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Automatic English For The People

Saturday, April 15, 2006

Movie Technique

by AJ

At IIC, I have finally gotten the chance to practice the movie technique. I use it everyday now.... and it is FANTASTIC! I love it. The students seem to love it. And they are learning quickly.

Now that Ive had some time to practice.... Ive discovered a few tips to make it more effective:

*Use the Technique
Yesterday, our school showed "Bridgett Jones's Diary" to all the students in the school. They showed it all the way through without pause.

Frankly, this is next to useless (except, perhaps, for the most advanced students). The input was much too fast and much too difficult for most students. They therefore acquired absolutely NO new language. Not a single new vocabulary word, or phrase,.. nothing. Perhaps this "lesson" helped a few practice listening... and maybe a bit of pronunciation.. but even this is doubtful.

The whole point of the movie technique is that the teacher helps make the material comprehensible. You do this by pausing, explaining, and paraphrasing. You also do this by repeating each scene several times. This does work... it works GREAT! But just showing a movie at full speed.... sort of pointless.

*TV Shows
Im discovering that TV shows are often better to use than movies. Movies do work well... we finished "Hitch" last month and it was great. But a full length movie takes a very long time to get through compared to a 30 minute TV show.

Currently Im using "Friends". The plots are simpler. The episodes are shorter. And there's another advantage: the characters are simple and always the same. I think this helps comprehension. As students get to know each character, they are better able to guess and understand what they say and do. They understand their basic personalities and motivations.

Finally, TV shows tend to use simpler language... useful for intermediate and low-intermediate students (when I switch to teaching the advanced class next month, I may return to using more complex movies).

*Discussion
The traditional approach to discussion is to give the class a scenario or topic, then ask them to talk about it. This topic often comes from out of the blue. In my experience, results are hit and miss.

Using movies/TV shows is MUCH better. Now, all my discussion topics grow naturally out of the scenes we've watched that day. Wednesday we watched a scene in which Chandler is trying to break up with his girlfriend. So that day we discussed the topic, "What is the best way to break up with someone... how would you do it... and what is normal in your culture". This turned out to be a very interesting discussion.

In fact, since I switched to basing topics on movie scenes... the richness, length, and energy of our discussions has improved dramatically.

Tip: Always try to relate the scene(s) to your students personal life. This is also a basic principle of TPRS: Personalize It!!

*Review
As we learn new phrases from the movie/show, I write them on the "vocab wall". Then, each morning, I review the vocab wall with students. I ask them the meaning of the phrases/words, ask them to use them in a sentence... and often ask them to remember what scene the word/phrase came from. Sometimes I simply ask them to do this in pairs/groups... sometimes I do it with the whole class.

I find this helps the new words, phrases, grammar "stick".



San Francisco, CA

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