How Movies Can Be Used to Help Students Learn English

Are movies an effective way to learn English? Like many teaching strategies, it depends on how they are used. Watching movies in class can allow students to listen in on English conversations and give them an opportunity to test out their language skills by having a conversation about the film. Here are a few ways you can incorporate movies into ESL courses in a way that is beneficial to students.

1. Choose a film that is just a little above the comprehension level of your students. If you are teaching beginners, you might try children’s movies for the simple, easy-to-understand dialogue. It’s easy to find a children’s movie with a plot that is engaging to adults as well. For mid-level students in ESL courses, it might be helpful to turn off the subtitles to let them experience dialogue as it is spoken naturally. And for speakers approaching fluency, you might try films whose humor relies on puns, double meanings, and idioms (British films can be great for this).

2. Watch the film in short sessions, and do exercises related to the plot during the breaks. An example of a fun exercise for ESL courses is to have one student watch the film with the sound off, while the other has his or her back turned. After, the student who watched the film must explain what happened in the scene to the other student. Afterwards, all students watch the film with the sound and compare how the scene actually occurred with the student descriptions.

3. When the film is over, encourage a discussion of scenes the students thought were funny, or actors whose performances they enjoyed. This is good practice for real-world conversations they may have with people they encounter outside their ESL courses. Additionally, have students make a note of challenging vocabulary words they encountered during the film. Demonstrate other ways to use the vocabulary word in context or have them try to come up with their own examples.

With a little planning, watching movies can be a great way for students to learn the language by both observing and participating in English conversations.

Thanks to M4D GROUP for the image of a movie reel graphic.