Movies and English

The first day I meet a new group of students I usually ask them about their preferences, likes and dislikes and try to crayon a set of topics we could use afterwards in our “conversation and writing breaks”. I prefer to set some steps for my classes and these two “breaks” are challenging because the students get involved and I can make shy students express themselves in writing if speaking is a bit uncomfortable for them.

When I ask them about the types of movies they prefer to watch, I find myself quite lost because suddenly the list gets long enough and they seem to have lots of titles to share!

This is a good start for mixed groups or adults classes, because this way they can share opinions and preferences, they can even connect better during the class if they discover that at least they fit in a movie-group. There is a disdvantage I guess, some of them might not like the movies or cannot find a “partner”, but this is not the end of the class! You could ask some of the students to join the group and pretend they do not like it because this way they could practice just the opposite set of words and expressions!!

My students are fans of special genres: adventures, action, mystery, historical, thrillers, philosophical –  it sounds quite odd, doesn’t it? , but most of them love sagas and series. This is an opportunity for the teacher to prepare special activities and debate activities. Students could share their opinion both in writing or speaking. Imagine you also allow them to watch some scenes in English: they practise Listening too, so the class is more than complete!

To be honest, I had to watch The Hangover III only because one of my students  wanted to comment on it and I thought that it could be wise enough to sacrifice one Saturday afternoon and watch it, too if I wanted to join the “conversation break”.

I had no idea that many movies in the end are used for video games versions. My students find it quite interesting to share all these details during the class and I can detect their self-esteem getting higher every time they can talk about what they like most!

Perhaps we seem quite old-fashioned if we do not know anything about these games and movies, so my advice is to allow students to share their cine-preferences. Just listen to them! They will even like English class more if they are really allowed to be part of the class. They hate books and sometimes it is even better to give them the role of content organisers too. This is a good strategy to make them feel confident and relaxed and I am sure they will worry less about their English and will focus on the characters, the plot and even the impact of the action on them!

This way, we get them speaking English and at the same time they show more interest in the English class and take part in the speaking activities not because they are forced, but because they are more motivated and they feel that the teacher cares about their “world” too. Needless to say that we also learn from them, sometimes we spend too much on correcting or preparing tests and we don’t watch a movie in months!

It is the case of The Expendables, which at first I thought it was a movie but I found out later that there is also a version for a video game. I watched The Expendables (2010 ) to get informed about the plot and I think it could be part of a lesson in which students could debate on violence and the action movies that display scenes of extreme violence and the  characters are aggressive, fight and kill each other or simply traffic in drugs or organs.

They could even compare the movie and the video game, they can talk about what they feel when they play and when they watched the movie, they can even describe the actors and compare them.


This is only an approach to teach English through movies. Feel free to use your imagination and if you lack ideas, just ask your students: they will know what to do next!

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About Adriana Butnariu
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