MovieTalk Original Content Copyright 2012 by Global Language Education Services, LLC


MovieTalk is at its best when applied to full-length feature movies, but we can use shorter videos to illustrate some aspects of the technique.

Let's start with a Volkswagen commercial.

Just click the play button below, watch (you can stop after the dog chases the car), and then continue to the discussion below.

This is all highly narratable action with no dialogue at all—perfect for MovieTalk.

A good way to work with a very short video is to start by playing it from beginning to end, so the students can become familiar with the whole story. Then you can go back to the beginning and start over, pausing at intervals and narrating the scenes. To reinforce meanings, you can also point to various parts of the picture while repeating relevant words and phrases. Pantomimes can sometimes be useful as well.

Here is a sample narration, designed for a low-proficiency class, with suggested actions. (This sample is not intended to suggest that teachers need to prepare elaborate notes like these. The purpose here is simply to provide a detailed demonstration of the MovieTalk technique.)

Teacher's Narration
Teacher's Actions
This dog is lying on a couch. A red car is going down the street. The dog hears the car.
Point at dog, couch, car. Point at your own ears to illustrate hears.
The dog is sticking his head through his little dog door.
Point at dog's head, dog door.
The dog can't get his body through the door. He is too fat.
Point at dog's body. Use your hands to illustrate too fat
The dog is looking at himself in a mirror. His face is sad.
Point at mirror, dog's face. Make a sad expression to illustrate sad.
The dog is very fat.
Point at dog's stomach. Use your hands to illustrate fat.
The dog has a red ball in his mouth.
Point at ball, mouth.
He drops the ball.
Pantomime drops.
The ball is bouncing down the stairs. The dog is walking down the stairs.
Point at ball, stairs. Use your hands to illustrate bouncing down. Pantomime walking.
The dog is carrying the ball back up the stairs. He goes up and down the stairs.
Point and use your hands to illustrate up and down the stairs.
The dog is walking on an exercise machine.
Point at exercise machine, pantomime walking.
The dog is pulling a small rug. There are weights on the rug.
Point at rug, weights. Pantomime pulling.
The dog is watching an exercise show on television. He puts his paws on a big ball and exercises.
Point at television, paws, ball. Use your hands to illustrate paws. Pantomime exercises.
The dog is lying on the floor in the kitchen. There is food on the floor. There are pieces of meat. There are vegetables. Is the dog eating anything? No!
Point at floor, food, meat, vegetables. Pantomime eating. Shake your head no.
There is snow on the ground. It's cold. The dog is running back and forth.
Point at snow. Wrap your arms around yourself and shiver to illustrate cold. Pantomime running back and forth.
Now it's warm. The dog is running back and forth on the grass. He is running beside a swimming pool.
Fan yourself to illustrate warm. Point at grass, swimming pool.
The dog jumps into the swimming pool. He's in the water.
Pantomine jump. Point at water.
The dog is swimming.
Pantomime swimming.
The dog is shaking himself. Water is flying everywhere.
Pantomine shaking. Point at water. Pantomine flying everywhere.
The dog is looking at himself in the mirror again. He barks. Is he fat now? No!
Point at mirror, stomach. Bark to illustrate barks. Use hands to illustrate fat. Shake head no.
The dog hears a car. He jumps on the couch and looks through the window.
Pantomine hears, jumps. Point at couch, window.
The dog can go through the dog door. No problem!
Point at dog disappearing through door.
The dog is running after the car.
Point at dog, car. Pantomine running.
Here is a tree with two trunks. The dog is jumping between the trunks.
Point at tree, trunks. Pantomine between.
The dog is running faster than the car.
Pantomime faster.

Naturally, there are many other ways to approach this material—follow the inclinations of your own creativity. This example is meant only to indicate the general kind of narration and comprehension support that can be brought to bear.

The main point is that you, the teacher, provide spoken input that your students can understand with the aid of an entertaining video. This satisfies the conditions for language acquisition.

While commercials and other short videos can be good MovieTalk material, feature-length movies offer additional advantages. The continuity of the plot over a couple of hours or so creates a cognitive framework that heightens interest and supports comprehension. Also, the connected storyline makes it easier for the teacher to make informed decisions about what to focus on in preparing and presenting the movie. A full-length movie will therefore be superior to a sequence of short, unrelated videos, from both the students' and the teacher's perspective.

"James and the Giant Peach" has good MovieTalk potential (especially for younger students). If you are located in the US, you can rent or buy this movie from Amazon. Watch the first few minutes of the movie, while thinking about what you might say if you were using it for MovieTalk. Then scroll down to the discussion below.

There are many people, objects, and actions to name and describe in the early scenes of "James and the Giant Peach." There is also a little dialogue, but much of it can be ignored, and it should be fairly easy to explain the rest. Here, we will give some examples of narration that could be used with still frames that we have extracted from the movie. We must stress that there are many other possible versions of this narration. When using MovieTalk, teachers need to find the right levels of difficulty, detail, and pacing for the students they are working with.

Insects and their kin are major characters in this movie. During the credits, you can point out some of them and name them: "This is a dragonfly, and there's a butterfly," etc.
"Here is a boy. His name is James. He is standing on a beach. This is sand. Here's the ocean. There's a little boat on the ground. That is a lighthouse. The boy is throwing something."
"Now James is picking up a rock. There are many rocks on the ground. He is throwing rocks into the water."

"This man is James' father. He is holding his son in his arms."
"This woman is James' mother. She is bringing him a cake. The cake has candles on it. The candles are burning. It's a birthday cake. Whose birthday do you think it is? It's James' birthday, of course!"
"James is taking a deep breath. He's going to blow the candles out. The candles are still burning at this time."

"Now he is blowing. He's blowing as hard as he can. He wants to blow all the candles out."
"Look! He did it! He blew all the candles out. They aren't burning any more."
"James is lying on a blanket. His father is on one side and his mother is on the other side. James is between his father and mother. James and his parents are looking up."
As the movie progresses from this point, new opportunities and challenges continue to appear, and a teacher who plans to use the movie will of course need to develop plans and ideas for narrations that fit the changing circumstances. We will discuss this aspect of MovieTalk in detail in the section on Preparing.

We hope these examples of MovieTalk have served to give you a reasonably clear idea of how the technique works. However, we have not yet addressed the important question of movie choice. As we will see on the next page, some movies are well suited to MovieTalk, but others are not.

MovieTalk Original Content Copyright 2012 by Global Language Education Services, LLC