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Ministry of Education.

The Shawshank Redemption

Students study several aspects of the film The Shawshank Redemption, then plan and write about responses based on a selected aspect.

Learning Outcomes | Teaching and Learning | Assessment and Evaluation | Printing Version

Writer: Bridget Hildyard
Year level 12
Who are my learners and what do they already know? See  Planning Using Inquiry
School curriculum outcomes How your school’s principles, values, or priorities will be developed through this unit

Learning Outcomes

 (What do my students need to learn)

Curriculum achievement objectives (AOs) for:  

Processes and strategies

Integrate sources of information, processes, and strategies purposefully, confidently, and precisely to identify, form, and express increasingly sophisticated ideas.

  • thinks critically about texts with understanding and confidence
  • creates a range of increasingly coherent, varied, and complex texts by integrating sources of information and processing strategies


Select, develop, and communicate sustained ideas on a range of topics.

  • develops, communicates, and sustains increasingly sophisticated ideas, information, and understandings

Language features

Select and integrate a range of language features appropriately for a variety of effects.

  • uses a wide range of text conventions, including grammatical and spelling conventions, appropriately, effectively, and with accuracy.


Organise texts, using a range of appropriate, coherent, and effective structures.

  • organises and develops ideas and information for a particular purpose or effect, using the characteristics and conventions of a range of text forms with control.
Achievement Standard(s) aligned to AO(s) 2.4 Produce a selection of crafted and controlled writing 
2.2 Analyse specified aspect(s) of studied visual or oral text(s), with supporting evidence

Teaching and Learning

 (What do I need to know and do?)

1-2 related professional readings or links to relevant research

Effective Practices in Teaching Writing in NZ Secondary Schools 

Planning Using Inquiry

English Teaching and Learning Guide 

Assessment and Examination Rules and Procedures

Learning task 1

Learning intention(s)

Establishing prior learning and linking it to the text

KCs/ Principles/Values focus


Thinking – explore texts

Relate to others – peer discussion

Learning task 1

Pre viewing

  1. Look at the title of the film. What does it suggest? What is redemption?
    • Redemption (n) - The act of redeeming.
    • Redeeming (adj) - Serving to compensate for faults or deficiencies.
    • Redeem (vb) - 1. To recover possession of by payment of a price or service. 2. To convert (bonds or shares) into cash. 3. To pay off (a loan or debt). 4. To recover (something mortgaged or pawned). 5. To exchange(coupons) for goods. 6. To fulfil (a promise) 7. To reinstate someone's good opinion. 8. To make amends for. 9. To recover from captivity, esp. by a money payment.
      Taken from,
The Collins Pocket Dictionary, HarperCollins Publishers, England, 1989.
  2. Given that ‘Shawshank’ is the name of a fictional prison, what predictions can you make about the film based on the title ‘Shawshank Redemption'?


  1. Use the viewing worksheet to complete responses to the film. Complete these questions as you are watching the film in the final 10 minutes of each viewing period.
  2. Discuss answers/ideas as a class. It can be a group activity, ie. each group takes a question and then reports back.
  3. Write a personal response to the film. Use such starters as, 'I enjoyed the film because...', 'I especially liked the scene where...', 'The character that remained in my mind was... because...', etc.

Learning task 2

Learning intention(s)

Examining key text aspects

KCs/ Principles/Values focus


Thinking – using a range of thinking strategies to build understandings


Thinking – explore texts

Relate to others – peer discussion

Learning task 2

Theme and character

Home and Expert Groups – Exploring Themes

  1. Divide the class into as many groups as there are in each group; for example, 5 groups of 5. These are the expert groups and each group will have one question to discuss (see below) so that they can then share ideas in detail. After discussing one question per expert group, new home groups are formed with one person from each of the expert groups. Each person in their home group must share their ideas on the one question they discussed in their expert group, so that everyone in their home group hears about each question.
    Expert Group Questions:
    • Explain the meaning of institutionalised. How does it apply to Brooks?
    • What aspect(s) of prison life are emphasised throughout the movie? Give examples.
    • Why does the Pacific Ocean have such appeal to Andy?
    • How do all the prisoners accept one another’s crimes in the prison? How is this significant?
    • List some examples of corruption of the legal process and the corrections process in the movie.
    • In what respects is justice finally achieved in the movie?
  2. Following the home and expert group activity, in your home groups talk about the main issues or themes raised in this film. Your discussions might touch on some of the following themes:
    • Courage
    • Loyalty
    • The power of the mind vs the power of authority
    • Institutionalisation
    • Corruption
    • Justice/injustice
    • Freedom

