Watching movies is a time-honored way for students to hone their listening skills, improve their pronunciation, and expand their vocabulary. I consistently encourage my students to watch movies in English at home, with and without English subtitles, and ask them to track their movie-watching hours in their Success Book logs.
To prepare students for making movie-watching an integral part of their language learning, I frequently showcase movie trailers or movie scenes in class.
Among the films that have proven popular with my students are Apollo 13, The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency, Man on Wire; Food, Inc. and The King’s Speech.
If you are unsure how best to incorporate movies into the ESL classroom, or are looking to expand your range of film-based classroom activities, the good news is that there is a terrific website you can consult. Film English comes complete with film clips, step-by-step lesson plans, discussion questions, and a host of downloadable materials that you can copy or modify for use in class.
Recently, I turned to Film English’s lesson plan on public speaking to help my students prepare for a series of oral presentations they were scheduled to make in my class. Showcasing The King’s Speech (a riveting film released in 2010 about the struggle of Great Britain’s King George VI to overcome his debilitating stammer with the help of an unorthodox speech therapist), Film English includes a very well-thought out set of group discussion questions that help students reflect on their attitudes and feelings about public speaking.
Since many students dread speaking in public in their own languages, let alone in English, I was impressed that the Film English discussion questions prompted students to focus not just on their fears but on occasions when they spoke in public and things went well. Remembering a time when they felt successful in speaking publicly and deconstructing what led to that success helps bolster their confidence for the future.
Film English’s public speaking lesson plan also includes a helpful PowerPoint that highlights five pragmatic pieces of advice about public speaking based on The King’s Speech. A great way to use these materials is to show students a few key scenes of The King’s Speech, and then to ask them to think about how they would advise others preparing to speak publicly. You can then unveil the five “presentation lessons” that Film English’s creator Kieran Donaghy cleverly draws from The King’s Speech, and ask the students to reflect on and discuss what concrete steps they might want to take to incorporate that advice into their own public speaking.
Film English’s lesson plans are searchable by subject and by level, making them a useful tool in a wide range of classes. Many lessons are based on very short, independent films that can be shown in their entirety in class. Others are based on trailers from movies in wide release. The lesson on “Procrastination and Happiness” looks particularly intriguing and is on my list to try out soon.