Each film is broken down into segments that last from 10 to 15 minutes. Begin each lesson with a comprehension exercise. Select one from a choice of two to fit the level of your students (an ordering activity, a question/ answer exercise or in some cases a true/false exercise). Distribute the questions to students. Ask them to read the questions and then put their papers face down. They should not fill out answers while they are watching and listening or they will miss parts of the film when they are writing. Once the 10 to 15 minute segment is viewed, ask students to turn over their papers and answer the questions. They then repeat this: turn over the papers a second time, view the segment, and then answer the remaining questions. The first time, students are getting to know the characters and action. During the second screening, they truly begin listening for language.
For most films, we list vocabulary that is either necessary for the comprehension of the film or necessary in order to discuss the film. You may deal with this vocabulary prior to screening the film or as the vocabulary comes up in discussions. You may wish to add additional vocabulary depending on your students. When appropriate, we have added cultural notes for you to discuss with your students. As authentic documents, films are incredibly rich in culture.
Once you have screened the movie twice and gone over the comprehension exercise, you are ready to begin working on the communicative activities in the packet. Some exercises are based directly on what happens in the film. Some exercises take certain aspects of the film as a jumping off point for a communicative activity. The bottom line here is to get students to speak in response to an authentic cultural document in large and small group activities using language in context.
When students work in small groups, they use a lot more language than when a teacher is asking questions in front of a class. For most of our communicative activities, you will want to give students time to develop, share and process ideas in the target language within the safety of a small group. When the teacher brings the class back to the large group for processing, students feel more comfortable in sharing what their group has produced (they have practiced in small groups) and are interested in hearing what other groups have to say.
All lessons have a follow-up homework exercise which is often, though not always, a short writing exercise. Again, these exercises relate in some way to the film sequences they have viewed.
Choosing the right language level for a film should be based on two factors: content and how you use subtitles. If the film is more adult in content, you might want to limit its use to advanced levels. Good sense should prevail and teachers should be sensitive to district policies regarding film content for the classroom.
The issue of subtitles is a far more complex question but a critical one. As a good speaker, my eyes are still drawn to the subtitles and I become a lazy listener. Can we realistically expect our students not to read subtitles if they are on the screen when we ourselves have trouble not reading them? Subtitles must be covered or removed to derive the greatest benefit in listening comprehension.
For high school students in the fourth year of language learning and beyond (intermediate or beyond at the college level), subtitles should be removed during both screenings. Students do not need to understand every word to comprehend a film. In fact, questions are based on what students see as well as what students hear so every student can be successful in answering questions.
For first and second year students who will need to see subtitles during one of the two screenings, there are two ways of handling this. You may show the segment to students with the subtitles removed the first time. They must then work at deciphering the text. Then the second time through, show the film with the subtitles exposed so that they can pick up what they missed the first time around.
The second method is just the opposite. Allow students to see the segment with subtitles exposed the first time so that comprehension is established. The second time through, remove the subtitles so that students listen for language. We feel that the first method challenges students more, but you must choose what is best for your group.
Therefore, you may use the same film (content allowing) for advanced as well as lower levels. What changes are your expectations for production. For advanced classes, remove the subtitles for both viewings. For lower levels, allow students to see the subtitles during one screening. By the way, there is no sophisticated way to cover subtitles on videos. We just cover them with a sheet of paper. Most DVDs give you the option of removing subtitles.
These lesson plans can be used for multiple levels in the same classroom, but you need to tailor the activities to the learner. The more advanced the level, the more you can expect from the student in terms of language production. So much is communicated visually through the medium of film that all students can be successful.
The third year student (early intermediate at the college level) is the most problematic. Which way do you go as far as whether to see the film with or without subtitles? Here, it depends on the difficulty of the film and the level of your students. If you feel the language in the film is simple enough, cover the subtitles both times. If the language in the film is more difficult, allow students to see subtitles for one screening. Just remember that your students are capable of functioning in the language more than they think they can. Don't underestimate their ability. Within a few lessons, they will come to realize that they don't need those subtitles.
Since most of our plans have approximately nine lessons, it would be unrealistic for most teachers to take two weeks out of their curriculum to study a movie. We suggest doing our lesson plans one day per week. I personally like to do a movie on Mondays. This way, students either don't have homework over the weekend or the homework I assign isn't due until Tuesday. In addition, if I don't finish the entire lesson in one period, I can pick up and re-enter some of the communicative activities on subsequent days.
Students have been known to beg and plead to see the entire film all at once. They get so involved they are unwilling to wait. Don't give in. They do remember the film from week to week, and this gives them something to look forward to. They will consider "movie day" a day off from work. The irony, of course, is that they are working on all the important language skills--listening, reading, speaking and writing.
Ask your students to research various aspects of the film under study via the Internet. There are many web sites out there that provide plot summaries and reviews of interest.
We chose a number of Disney films for our program. The language is generally accessible to beginning language students. Since most students are already familiar with the films, basic comprehension is not an issue. Students can truly concentrate on language. Although Disney films are not culturally authentic, the language is 100% authentic and enables our beginning learners to take advantage of the power of film. They should not be deprived of the experience of film just because they are beginners.
There are more than enough activities in the packets so that you can pick and choose what is of interest to you and your students. You do not have to do every exercise. If you have too many exams to grade, perhaps this is not the week to assign a composition. Perhaps you think of another great activity. Just add it to the packet. Mold these packets to fit your teaching style and your students. With our lesson plans, you don't have to start from scratch.
Activities were designed to address all learning styles as well as addressing the multiple intelligences. They meet the 5Cs as well. There is something for everyone. You can also integrate grammar units you are working on. For example, ask students to write about or relate what they saw using the past and imperfect tenses. Or propose some "if" statements that they have to complete using the correct tense. The possibilities are endless.
You have permission to duplicate any and all student activity sheets for your students. Duplication of teacher lessons and explanations is a violation of copyright.