Characters and Power

Talk about the power relationships between the various groups of characters in the film. These relationships can be divided in several ways:

  • Prisoners vs Guards - Where the guards have the legal and perceived power
  • Andy vs Norton - Andy has the 'real' power ie; his intellect and inner strength
  • The Sisters vs Other Prisoners - The sisters have physical power (in numbers) but Andy has the power to fight them mentally
  • The Prisoners vs the Outside World - The prisoners lose their power to fear of the unknown
  • Norton/Hadley vs The Law - Ironic that these characters who are perceived 'upholders' of the law are more corrupt that some prisoners

Talk about other power relationships in the film. Draw diagrams to show power structures, such as the external power of the authorities vs inner power of the prisoners.. Talk about how would you define power in the movie.
Write a response about what you regard as a key theme raised in the film, including comment on the social value of the film's message.

Characterisation and Contrast

How are characters revealed? We find out what a character is like through what they say, do, what others say, physical appearance, relationships and so on. We can further explore character by looking at contrasts with other characters which can be developed through symbolism. For example:

  • Andy is often outdoors, in full sunshine. He wears the prisoners uniform of light blue and is often associated with music. All of these things reinforce the fact that he is a good person, someone who belongs in wide open spaces not shut up in a dingy prison.
  • Norton on the other hand is always dressed in dark colours. He is usually seen indoors in a shadowy environment and it is he who punishes Andy for playing music. Immediately we can see the contrast being set up here, the 'good' character vs the 'bad' character. It is ironic also that at the end of the film it is Andy who gains freedom and Norton who recedes in to the final darkness of death, thus the contrast that has been evident throughout is emphasised.

Choose two characters and to compare and contrast them in terms of imagery, appearance, relationships and roles in the film.

Learning task 3

Learning intention(s)

Examining key text aspects

KCs/ Principles/Values focus


Thinking – close reading

Learning task 3

Film techniques

  1. Talk about the film terms resource.
  2. Look at how the setting is conveyed. View the 'introduction to Shawshank' scene where we first see the prison. How is the prison made to appear large, imposing and bleak? Look particularly at the shot selection, colour and music:
    • Crane shot shows us the prison from a bird’s eye view, sweeping views establish and emphasise the prison's size.
    • The music is slow, played by strings and has a deep drawn out bass which adds to the feeling that this is a place of sadness.
    • The colours are bleak. Prisoner's uniforms are grey (as is the sky) and the lighting is dull.
    • We see the prison through Andy's eyes as he enters. Moves from a low angle of the entrance to an undershot which gives the impression that he is entering a place of misery and will not emerge for a long time. Again the sheer size of the place is shown in an imposing way.
    • Inside the prison it is dark, lit only by natural light from the windows. This creates long shadows which give an eerie, cold feeling and we get the suspicion that all is not as it should be, shadows hide secrets.

Close viewing

  1. View the following scenes again and talk about the related questions:
    • What shot is used when Andy is given his sentence by the judge? Explain the intended effect.
    • A point of view shot is used when we view a scene through a character's eyes. Identify and explain the effect at least two point of view shots used during the prisoners' arrival scene.
    • What angle is used when Andy is about to be pushed over the edge of the building? Explain the intended effect.
    • Explain how light has been used effectively in Brooks's leaving scene.
  2. Complete a scene analysis when Andy crawls out of the drain pipe to freedom. Look at how music, sound effects, lighting, shot selection and sequence are combined to create effects. Think about how these components contribute to the atmosphere.

Learning task 4

Learning intention(s)

Drafting and polishing writing.

