Thursday, May 29, 2014

Movie Talk/Movie Shorts

Rachel has been documenting our experience in a county in-service on Comprehensible Input led by Keith Toda, Bob Patrick and Lauren Watson. I won't repeat what she's already written, but you can read her first post here. I will say that, having taught using CI methods for 4 years, I am loving this conference and am learning some amazing new things!

One of the activities they covered, which I have come to love this year (absolutely love) is called Movie Talk/Movie Shorts. When I heard we were doing them, I quite nearly jumped out of my seat with excitement, almost ruining at least three people's coffees, including my own. That is how much I love this activity.

The particular example I will be sharing is from my own untextbooking unit on the Sea and, particularly, Pliny's story about the Octopus in book 9 of his Historia Naturalis.

Set Up
  1. Choose your video. I chose films based on, primarily, the vocabulary I was working with. I can edit the grammar to be whatever I want for whatever level I want, but the vocabulary needs to be sheltered, so this was key. For this particular unit, I was focusing on words like polypus (octopus), transcendit (climb across), and tam/adeo/tantus...ut... (he was so.... that...). Youtube has a wide variety of videos. All one has to do is search for Pixar Shorts, Disney Shorts, or movie shorts.
  2. Write Your Script. You won't need it except for the first few times you use it, but it is good to have it written down, especially since you will be pausing the video in key spots. I found this to be, by far, the most time consuming of the project, but even then, if you have chosen a video and know your end goals clearly, it did not take more than a few minutes. 
  3. Set up support activities. This is a great CI activity that you can use for one day or for multiple days. You can use other activities like TPR and TPRS with this. After we spent the first day going through this video, we then did it daily for a while, but only once, and paired with embedded readings, PQA, and TPRS. 
1. First, show the video - without interruption. This is a key step for a few reasons. It lets the kids familiarise themselves with the video and story line and, if it is particularly cute, funny, scary, or has a twist ending, they get to enjoy it. Here's the video I used.

2. Show the film again. This time, pause it at your pre-determined places and fill it with vocabulary. If you are using this to introduce new vocabulary, be sure to limit it to 3-4 new words/phrases. So, in this video, I would pause and introduce, new words are underlined - polypus (octopus), amat (loves), vir (man), rapta (stolen), coquus (cook), autoraeda (car), currit (run), transcendit (climb across), and so on...

3. Show the film a third time. This time, pause again, and give your sentences from your script. Be sure to move slowly, point to new words/images, etc. Here is the script I wrote for this film.

4. Show the movie a fourth time. This time, you can start asking questions and circling. Be sure to repeat the sentences from your script, circle new words and phrases multiple times, and ensure student understanding. When students start finishing the sentences for you, you know they are ready to start producing.

Follow Up

There are quite a few follow up activities for this kind of activity. I mentioned PQA, TPR, and TPRS as supplemental, but they can surely follow this activity as well. I would, for sure, recommend a follow up activity, but I would also caution to make sure the activity fits the needs of the unit and class interest. 
  • Embedded Reading - You can make an embedded reading based on the video and your script or on any TPRS work you've done with this vocabulary. I did not do an embedded reading with this particular video, but it is something I am considering for next year for every video, even if we don't use it in class, to give students that opportunity and resource. 
  • PQA - This can be used while working with the video or after. You can ask students questions about a time when they experienced what the characters experienced or were in a similar situation. 
  • Sentence Frames - I used this as a set up activity with this video, asking students to imagine a monster invading their home and what would happen. You can use it after, especially with a video that has a twist ending, to lead into some PQA or a really nice TPRS story and embedded reading. 
  • Timed Write - This is the follow up I chose, for this video. When students are ready to produce, give them time to complete a writing of all they can about the video. I found that after doing the video repeatedly, students easily increased their writing time and wanted more time to finish their own writing. 
  • Group Discussion - This is another follow up I did. Students were put in groups and practiced their own script for the film. I liked this because it allowed me to see who took the lead and who didn't as well as which groups remembered what the best. I could quickly assess what I needed to review and what we could keep moving forward with. 
Student Reactions
I am going to talk about this more in an "end of the year review" post soon, but overall my students love this activity. I think I only had one student say (s)he didn't like it. students found it helpful, entertaining, interesting, and informative. These are often videos they know and love and they really enjoy the comedy/tragedy of it all. Some of their specific feedback
  • It makes it easier to see and understand vocabulary. 
  • It is fun to watch and talk about. 
  • The combined visual and oral aspect make it easy to grasp the ideas behind what we learn. 
  • It's easy to talk about and get into. 
  • I look forward to this. 
The simple fact that students like it and look forward to it makes me want to do it more often. I enjoy this activity, immensely, and the students feed off my excitement making it low stress, which raises student acquisition. 

Let me know if you try this activity and, if you do, what videos you use. :)


  1. I have done this and I am doing it for my exam with a couple classes. I, however, didn't pick a video based on a unit, although that is a great idea. I picked a fun video and picked some high frequency structures. I find it difficult to find the exact video for predetermined vocab or structures. I am doing a video partly cloudy, but it isn't based on a unit. Wonder if it would be better if I had a unit in mind? .

  2. I used Partly Cloudy last year, using Bob Patrick's script to teach a particular grammar topic, so vocabulary wasn't the base. In our in-service, they chose Partly Cloudy as the base and then chose vocabulary surrounding it. I think it works any of these ways. My kids really enjoyed this as a support for our larger units, but I think they would enjoy it either way.

    With the IIIs last year, I also gave them a short called La Luna and they had to write their own script. It was interesting to see what vocabulary they came up with as essential for the story. I wouldn't do this, however, except with upper levels who are ready to self edit.