick the ball out of the net."

In pairs ask students to note down any key events and interactions between the characters which take place in this excerpt.

Then still in pairs, ask them to cut down their list to what they consider to be the top ten essential events or interactions, i.e. incidents which must be included in order that the storyline makes sense and the plot is moved along.


Main Attraction

Explain to students that filmmakers have to make considered decisions about what to include in the action and dialogue when adapting a novel for film. For an example of a script see the downloadable teaching resources above. Screenwriting requires a very different approach to novel writing mainly because what might work on the printed page may not translate well into live action. Similarly it also isn't possible to reproduce every small detail included in a novel - imagine what would happen if a screenwriter tried to recreate 'Great Expectations' word for word - it would make for a very long and complex film indeed!

Ask the class what they think would visually work well if they were to film the extract they've just read? What sort of mood do they think would be created at various points and why?

Now ask students again to work in pairs and to draw up a storyboard of the ten important events they identified during the starter. They should be made aware that this is not a test of their drawing/artistic ability rather it is about students showing how they are able to think through and communicate their ideas visually. For a good example of a storyboard see the downloadable resources above. They should consider:

  • What actually happens in this extract?
  • Who are the main characters?
  • What is the atmosphere of the scene?
  • What kind of story is 'Kes'? Comedy? Drama? Documentary?
  • Who might the audience be for this type of story?
  • How will they engage this audience?
  • What emotions do they want the audience to feel?

If they have time they could add some textual explanation to their drawings suggesting atmosphere, whether there is music or sound effects and what these might be, as well as who might play the characters etc.


End Credits

Ask each pair to share their ideas with the class. Now pose the following questions:

  • What can a story gain from being told by moving images that can't be shown in print?
  • What does a story lose?
  • Which storyboards do you think are the most successful and why?

External Links

Video Clips
Downloadable Teaching Resources

Related Films and TV programmes

Thumbnail image of Kes (1969)Kes (1969)

Read more about this film

See also

Thumbnail image of Loach, Ken (1936-)Loach, Ken (1936-)

Director, Writer

Thumbnail image of Literary AdaptationLiterary Adaptation

British cinema's lifelong love affair with literature