Whether it’s VHS or the digital version of your favorite film, everyone loves movie day.
Movies are entertaining. If they weren’t Hollywood wouldn’t be the big business that it is. And who doesn’t love movie day in class? Sometimes, however, we teachers fall for the falsehood that movie watching is only good when we have finished a novel. That’s not the case! You can do tons of language learning activities with movies in class. Some require just watching a clip or a scene, others a larger portion or the entire movie. Either way, your students can be entertained and learning at the same time. If you want to use movies to teach in class but aren’t exactly sure how to do it, here are seven activities you can do with a movie in class.
10 Language Based Activities You Can Do on Movie Day
Listening for Vocabulary (Listening and Vocabulary)
One of the easiest activities you can do with a video clip is practice listening skills. For this activity, you will need to watch the clip before you show it to your students. As you listen, note any interesting or unusual vocabulary words that are used in the clip and write them down. Make copies of your list for your class, read through the list of words with your students, and then show them the clip. Have students cross off each word as they hear it. The first time you do this activity, you will want to keep your list of words in the order they appear in the clip. You will probably want to play the clip at least twice as well. As students get more experienced with the activity, randomize the order of the words or only give them one listen. Or both! Then have students guess the meaning of unfamiliar words based solely on their context in the clip. The more you do this activity with your students, the better they will get with it.
Take a Closer Look (Grammar)
How observant are your students? You can find out when you do this activity that uses the simple past in English. Use any movie clip for this activity. It’s especially good if you can tie in the movie clip to a holiday or a unit you are currently working on. Tell your students that you will be testing their observation skills by asking specific questions about what they will see in the movie clip. Show the clip without telling students what they are looking for. After they have watched the clip one time, ask students about a specific item, character, or event. For example, you might want to ask what color shirt a certain character was wearing or the name of the restaurant the characters were meeting in. Students should answer using the simple past or past progressive. If you teach intermediate or advanced students, take this activity to the next level by having them form conditional sentences for their wrong answers. For example, if Joe was wearing a red shirt and your student said he was wearing a blue shirt, your student might form the following conditional statement: I thought Joe had been wearing a blue shirt, but really he was wearing a red shirt.
Character Sketches (Writing)
Sometimes a short scene is all you really need to get to know a character, especially if it is a powerful or pivotal point in a movie. Show your students one of these scenes and then have them write an introduction for the character in the clip. If you like, have students pretend the description is for a dating service. Collect several descriptions of different characters (over several days or all in one day) and have students work together to match up the characters for blind dates. Or give several descriptions (which do not use the character’s name) to a group of students and have them guess which character is described in the passage.
Sequencing Events (Reading)
You can even use your movie or movie clip for a reading exercise in class. Take five to ten events from the movie and list them in random order. (The more events you use, the more difficult the exercise will be.) Show students the movie and then give each student or each pair of student the list of events. Then have students order the events as they appeared in the movie. When students think they have the events ordered correctly, have them bring their answers to you. Tell them how many events they have numbered correctly and send them back to the drawing board if they have any answers incorrect. Keep going until students have all the events numbered correctly.
Predict What Comes Next (Speaking)
You don’t have to be watching a who done it to guess what is coming next in a movie. Play a clip for your students and then pause it at a pivotal point. Ask students to talk with a neighbor about what they think will come next. If you like, have students write their predictions out. Then unpause the film and see what really happens. Stop the movie again and have students discuss their correct and incorrect predictions.
Alternate Endings (Speaking or Writing)
What do you do with a movie that just doesn’t end the way you wanted it to? Change the ending! You can do this with a full length film or just a clip. After viewing the movie, have your students share with a partner how they wished the movie had ended. Then have them work independently to write out an alternate ending to the film.
Prepare for Reading a Novel (Reading)
I always thought that students should never watch the movie before they read the book, but then I learned that ESL students can benefit greatly from an early viewing of a book based movie. When students watch a movie based on a book they will read in English, they get a foundational understanding of the plot and characters in the book. What a movie doesn’t give them is a preview of the language and possibly the vocabulary they will encounter when reading. By letting students watch the movie before reading the book, it takes away some of the comprehension requirements and allows students to focus on the language aspect of what they are reading – sentence grammar, vocabulary, verb tenses, and transitions for example. So if you want to give your students a leg up before they read a novel (and especially if it is the first time they will be reading a full length book) try watching the movie first.
Movies are a great resource for ESL students, so don’t hesitate to include them in your lesson plans.
Pop some popcorn, have your students put on your thinking caps, and you will be ready to make the most out of movies in class.