Movie talk is exactly like it sounds. First, you find a short movie or clip of a movie ideally with little to no speech and then you talk about it in the target language. The sources are endless (thanks YouTube), and the possibilities are amazing. You can easily find a short film to go with almost any theme you might be focused on. A movie talk can last a few days or 5-10 minutes. Either way they are fun, engaging and provide an opportunity for teachers to provide a large amount of comprehensible input in a relatively short amount of time.
The best movies to use are short, wordless films because the story is already developed and the teacher simply needs to relay that story in a comprehensible, engaging way. The students’ interest is held by the visual aspect of this activity and the engagement of the class with the development of the story. One of my first movie talks was with Partly Cloudy. We had so much fun, and I was hooked! This technique is not limited to films, as you can also find short video clips, music videos or advertisements and simply use them with or without the sound.
Movie talk was developed by Dr. Ashley Hastings as part of the FOCAL SKILLS program to teach ESL at the university level. You can find the FOCAL SKILLS program description of and instructions for movie talks here. The progress made by the students, when this technique was first tried was huge, and movie talk was quickly found to work well with students learning any second language.
The process is rather simple. Select a film to use; the plot should be fairly obvious without words or the use of sound. Watch the film and form a list of vocabulary structures you wish to focus on throughout the film. Show the film with the sound off and pause after the opening scene. The teacher will then begin to describe the scene, including students in the detail building. Circling is a vital part of this technique to ensure comprehension and repetition of the focus structures. Once you have established the start of your story, you then continue to show the film in small segments building your story as the class views the video. Allowing the class to add in details (names, ages, locations, feelings, etc…), continues to build their interest and engagement as well as recycling old structures from the beginning of the year. It is also helpful to have students predict what they think will happen next. Many short films will end with a plot twist, so stopping just before this major twist will ensure the class’ full engagement through the end. Be sure to show the entire movie clip at the end without interruption or you may have some frustrated kids!
Some options do exist to personalize this method to your individual needs or to your class’ needs. For example, you can show the entire short film with sound at the beginning. This allows the class to see the full story and gives the class a sense of security when responding to questions about details. You might also use screenshots to create a powerpoint of the film and use this powerpoint to create the story with your class. The PowerPoint allows you to maintain a bit more controlled focus than with a live video starting and stopping, it also allows you to highlight very specific scenes and/or vocabulary structures. At the end of this process, you would then show the class the full video with sound. It is still advised to end your story in the PowerPoint just before the plot twist and allow the class to be surprised at the end. This surprise leads very nicely into a number of follow-up activities.
Once you have completed your movie talk, you can add in a variety of activities, which can range from reading, writing or speaking.
- You can type the story up and create a reading activity.
- You could give the students still frames of the video and ask them to retell the story to a partner or group.
- You can allow the students to create a new ending and write it out or even act it out.
- You can have students retell the story in a 1, 3, 5 minute retell. In one minute, students write down as many details as they can from the story. Then they copy what they wrote for one minute and keep writing for three minutes. Students do the same thing, but they keep going for the last five minutes. Students can also count how many words they write as many are impressed with the number of words that they can write.
- You get the students up and out of their seats to complete a running dictation.
- Students can recreate the story by taking pictures and editing them using Snapchat. This allows them to complete a digital storytelling of the movie. They can then retell the story using their own pictures instead of the still frames.
Have you tried movie talks and would like more ideas or ways to implement them? Check out these resources:
- Martina Bex always has wonderful summaries of ideas.
- Martina also has a database if you are looking for a movie to use in class.
- Bryan Kandel helps people who feel like they do not get enough out of movie talks.
- Dustin Williamson shares his ideas for the video the Present in both Spanish and French.
- Arianne also shares how she does movie talks with songs.
The beauty of the movie talk is that you can make it as simple or as complicated as you want; and can even use the same movie clip for multiple levels of a language instruction.
Post by Lynne Hendrick with Maris Hawkins