Author’s Note: I have used films in my classes since I began teaching English Language in the 1980s. I use and have developed materials for both film clips and whole movies with great success. This teaching tip focuses on using film clips to spark discussion, study grammar, prepare debates, and practice pronunciation, stress and intonation and more.
Film clip + storytelling + chanting = engaged listening/speaking practice
Laura G. Holland
Teachers have at their disposal now a myriad of authentic materials from which to develop interesting and engaging integrated activities for their students. The briefest film clip can be developed into hours of meaningful classroom lessons that allow students to share their personal stories and hear those of their peers, all the while developing higher order thinking skills. Transcripts from the film clips can be used to focus on grammar, vocabulary, and all areas of pronunciation and stress in addition to content. They can also be used to develop extended chants that weave together focused fun-drill practice and employ techniques described by Charles Curran and Jennybelle Rardin and more recently Scott Thornbury as “Backwards Build-Up” and “Back Chaining” respectively, in addition to other traditional and non-traditional drilling practices that highlight message shift through varying intonation.
Whether you are responsible for your entire curriculum or simply want to supplement the curriculum you are required to teach, try some of the following ways to engage and motivate your students both in and out of class
« Show a film clip »
Choose a film clip appropriate for your level and age of students. Keep it short, 5 minutes or less. Use the theme as a “springboard” for discussion. You can use discussion cards, questions posed on a PowerPoint slide, bag strip questions, questions posed orally or written on the board, whatever is most appropriate to your Student Leaning Outcomes (SLOs). Get students telling their stories and talking about their own life experiences. They can discuss situations about people they know or have heard of, anything to spark their engagement. Spend less time on comprehension questions and go directly to higher order thinking questions and tasks, incorporating activities that assume comprehension but create more meaningful communication right from the start.
« Discussions and Story-Telling »
Topics that my students enjoy discussing and sharing their opinions about: Food, Sports, Dance, Music, Movies and TV, Superstitions and Luck, Scars (every scar has a story), Tattoos and Plastic Surgery, Outdoor activities, Friendship, Family, Controversial Topics, Travel, Holidays, Pastimes, and so on. Discussions can be standing or seated, in pairs or small groups. You can use any of the methods noted above for posing the discussion questions (DQs).
« Debates and Discussions »
Choose a topic from the film, your textbook, the news or other medium. Have Ss sit in groups, fluency circles, standing or seated face-to-face or other. Assign roles so that Ss argue points of view (POVs) that may not be their own, working in pairs to create the most valid arguments.
« Chanting »
Create your own chants using sentences from the film/video clips, sentences from the textbook, and so on. Add in extended practice and variations highlighting them in bold to show they are not from the original “text.” Give your students practice with the differing messages that changes in intonation create, as well as the ability to “feel” how stress works in English.
« Transcripts »
Use transcripts from the films (create them yourself for better quality and number each line for easier reference), and do grammar transformations, for example: take all the present tense verbs and put them in past tense, making all necessary time marker changes; change all negative lines into positive and vice versa, all statements into questions and vice versa, note synonyms and antonyms, find more formal/informal ways to express line “12,” and so on. Have students practice pronunciation and intonation using “Creative Computer” as described by Rardin et. al. Ask Ss to paraphrase, summarize, give a title to the scene, choose a different ending, etc. Ask students to look at line “7” (for example), and discuss with a partner why the speaker used that verb form to express her ideas or to state his opinion. This helps students understand the meaning of the grammatical forms and why native speakers chose specific ones to express their ideas.
Curran, Charles, A. (1976). Counseling-learning in Second Language Teaching. U.S. Apple River Press.
Rardin, Jennybelle P.; Tranel, Daniel D.; Tirone, Patricia L.; Green Bernard D. (1988). Education in a New Dimension: The Counseling-Learning Approach to Community Language Learning, U.S. Counseling-Learning Publications.
Thornbury, Scott. (1997). About Language. New York. Cambridge University Press.
Thornbury, Scott. (2005). How to teach speaking. Harlow, England: Longman.