Multiliteracies in ELA Classrooms

Successful adaptations in the classroom

July 8th, 2013 · No Comments

What is the measurement of a successful adaptation?

Bortolotti and Hutcheon write that traditionally it has been the similarity or faithfulness of the adaptation to the source material, but that this kind of “reductive judgemental discourse” (444) does not take into account factors that might be more important such as artistic significance or cultural impact. Rather, the persistence of the narrative itself should be considered, along with diversity of media.

What I wondered when I read this article was, how can we measure the success of an adaptation in the classroom? Are there some adaptations that are used more than others, and if so, why?

The article discusses the fact that adaptations can also stand on their own as texts and achieve commercial or artistic success regardless of how closely they follow a source text (or texts). However, in using adaptations in the classroom, one thing a teacher would need to consider is appropriateness.

First, is the adaptation appropriate to the curriculum? A teacher may decide to use an adaptation because it closely follows the text being studied in class. For example, some teachers choose to show more ‘traditional’ films of Shakespeare plays that follow almost word for word the text. They want their students to follow along with the actors and expect that this will lead to a better understanding of the play.

Second, is the adaptation appropriate to the school setting? Of course, it needs to be mentioned that there are perhaps some adaptations that, no matter their fidelity or their appeal, might not be suitable in a classroom setting. I would think that teachers generally try not to be censors, but they do need to make the decisions about what films (or other texts) they present to their students.


Another factor that teachers will consider when choosing an adaptation is the overall appeal to their students. If there are several adaptations of a text available a teacher may worry less about fidelity and focus instead on how old the adaptation is (also dependent on the age of the students), whether or not it uses interesting settings or video conventions, or even how funny it might be. For many teachers, the reason to use a film adaptation in the first place may be to generate interest in the text. If the adaptation they choose does not engage the students, why use a film at all?


I think this leads to other questions for English classrooms, such as studying films as texts of their own and whether or not teachers should show whole movies or just clips when utilising adaptations.

Work Cited

Bortolotti, G. and Hutcheon, L. (2007). On the Origin of Adaptations: Rethinking Fidelity Discourse and “Success” — Biologically. New Literary History, 38(3), pp. 443-458.

-Cristina Relkov

Tags: adaptations · Uncategorized

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