Friday, February 13, 2015

Showing Movies in the Classroom

(TESOL Ideas)

Google Drive Folder HERE

Movie Worksheets Index 

A Goofy Movie
The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr Toad for Young-Learner Low-Level Students (Just the Links)
The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr Toad for Adult Students (Just the Links)
* Atlantis: The Lost Empire Movie Worksheets
Avengers Age of Ultron
* 101 Dalmatians for Low Level Young Learners (Just the Links)
DuckTales the Movie: Treasure of the Lost Lamp
* English Short Stories For Kids - English Cartoon With English Subtitle (Just the Links)
The Jungle Book (1967) for Young-Learner Low-Level Students (Just the Links)
The Jungle Book (1967) For Adult Students (Just the Links)
* The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh
* Peter Pan (1953): For Young-Learner Low-Level Students (Just the Links)
* Princess Mononoke
Robin Hood (1973)
* The Emperor's New Groove
* The Secret of Nimh
* Star Wars
* The Empire Strikes Back
The Sword in the Stone

Unfinished Movie Worksheets
[All of these movie worksheets are unfinished.  They can provide a starting point, but someone wishing to work through the whole movie will have to complete them on their own.]
Aladdin (1992) Movie Worksheets--Unfinished
Peter Pan (1953) For Adult Students Unfinished (Just the Links)
Star Wars: The Lexical Approach: Unfinished
The Fast and the Furious 7: Unfinished

* The Grammar Slideshows
* Thoughts on why the students should never be allowed free reign to pick the movie (A follow-up to my experiences with The Fast and the Furious 7).
                Showing movies in the classroom is something that I’ve completely flipped my opinion on.  Two years ago, I was solidly against it.  Now, I’m all for it.
                I used to think it was at best a complete waste of time, and at worst sending the students the wrong messages.  And I wasn’t shy about saying so to my colleagues.  When one of my co-workers told me he was using movie clips to try to get his students more excited about the book they were reading, I told him he was under-cutting the value of reading.  “You’re sending them the message that the experience of reading is not complete in and of itself unless they also watch the movie,” I told him.
                Furthermore, I used to be of the opinion that kids these days spend way too much of their lives watching movies and staring at computer screens already, and that in my classroom we were going to do real human face-to-face interaction.  (This was probably partly a projection of my own guilt over how much of my own life I’ve wasted staring at my TV screen).

                But I’ve completely come around on the whole thing.  Now I’ve started showing lots of movies in my classrooms.
                There are a couple of reasons for this.
In broad terms, the past couple of years I’ve been making a shift away from grammar focused classes and more towards classes that emphasize reading and listening activities.  This was partly under the influence of my former lead-teacher, who told me that people don’t study a language because they like doing grammar exercises, but because they want to have exposure to the culture behind that language.  If you start doing more activities that show the students how they can use the language (for example, enjoying movies), then it will give them more of a motivation to study.
Also, as I’ve continued to read the literature on second language acquisition theories, I’ve come to better appreciate that people never fully learn a language by studying grammar points in isolation (i.e. the way most textbooks are set up).  Studying grammar is important, but it needs to be in the context of being continually exposed to the target language.  If the students are simply doing grammar exercises, they will forget one week’s grammar point as soon as the textbook moves onto the next week’s grammar point, and never really build up any competence in the language.  But if they are studying grammar in the context of continually exposure to the target language, then they can be constantly reminded of grammar points they have already studied, and even get a preview of grammar points they haven’t yet learned.
And, a number of the books and articles I’ve read indicated that children in particular can pick up a lot of the language just from exposure to it.
So, to that end, I’ve tried to have a lot of activities in my young learner classes that focused simply on exposure to English: reading - graded - readers together, listening to songs, telling jokes, et cetera.

I was resistant to showing movies for a long time, but eventually I began to realize how useful movies were.
Because processing anything in a foreign language is very difficult, my students’ attention span breaks down very quickly.  I can get them to listen and read-along to a graded reader for about maybe 10 minutes at a time, but much more than that and they start to complain that they’ve got a headache, and that they can’t go on anymore.  (I can identify with this somewhat from my own experience in Japan, when 10 minutes was more or less my limit for focusing on lectures or sermons in Japanese. )
But movies are a funny animal.  Normal attention span constraints don’t seem to apply when watching movies.  The same group of students who complain about having to read for 10 minutes will quite happily sit and watch a movie for 2 hours.  (For better or for worse, it has become tradition at my school to show a movie on the last day of class.  The students not only have come to expect it, they pretty much demand it now.  These same students, who I couldn’t get to focus on a reading for longer than 10 minutes, were demanding to watch a 90 minute movie, and were completely engaged with it the whole time—watching in absolute silence.)
And in fact, I’m the same way actually, even in my native language.  20 minutes is about my limit for sitting and reading something, but I can sit for hours and hours in front of the TV screen.  There’s something just completely absorbing about the experience of watching a movie that sucks you in, and you don’t even realize that time is passing.  The magic of the visuals means that you don’t have to spend near the amount of cognitive energy to get involved in the story, as opposed to reading.

