English Language teaching through movies and tv shows:
Can we watch a movie? …Can we watch a movie now? During mid-terms and into the half-way point of the course, something has happened. It’s a bit of a slippery slope when you start showing movies in class.
After some disappointing mid-term results from students, I sat down with them to go over what they thought was working, and what wasn’t. Silent reading for the first 10 minutes of class – apparently not. “I asked my friends that speak English really fast and have good vocabulary what they do, and they told me that they watch a lot of English tv shows”, one student told me. I asked them if they understood my intention with the silent reading – to help them with their fluency, which is essentially “speaking English really fast with a good vocabulary”, which they did, but were struggling with.
Im willing to try it, because what I’ve been doing now is not working. Fortunately there are some great resources available online, two of which I’ve already been using.
Teach with Movies: Synopsis’, questions, activities based on an extensive library of films. It is also helpful in giving trigger warnings, or areas of the movie a teacher should be wary, violence, coarse language, etc.
Film Education: Supported by the UK film industry, this site goes beyond questions and answer activities for movies, they’ve also got specific language development goals ingrained in interactive and slick websites. My students put together a movie preview for Thor and discussed the elements of creating a movie preview.
Using movies or tv in the classroom also goes beyond just turning off the lights and putting on a movie for two hours. Teachers have to be engaged as well. This includes pausing the movie to ask questions and make sure everyone knows what’s going on, as well as putting on the English subtitles so everyone can follow along (this also helps when pausing because you’ll have the dialogue up on the screen.) It’s also helpful to create an environment when everyone feels comfortable enough to interrupt and ask questions, both to the teacher and to other students.
Tying into other subjects:
Film and tv ties very easily into English and Social Studies areas. Novel studies can turn into film studies – especially when there is a movie screenplay based on a book. One of my best experiences with the tie-in was when we watched Warm Bodies in class one semester, and I was able to find the book and give it to a student the next semester. For someone that doesn’t do a lot of reading, the student was surprised to see how much more stuff was in the book versus the movie and was essentially hooked.
I’ve also used a simple story arc with the movie to help students in identifying the mechanics of narratives:
This is a work in progress. My plan for the rest of the semester is to watch ~10 minutes of a movie for the start of class (rewarding the students that are on-time) and ending the week with a class discussion or assignment based on what we have watched.
Some of the movies we’ve really enjoyed so far include:
What are your favourite movies for the English classroom?