Persuading students of the usefulness of watching English-language movies at home isn’t hard, but there are many things you can do to bring films into the classroom as well.
Here are 5 great activities for using movies in the EFL class.
- Half in half out
Choose a scene from a movie that you’d like to work on, preferably one with lots of movement and lots of dialogue. Divide the class into two groups, A and B. Send group A out while you show group B the scene with the volume muted. Then, bring group A back and send group B out. Play the scene again, but this time only let group A listen to the dialogue – don’t let them see the screen (if you have an IWB you can simply turn the screen off, if not just have the students face away). So you now have one group that have heard the scene and one that have seen it. Bring group B back, put students into A/B pairs and have them reconstruct as well as they can what they think was going on. Then show the full scene so they can see how close they were.
If you can set some time aside each lesson, this makes for a great project. Have groups of students choose a particular scene or series of scenes from a movie that they like. They have to transcribe the dialogue (this is excellent listening practice, but they may need your help!), choose which characters to play and then rehearse the scene(s) for performance either to the rest of the class or a panel of judges (other teachers, for example, or even students from other classes). Who will take best actor and actress? Who will go home with best supporting role? For added authenticity, you can even have them prepare gushing acceptance speeches!
- Dub your favourite scene
Great for pronunciation practice, and fun for everyone to watch, this activity consists of choosing a scene from a movie and having students practice a key dialogue (it works best with scenes that have two or three characters). They have to get the pronunciation, the intonation and the timing as close to the original as possible – this takes a lot of work! When everyone is as ready, play the scene with the volume down and have the students ‘dub’ the dialogue. If you can hide the dubbers somehow so they’re not in view of the rest of the class, all the better.
- Customer reviews
One of the text-types that students might be called upon to write in the CAE is a review, usually of a book or a movie. An engaging way to practice this is to pick a selection of online customer reviews (say, from Amazon) for a movie that most students are likely to have seen (Titanic usually works well), print them out, minus the titles and the number of stars, put the titles and the numbers of stars on a separate sheet of paper and in a different order to the reviews, and then:
- have students read the reviews and say whether each one is positive, negative or somewhere in between
- match the reviews to their titles and star-ratings
- underline phrases that they either strongly agree with or strongly disagree with and discuss in pairs
- write their own review
- Blazing trailers
Everybody likes a good movie, but not everybody has the same taste. In this activity pairs of students have to decide which movie they’re going to see based on a selection of trailers (these are easily found online). Start off with simple comprehension questions to get them using relevant language:
- Who’s in it?
- Where’s it set?
- What kind of movie is it?
- Who’s the director? etc.
To get the most out of this activity, it’s a good idea to run it twice. First time round, see what language the students already know for saying what appeals to them about the different movies and what doesn’t, and what language they know for persuading their partner and negotiating a decision. This allows you to decide what language to input for the second round, when they either change partners and watch the same trailers or stay with their partner and watch a different set of trailers.
Finally, remember to point out to students that although the English used in movies is authentic – that is, it hasn’t been written with learners in mind – it’s still highly crafted language, without all the fillers, half-sentences, interruptions and changes of tack that characterise real conversation – so if at times they struggle, they should take heart. In the meantime, have fun! Who knows, you may have the next Leonardo DiCaprio or Meryl Streep in your class…
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