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  • Writer's pictureDiana Nazaryan

And... Cut! Movie Making for an ESL Lesson

Most of the ESL books for young learners have a cartoon section. The usual instruction is: "Listen, read and act it out". If you know about the different learning styles and Total Physical Response, you should realise how important act-out activities are. Not only do they develop listening, reading, speaking and pronunciation skills but they also allow the students to use the language in a realistic context facilitating the natural grammar and vocabulary acquisition.

I had been acting out the stories long before I started filming them. The idea came to me spontaneously. I wanted to encourage my students to perform as well as they could and make sure they learnt the words and phrases right. So I came up with the following scenario. I told my students to imagine that they were actors at a filming set. If they failed to perform well, the shot was spoilt and we would need to redo it. Then I realised that I could really film the process. Why?


The presence of a camera makes the whole "moviemaking" experience much more realistic and fun. Most of my students turn pages trying to figure out the time when they will be able to make a movie. They try hard knowing that their performance is going to be on the video.


These videos are a good way to show the parents and the wider audience (given you have the parents consent) what you do during the classes and how well (hopefully) your students can speak English.

How Exactly is It Done?

The basic steps are very similar to those in skill-based lessons. Lead-in

Ask the students to look at the pictures and say what they think is going on. Alternatively, you can draw their attention to a particular detail, puzzle, anything to get them interested and start to think on the topic. PTV You can use Quizlet or any other ways you'd prefer to do that. Task 1 Ask them to listen and read the text. Ask them to answer the general idea question posted for the activity. Task 2 This is also given in the book and is usually a True/False or Matching task. Role Assignment Assign the roles. It is generally a good idea to give them some degree of freedom but remember, you are in charge. Here are some tips that might be useful: * write the roles on sheets of paper and allow them to draw their role * if there are too few students, allow the stronger ones take several roles * if there are too many students, assign the same role to different students. You can then either have a movie where the main actors change along the line (each image is an independent conversation, so this isn't usually a huge issue) or you can shoot the movie twice. To keep the rest of the group busy, you may ask them to do exercises from the upcoming homework. For other tips on how to keep everyone busy check the classroom management tips. Pronunciation Check One To ensure your students' natural pronunciation, pause the recording at the end of each picture or replica. Ask them to repeat their words and correct any mistakes. Pronunciation Check Two Ask your students to read the "script" in roles. Preparation Give your students some time to memorise the words. The average time I allocate for this is five minutes. Once you have done this activity several times, you may ask your students how long they think it will take. They are usually quite realistic about it. Rehearsal This step is optional. You might ask them to act out the part to check whether they have mastered the words and how natural their acting is. Filming We normally film picture by picture. Few to no proms are used. We are usually very creative about what can represent what. To make the process realistic you may say "Three, Two, One...Action!" Have fun!

NB I make movies with beginner and elementary students as well to help them memorise situational conversations from the textbook.

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