Using short film to teach languages

This is a short guide I put together to give some ideas to teachers in my long placement school for using video in the languages classroom. It has links to websites with films and other resources as well as some ideas for how to use them.

Resources is the site of an international one minute film festival.  is another micro film festival for films of up to a minute and a half long.There are quite a few animated films on this site. is an annual event celebrating “the power of film”, loads of short films here too.  Loads of films on here including Pixar short films…just type in animated short films. Here are some good ones:

For the birds                                                                           Lifted

Alma                                                                                           Oktapodi

One minute guide to Planet Earth                                  Morph

French film

Comme un air

Not too much dialogue in this one so could be used with KS3.  Set in Paris, could be an introduction to a topic on Paris. Questions: Where is it set? How do you know? What landmarks do you recognise? etc

J’attendrai le suivant

This is a shortFrench film with quite a lot of dialogue. Might be best with an A-Level group or maybe year 11. 5 mins

Foutaises As the name suggests it’s pretty weird… but interetsing too. Again maybe best with A-level.

Spanish film

Not as much choice for Spanish films mainly because most Spanish film is filth. 🙂 Found a short film on youtube though with some Spanish dialogue at the end.

A primera vista

Ideas for how to use them

Vocabulary building

  • Write down the French / Spanish for all the words you know.  Now speak to your partner and add any words they knew to your list. Now work as a group – finally build a word list as a whole class.
  • Write down the English for 5/ 10 words you want to know how to say from the film. Look them up in the dictionary. Share with your partner / group. Come up with a list of the 10 most useful words from the film that you have learned.
  • In groups create a mind map about the film. Include details about the setting, charcters, events, etc. and come up with a mind map with vocabulary / ideas about the film.

Speaking practice

  • Describe what happens in the film. (could use present or past for this).
  • What happeneded before the film started? What is going to happen next.
  • Describe the setting / music / characters.
  • Reorder the screenshots in the correct order – communicate in TL.

Writing practice

  • Retell the story. Could use screenshots from the film to encourage students to write more. (To take a screenshot just (press Prnt Scrn – then crop the image and either save in a Powerpoint or in word doc to print out)
  • Subtitle the film – again take some screenshots and ask students to create subtitles for what the characters are or could be saying..

Reading practice

  • Arrange the sentences in the order that they occurr in the film. (Type some TL sentences to describe what happened in the film and then ask students to work together to put them in the right order.) Extension could be to translate them into English.
  • True or false questions relating to what happened in the film.

Grammar practice

  • Films could be used to pracrtice any grammar point depending on what happens in the film. The most obvious ones are tenses.
  • Particularly good for past tense practice (eg. imperfectvs preterite – classify the sentences into preterite / imperfect. Decide why it is preterite / imperfect based on the grammar rules presented.
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What does language learning hell look like?

Recently I have been thinking about what learning a new language should look like. As a secondary PGCE student I haven’t really got any time to do waste on things like this because I should be writing essays and planning lessons…  but I’m feeling self-indulgent so I’m going to run with it.

To start with I got thinking about what  happens when a student turns up at an average comprehensive to learn languages. What would I think of learning a language in the way many of us teach it to our students? This is what language learning hell would look like for me.

1. The teacher determines where the learning starts for me irrespective of my prior learning / ability. There is little meaningful discussion between myself and the  teacher about my current level, my motivation or my interests before teaching commences.

2. I have very little autonomy. The teacher chooses the subject and all materials. I am taught in chunks (my family, my bedroom) etc. I can say that my cupboard is opposite my chest of drawers but I have no idea when I would ever want to utter these words. (I suspect that the reason the teacher chooses these subjects is mainly habit (s/he has taught them before, or follows the textbook etc.)

3. I move through the syllabus at the same time and at the same pace as all the other pupils. Although weaker students in my class are given some support and more able pupils are given extension activities the materials, subjects and pace are  largely the same for most of us and are solely dictated by the teacher.

4. I am not encouraged to become independent of the teacher. Materials and exercises are simply provided for me by the teacher and I am told when to start and when to stop working on them. The reason for many of these exercises is unclear.  I am not expected to bring to class my own ideas for the topics or mediums (film, stories, news, music?) that I would like to explore to learn about the language and culture I am studying.

5. I am not given explicit information on how to learn a language. I am not made aware of strategies for learning vocabulary or useful multimedia resources. The link between words and sounds is not explored in my classes.

6. There is little space built into the schemes of work for reflection, self / peer assessment and teacher assessment of my work. Following assessment I am given little information about the mistakes I have made.The teacher does not point me towrds information or exercise to correct these mistakes.  Instead my progress is described to me by national curriculum level which I have little interest in or understanding of.

Sounnds pretty bad right?…and pretty familiar?

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