KCs/ Principles/ Values focus


Use language, symbols and texts – structure and express understandings about texts

Learning task 4

Developing a piece of formal writing

  1. Develop a piece of formal writing on a topic linked to an aspect of learning tasks 2 or 3. In selecting a topic, it is vital that you select one suited to this text and to your understandings about it. As a first step in choosing a topic, consider the topics set for the externally assessed standard 90379 Analyse a visual or oral text. Talk with your teacher about the most appropriate topic for the learning completed in tasks 2 and 3. In selecting a topic, give preference to a topic in an paper from the last few years.
  2. This writing can be included as part of your folio. In 2011, it can be assessed during your class programme against Achievement Standard 90376: Produce crafted and developed formal transactional writing. From 2012, it can be assessed against its replacement, the new Level 2 writing standard, AS 2.4 Produce a selection of crafted and controlled writing. The same standard of writing is required at each achievement level for both the old and new achievement standards.
  3. At the end of 2011, your writing can also become part of preparing for the externally assessed AS 90379 Analyse a visual or oral text. In 2012, this standard is replaced by AS 2.2 Analyse specified aspect(s) of studied visual or oral text(s), with supporting evidence. Both these standards assess comparable outcomes: analyse specified aspect(s) of studied visual or oral text(s), with supporting evidence.
  4. Look at to the assessment schedule and the relevant exemplars. These are for AS 90379 and were written under exam conditions. Note that the achievement exemplar [The Piano] requires attention to style, syntax and text conventions before it would meet the second criterion [craft controlled writing] for the new AS 2.4 [and AS 90376]. However, it provides an indication of the level required to meet the first AS 2.4 criterion [develop, sustain and structure ideas]. The merit [Alive] and excellence [Into the Wild] exemplars meet all criteria for the writing standards. Additional exemplars are available for this achievement standard by ordering the NZATE exemplar resource.
  5. Look over the Assessment Reports for AS 90379. An excellence level response:
    • includes a stated hypothesis in the introduction which was developed and referred back to throughout the response
    • constructs a fully developed argument, with integrated pertinent quotations and evidence.
    • provides a well thought out concluding statement.
  6.  Having selected a topic, craft a piece of formal writing. Write at least 500 words. Support your ideas with specific details from The Shawshank Redemption from your work in learning tasks 2 and 3..
  7. After completing a first draft, read your piece aloud to help identify parts of the writing that require reworking. Before writing a final version of your piece, proof-read it to improve on technical accuracy. Prior to writing the final draft, you should return to the exemplars to help reflect on whether any changes or additions are needed in your own final draft. You should also refer to the assessment schedule.

Preparing for the external standard 90379: Analyse a visual or oral text; or from 2012, Analyse specified aspect(s) of studied visual or oral text(s), with supporting evidence

  1.  Look back at the formal writing piece you developed earlier and use it to help prepare for the external standard. Don’t rote learn this essay then attempt to somehow adapt a learnt essay to a topic in the exam. You will be much better prepared if you familiarise yourself again with the text as well as its ideas and supporting evidence, then adapt your understandings and supporting evidence to fit the requirements of the topics set.

Assessment and Evaluation

 (What is the impact of my teaching and learning?)

Formative and/or Summative assessment task(s), including how will feedback be provided

In 2011:
90376: Produce crafted and developed formal transactional writing
90379: Analyse a visual or oral text

From 2012:
2.4 Produce a selection of crafted and controlled writing 
2.2 Analyse specified aspect(s) of studied visual or oral text(s), with supporting evidence

Provision for identifying next learning steps for students who need:

  • further learning opportunities
  • increased challenge

This piece of writing should be an integrated part of the year’s writing programme.

English Teaching and Learning Guide 

Conditions of Assessment Guidelines for oral presentations.

Effective Practices in Teaching Writing in NZ Secondary Schools

Tools or ideas which, for example might be used to evaluate:

  • progress of the class and groups within it
  • student engagement

leading to :

  • changes to the sequence
  • addressing teacher learning needs
See:  Planning using Inquiry

Printing this unit:

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Published on: 05 Dec 2010