I love to use short films in my classes. They add colour and variety to the lesson in a way that I’ve found students really enjoy. Furthermore, due to their brevity, you get the opportunity to share an entire narrative with students in a very quick way that is difficult to achieve with other media.
The following films are ones that I think have great potential for use in the ELT classroom. The one quality that they all share, apart from their length, is that they contain little or no dialogue. This is crucial to me, as most of the time I don’t want to use them as traditional listening activities just as I don’t generally like to use literature for explicit vocabulary acquisition. To me, the joy of the narrative form is in the characters, the story, the mood, the message and the opportunity to react with an opinion.
By using videos which have hardly any dialogue, if any at all, the distraction of language is removed. The students can then focus on the much more important task of reacting to the content with their own beliefs, ideas and their own language, which you can then work on together.
I used this film in a movie review writing class, and it was a hit with my adult students.
Idea: Students often find it hard to retell a narrative. Show the film once and ask the students to collaborate on summarising the events of the story. You can then show the film again and ask them to fill in their blanks.
This is also a great film to use if you’re teaching movies. Make sure you show it until the end!
Idea: As you show the film, ask your students to write down as many of the movie genres they see in the film as they can. After you’ve collected all the genres, you can ask them to add any genres that weren’t included.
Loose Fit – Table Beggar
Here’s a music video that gives you a unique look at identity.
Idea: Stop the video at 1:10 and ask the students to guess what they think the man looks like. You can ask them to write a description or draw a picture.
Idea 2: There are many interesting questions that this video raises:
- Who is the man?
- How did this happen to him?
- Has he always been like this or has it just happened?
- What is wrong with him – is his problem literal or metaphorical?
- What kind of life do you think he has had?
- What do you think he should do next?
This is the most grown up of all the films due to the fact in contains a couple of acts violence, although nothing I would consider inappropriate in my adult classroom. Again this is a film that poses a lot of questions.
Idea: The most obvious area of interest in the film is ‘the unicorn’. What does that mean? What is in the box? Why does the android apologise to the box?
Idea 2: A boy finds the gift at the end of the film. Ask the students to speculate what will happen to him after he collects the box from the lake.
I have to declare a vested interest here. This film is directed by one of my oldest friends, but it’s not here out of nepotism. It’s a unique, fun film, the like of which you and your students have probably never seen before.
Idea: Ask the students to write a script so the ‘dialogue’ of the film is replaced by actual spoken words. They can then perform their version along with the film for the rest of the class.
Here’s one that’s probably best used with kids. Again, just make sure you show it all the way to the end!
Idea: Cooperation is the theme here, so play the video until 1:57 and ask them what they think is going to happen next. Will the rabbit and the racoon react in the same way as the moose and the bear, or will they do something different?