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Lessons Based on Movies

written by: Ncwujingjing • edited by: Linda M. Rhinehart Neas • updated: 9/11/2012

An original English movie providing students with images, sound and plots can be attractive material to learn English. However, simply watching a movie in class can hardly improve students' English. This article is going to give you some tips on how to teach movie-based ESL lessons.

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    Aiming at Improving Listening and Speaking Skills

    ESL students, even college students who have been studying English for 6 or 7 years, have accumulated a certain amount of vocabulary and know basic grammar, but once they speak with native speakers, it becomes very difficult.

    Why is it so hard for learners of English as a second language to speak just like native speakers of English? Native speakers would prefer to use "reduced speech" rather than "real speech". For example, one would say "Whaddya doin?" instead of "What are you doing?" In this sentence, three separate sounds become only a single linking sound and when people drop "g" from "ing".

    Cases like this occur every moment among native speakers. In fact, one seldom uses "real speech" in daily life when speaking. What's more, in the English world, people have rules to control their spoken English. When a word ending with letter "t" is followed by another word beginning with letter "y", then they should be pronounced as /ch/, such as "donchu", which means "don't you".

    The examples above cause listening problems for English learners.

    In addition, there is the problem of expressing oneself. For instance, as the ways of thinking are different, Chinese people often use Chinglish, which makes native speakers become confused. For example: When a Chinese person says "The traffic is quite convenient here." to a foreigner, the foreigner understand that what the person from China means is, "It's convenient to go anywhere from here." ESL students tend to use big words in expressions, mainly due to a lack of understanding of context.

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    How to Use a Movie in Class

    1. Choosing an Approriate Movie

    Usually girls prefer to watch love stories and boys prefer action movies. Pick a movie to show in segments that could please most of the students in class and make sure the things they are going to learn can be frequently used in real life.

    2. Getting the Synopsis of the Movie

    Due to the limited time in class, you should not simply play the movie in class. Tell students what you are going to do in the next class and let them watch it in advance if possible. Or, you could introduce the synopsis of the movie at beginning of the class. In this way, students would get a general idea about what's going on in the movie.

    3. Picking a Segment of the Movie to Play

    According to the levels of the students, decide what segment of the movie to view. I think it shouldn't be more than 5 minutes; otherwise it would be too much for ESL students to learn in one lesson.

    4. Printing the English Subtitles of the Chosen Segment

    Give each of the students a copy of the printed sheet so that it's easier for them to take notes when you explain those words and sentences. Point out the linking sound and explain new words and phrases, idioms and slang to students.

    5. Imitating

    Let students imitate the speaking tone by playing the video sentence by sentence. Then correct their pronunciation and intonation. This will take most of the time in class, because "practice makes perfect". Finally, play the video as a whole. If time permits, you could let students do role-playing.