So, eventually I figured: if this is a way I can get my students completely engaged with the language, then why continue to fight it? 
And when you think about it, there are all sorts of benefits to watching movies.  The visuals, the actions, the facial expressions and the tone of the actors’ voices, all make the meaning of the language perfectly clear even if you can’t understand the words.  It’s the perfect way to pick up new vocabulary, and new grammar points.  (And come to think of it, I learned a lot of Japanese by watching Japanese movies and TV). 
The visuals also make the story perfectly clear.  If one of my weaker students gets temporarily confused by the language, they can easily pick the story back up again just from watching the visuals of the movie.  (This is in direct contrast to reading, where a student whose attention wanders or gets confused will have a very hard time picking the story back up again.)

In fact, I don’t think anyone would argue against how useful movies and TV are in learning a second language.  (And anecdotally, many of us can probably point to our own experiences learning through this medium.  I know for myself a large amount of my Japanese was picked up by watching Japanese TV.)  I guess the only debate left is whether or not to take up class time with it.  The most convincing argument I’ve heard from colleagues against showing movies in the classroom is that students are watching enough English movies at home anyway.
However, I’m not convinced that’s true.  At least with my current students.  Some of them are watching a lot of English movies, and you can usually tell exactly which students these are, because they’re the ones with the high degree of fluency and the native-like accent.  The majority of the students, however, are watching a lot of TV, but they’re watching TV in their own language, or (in the case of Cambodia, my current teaching context, a lot of Thai and Korean dramas dubbed into their own language.) 
Again, I can identify somewhat.  Although I did watch a lot of Japanese TV and movies when I was in Japan, it was something I had to actively force myself to do.  It was so much enjoyable and easier to just watch TV in my native language.  For many younger students especially, who may lack an adult sense of self-regulation and motivation to study, I can all too easily imagine they may just forego watching English language movies entirely outside of class.
                So I’ve decided it’s not a bad thing to try to expose them to English movies in the classroom.

How I’ve Been Using Movies
                At the moment, I’ve been limiting myself to 10 minutes at a time.  (Although this is somewhat dependent on finding the best place to stop the movie.  I try to stop at cuts between scenes instead of in the middle of a scene, so occasionally this may get pushed to somewhere around 15 minutes.) 
                This 10 minute time limit is probably a hang-over from my old puritanical feelings about wasting time.  I probably could get away with showing 90 minutes of a movie every class, and my younger students wouldn’t complain, and would arguably benefit more from it than 90 minutes spent on grammar drills.  But there’s other stuff I want to get done in the classroom, so for the moment I’m limiting myself to 10 minutes.
                I try to find a DVD that has good English subtitles on it, so the students can read the English and listen to the English at the same time.
                My general rule of thumb is to try to find something that the students will enjoy, but that they haven’t already seen.  So this means all the newer popular movies like Frozen  and Avengers  are out.  (Although arguably it wouldn’t be the end of the world for them to re-watch a movie they’ve already seen—repeated exposure to the same language might help it sink in more.  But I like the idea of introducing them to movies that they wouldn’t have otherwise seen outside of my class.) 
                In my teaching context, this usually means that any movie older than 5 years is safe.  (My Cambodian young learners are completely oblivious to anything older than 5 years.  Partly this is probably the habit of young people everywhere to be largely oblivious to anything that happened before they were born.  And partly this might be because Cambodia only recently has become opened to the rest of the world, so they’ve missed out on a lot of the world culture of the past 40 years.)
                In an effort to get the students engaged in the movie, however, I do present them with 4 choices.  I show them the DVD boxes, show them the movie trailers from youtube, and then have a classroom vote on it.  (The exception to this is the first movie of the term, because I want to get the movie watching started right from the first day.  So for the first movie I just pick something in advance in order to I get everything prepared for the first day of class.  But for every subsequent movie after that, we do a class vote.)

                Unlike the graded readers, which contained carefully controlled language and vocabulary for English learners, the average Hollywood movie contains no such careful language gradation.  So it is definitely in the category of “roughly tuned input” instead of “finely tuned input” (to borrow Krashen’s terms).  But at least some of the language structures and vocabulary should be at a suitable level of complexity for acquisition, and for everything else, the visuals of the movie will help to carry the students through the story.  (I’m reminded of my own experience watching Star Wars at age 5, when I couldn’t understand half of the science fiction gobbelty-gook the characters were saying, but was still utterly enthralled by the cinematic experience.)

                And I do make up worksheets to go along with the movie. 
I’m not sure if this is the best thing or not.  There may be something to be said for showing the movie just for pure enjoyment’s sake.  (My former lead teacher used to complain about how we always killed any enjoyment of English at our school by always making the students do comprehension questions on anything they read, saw, or listened to.)
                But for the moment, I’m finding it hard to resist recycling some of the language from the movie back to the students, so I am doing worksheets.  Before I show them the movie, I prepare 10 sentences from that section that I think are easily understandable and at their level of acquisition.  After the movie, I give them the 10 sentences, each with one word missing.  They have to complete the sentences using words from a word-box on the top of the sheet.
                The next class, I’ll prepare another worksheet to review the previous part of the movie.  This is a summary of the previous section (which I’ve tried, to the best of my limited writing abilities, to write up in simple English), which also contains again those same 10 lines of dialogue.  Once again, they have to complete the missing words in the sentences.  This not only helps remind them of the plot, but hopefully recycles a lot of this language back to them a third time around. 

                I also try to sneak in some speaking practice with these movies.  Before giving out the movie review worksheet, I’ll first try to have my students orally recount to me what had happened in the previous section.  Then, after completing the review sheet, I’ll have them talk to a partner to try to predict what will happen in the next section.

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