What English movie have you shown in a class, why, what did u do?

I’m thinking about showing an English movie one time this semester to my uni classes, but since this is something they could just do by themselves, I want to add something more. Any ideas on a good film to choose for some reason, and what kind of activity you did with it?

Keep in mind, I’ve got to get it here, so it can’t be anything too obscure, like “Harold and Maude” IMHO, the best film of all time. :smiley:

Teach a classic. Stay away from action movies. Try and get a movie that you can rent on DVD (NOT VCD), because you can then put on the English subtitles to help them along. I’ve had good success with The Wizard of Oz, Casablanca, An Affair to Remember, Rebecca, and Roman Holiday. Once I taught City Slickers, but the students were interested in understanding every freaking joke that Billy Crystal cracked, so progress was slow. Still, they enjoyed it.

Make sure you get a script for the movie and get the students to act it out. Cheesy love scenes are the best, but I find that Taiwanese get embarrassed easily, so I usually make the guys read the female parts, and vice versa. It’s more absurd, and they are less likely to feel self-conscious.

I agree with using a well-known classic (even if it’s fairly recent); one that other speakers of English will likely know. That way it’s not only interesting for the student, but it’s a good topic for small talk in English.

You can get many scripts right off the internet. I haven’t done it, so I can’t point you to a specific site, but my colleagues have found them quite easily.

Another option is to just show them part of the movie, a few key scenes. That way, you have more time to ensure a good level of comprehension and do activities related to the scene. You can encourage them to go out and rent the movie for themselves to watch it to the end.

I once showed Snatch and told them I wanted them to pay particular attention to Brad Pitt. The movie is flush with a wide variety of English accents and too, non-native English accents ala that Russian chap.

A tad mean perhaps but my point was that there are more interesting accents and spoken English around than merely the beloved “North American”. I was also stressing that the whole concern about accents was total bollocks.


At my all female college class we critiqued the cult classic “Naughty Asian Schoolgirls”. They all took a role and we acted it out, again and again…
:smiling_imp: :smiling_imp: :smiling_imp: :smiling_imp: :smiling_imp:

The (Oscar winning) Wallace and Gromit films - claymation - are also available in a special ‘teaching english’ format. The dialogue was altered slightly, eg the word ‘perchance’ was dropped.

I haven’t seen them, but the British Council may have them.

There’s info at teflfarm.com/teachers/interviews/viney.htm

I’ve toyed with the idea of showing ‘shorts’ rather than a full movie. If you can find 5 or 10 minute material you can do the whole script, review, act out, etc. in one class.

Nick Parks recently made some Wallace and Gromit shorts. Another idea is for some amateur stuff - for instance a short film competition currently underway in the USA: nycmidnight.com/index.htm

Austin Powers International Man of Mystery

Possible activities

Show a short lively scene without any sound (e.g. a couple fighting). Have the students write a script for the characters (e.g. what are they fighting about?) After they take turns acting out their own scripts, replay the original scene WITH the sound. Give them the actual script to review in groups. Go over the script with them answering questions and clarifying.

Get an easy-reader book (depends on the level of the class) that tells the story of the movie. As you (or the class) read through the story, show highlights/crucial events from the movie. That could be done over a week or two, just 15 minutes at a time.

Do it like a listening exercise. Choose a scene and ask a few general questions (e.g. Are these people friends? a couple? strangers?). Show the scene and students discuss in groups. Review answers. Ask more specific questions (e.g. what are they talking about? What is her name?). Show the scene again, discuss. Give them a copy of the script with key words or common phrases or whatever your lesson focus is blanked out. Etc.

Just ideas. I’m sure others have different ideas of how they’d use movies in class. I’ve actually used some of the videos that go with the textbooks. Some of them are terrible and a waste of time - too contrived and pointless. Others are better quality and even fun to watch for native speakers. And if you’re on a tight schedule, they are short, self-contained and focused.

Instead of movies, consider non-fiction segments such as short reports from 60 Minutes, Discovery Channel or the like on topics related to what your students are covering in class or topics they’re otherwise interested in.

Showing a movie is a waste of time, but then as the teacher that may be hitting the nail right on the head.
Movies are too long.
Here is what I did once a long time ago: Taped TV commercials from the States. They are short, have a definite theme, have visuals that are purposeful, and language that is generally useful.
You would be amazed at the mileage you can get out of a 30-second spot.
As far as showing the classics, probably not a good idea. Certainly not black and white era. These people didn’t grow up with this (did you?) and they think these films are boring museum pieces. Like it or not, they want to see modern films (if you have to subject them to a two-hour marathon at all).

Here are a few tips about teaching with movies:

  • Find out what the policy is at your university/college about showing movies. I know of several schools that are against showing movies during class-time. (In one case, several teachers were chewed out by the school president for “showing too many movies.” OUCH!)

