Teaching With Movies [10 Easy Ideas]

Our world is dominated by the visual element. The moving image in particular, movies, is gaining in both popularity and importance. Movies are everywhere: from YouTube videos, to your social media timeline, to Netflix and the other streaming services. They are a medium that is globally accessible. Teaching with movies is now easier than ever.

Movies attract students through the power of story-telling. They contextualize language through the flow of images, making it easier to understand and process. Teaching with movies enhances the learners’ motivation to engage with a narrative, because movies have a high emotional charge. The combination of sound, vision, and language engages our senses and stimulates our cognitive faculties, creating a total impact far stronger than any other medium.

In ELT, teaching with movies offers a wide range of alternatives. Movies have a grammar and discourse of their own that we need to decode if we are to understand the meanings they contain.

Here are some ways to integrate movies with language learning, start teaching with movies, and develop your students’ linguistic powers.

1. ‘Worst Movie’ Survey

CEFR Level: A2 | Duration: 30 minutes

  • Students create a simple survey form which includes student name, movie and reason.
  • Each student must interview five other students.
  • Students go round in the classroom, ask each other what is the worst movie they have seen, and fill out the form.
  • Students read the most interesting answers to the class.

2. All-time Favorites

CEFR Level: A2 | Duration: 20 minutes

  • Students form groups of three or four.
  • They make lists of their top five favorite movies. They discuss what they especially like about them.
  • Each group presents the list to the rest of the class. They explain why they have chosen these particular movies.
  • All students together decide (or vote) on the top ten favorite movies of the class.
teaching with movies

3. Trivia Quiz

CEFR Level: A2 | Duration: 60 minutes

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  • Students form small groups of three.
  • Each group decides secretly on a movie.
  • Students go to IMDB and look for trivia of the movie.
  • Each group produces five quiz questions on the movie trivia.
  • The other groups try to guess the movie.
  • The group with the most correct guesses wins. In case of a tie, the group that guessed the movie with the fewest questions wins.

4. Official Trailer

CEFR Level: B1 | Duration: 30 minutes

  • Students watch the trailer of a movie they haven’t seen.
  • They discuss the genre (drama, comedy, action, romantic etc.).
  • They try to figure out the plot.
  • They make notes on any information that is given in the trailer, such as title, actors’ names, launch date etc.

5. Expert Eyewitness

CEFR Level: A2 | Duration: 30 minutes

  • The teacher chooses a dramatic scene from a famous movie and shows it to class. Good ideas are a bank robbery, a car accident, a fight etc.
  • Students are asked to give testimonies to the police (or reporters).
  • The teacher asks them questions, such as ‘what happened first’, ‘how many people did you see’, ‘what were they wearing’, ‘what cars were they driving’ etc.

6. Sound and Vision

CEFR Level: A2 | Duration: 20 minutes

  • Students watch a dramatic scene from a movie.
  • The teacher asks them afterwards what images they can remember from the clip.
  • The teacher asks them what sounds they heard.
  • Students discuss in turns how the scene made them feel.

7. Frozen Frame

CEFR Level: A2 | Duration: 60 minutes

  • Students form small groups.
  • The teacher shows them a highly dramatic scene and pauses the video right before the climax.
  • Students discuss within their groups and try to predict what happens next in the movie.
  • The teacher plays the rest of the scene and the group that has guessed correctly wins.

8. Everyone’s a Critic

CEFR Level: B1 | Duration: 45 minutes

  • Each student chooses a movie they like.
  • Students go to Rotten Tomatoes and look at the reviews.
  • They try to find one positive and one negative review.
  • They note down the key points each reviewer makes.
  • They write a summary of each review.

9. Three Trailers

CEFR Level: B1 | Duration: 40 minutes

  • Students watch the trailers of three different movies.
  • They make notes on the movie information (i.e. genre, title, actors, director etc.).
  • They discuss which trailer they liked best and which movie they would like to see.

10. Lost in Translation

CEFR Level: B1 | Duration: 20 minutes

  • The teacher finds several movies whose titles have been ‘freely’ translated into the local language.
  • Students form small groups and decide on the accurate translation of the titles.
  • In groups, they try to come up with titles that represent the movie better in the local language.

If you are teaching with movies and videos, feel free to add your own ideas in the comments section below!

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Savas Savides
Education born and bred. I have worked as a teacher for many private language schools, as a test centre administrator, as a teacher trainer, as an educational consultant, and as a publisher. I am an advocate for literacy and a huge proponent of using technology in the classroom. I have a BA in English and an MBA in Marketing. I mostly write about English Language Teaching. I live in sunny Athens.

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