  • If you have to sign up to use the classroom where the movie will be shown, make sure to sign up in advance. Don’t wait until the last minute.

  • Your taste in films probably differs from your students. Try giving them a choice. You can ask them early on which movie they would like to see, or bring a selection of 3 or 4 movies and let them choose then.

  • Take a look at what other teachers have done in this area. ESLflow’s page on movies is a good place to start.

Also be aware that you will most likely ruin whatever film you show as far as being something that they think of fondly in the future. I have a friend that has seen Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon in her Chinese class so many times (and sections over and over) that she says that the film was “good” but would probably rather go to the dentist than even talk about the film now.

The best movie that I’ve used with my Uni classes has been Dirty Rotten Scoundrels. I found that comedies have always worked best and this one has the right combination of Physical and spoken comedy. Students are familiar with Steve Martin but have rarely seen this movie and have always enjoyed viewing it. I usually set up the plot and show the final hour to my students. Students are asked to fill in a worksheet as they view, answering questions such as, What are the character names? Where is the setting? Time of year? Favourite scene and so on.

I would disagree witrh Wolfe and say that Movies have a place in the classroom (all be it rarely), I have seen students feel encouraged when they realize they do understand vast chunks of the movie (with subtitles), However, movies are primarily a source of entertainment and should be equally enjoyed as well as analyzed.

There is definately a lazy way to “teach” movies, and one should avoid this trap, but otherwise go ahead and enjoy.

I’ve been showing my Saturday morning kids E.T. for the past couple of weeks. Instead of having the kids read the original script, I think I’ll have them try and write a few scenes summarizing the main story themselves, and then have them act out that. And some Q+A games about what went on in the movie - why did character X perform action Y?

With my elementary school students I read Charlotte’s Web aloud to them and then we watched Babe to compare and contrast the characters. It might even be good for high school students since there are lots of themes that they could relate to. It’s the only movie I personally have put before them aside from National Geographic specials relating to a topic we are covering.

I love the ideas from ckvw. I have done the movie scenes without sound and have them narrate the actions going on and then pause it to have them predict what will happen next or do response activities like what would you do if you were so-and-so or after the movie write an epilogue for the story. Also doing sitcoms or weekly dramas is good if you want shorter storylines than a feature-length movie might have. Check out Atom Films (atomfilms.com) for other short movies (although getting a script is pretty much impossible unless you listen and write it yourself)
Commercials are wonderful because they bring in lots of culture and give good collocations for students to use (Where do you want to go today?) and bits of culture that are light and easy to digest because they require only a short little span of attention to get.
The music in commercials can also be an interesting topic. You could get the lyrics for songs in commercials and play them and have the students match the type of product being advertised and ask the students why they think that song might be used for a certain product.

Withnail and I
The Wall

Check out this section of Johanna Katchen’s website:

English Learning through DVD Films and the Internet

You can also catch her speak about using multimedia in the classroom at the upcoming ETA-ROC November 7-9 in Taipei
Her session is on Saturday afternoon, Nov 8. Click on “program” and scroll through list of multimedia for more speakers’ presentations on this subject.
It seems most of the multimedia workshops are after lunch (1pm onwards) and on Friday and Saturday afternoons only.

You are having a laugh, aren’t you? I can just imagine a new generation of Taiwanese youngsters going into teashops demanding ‘the finest wines in the land’ or whatever it was.

That’s the old thing about Eng. Lit. classes spoiling stories by analysing them too much. It totally depends on how you do it. If done properly it can very much enhance students’ understanding and appreciation of a book or film.

[quote=“Alien”]Check out this section of Johanna Katchen’s website:

English Learning through DVD Films and the Internet[/quote]
Thanks Alien, that site looks interesting & I look forward to reading it thoroughly later.

Watching movies as self-study, particularly to complement a structured language course, can be really great. I met a woman in Kaoshiung who spoke fluently and confidently. I asked her how and where she learned. She told me that it was mostly from watching HBO movie channel! Admittedly people who can benefit to that degree from that material alone are exceptional, but it does point toward something.

I’m always trying to persuade parents that making their children watch at least one English-language movie per week, be it action, comedy or whatever, is really useful. I suggest to them that if they rent a DVD, they watch it one day with the Chinese subtitles, and the next day with the English ones. As long as the plot is simple and involving enough, it doesn’t matter that they don’t understand every word - it’s what somebody (Krashen?) described as ‘roughly graded input’, where students are on the limits of their comprehension abilities but can get the gist. It’s like rocket fuel for improving comprehension and even speaking.


Sounds like we have similar style when it comes to using media in class. I think it can be fun to do those shorts such as commercials or sitcoms, if carefully chosen.