We realize that teachers sometimes have little or no control over the
choice of classroom and equipment, but certain requirements must be met
if MovieTalk is to be effective.
- In selecting or arranging a classroom for MovieTalk, keep the size of
your video display or TV monitor in mind, and make sure all of the
students will be able to sit where they can see and hear clearly.
- MovieTalk is especially vulnerable to noise pollution. If
possible, find a room as far as possible from loud activities, or at least close the door.
- Lighting is also important. Ideally, it should be possible
to dim the lights as needed for video visibility, but without plunging
everyone into total darkness. And try to make sure that the monitor is
placed so that ambient light will not create glare or reflections that
might spoil the view for one or more students.
- What do you do when walking past a classroom that seems to
have something interesting going on? Right: you stop and take a look.
Curious onlookers may be attracted to your movie like moths to a light,
and their presence may distract you or your students. It's best to keep
the door closed during class.
- To the extent that you have a selection of equipment,
procure a large video display or TV monitor with good sound and audio
controls. Use a high-quality DVD player with the full set of pause,
slow motion, and search functions. Insist on having remote controls for
the equipment; MovieTalk is much more difficult without them.
- Make sure you know how the video controls work before you
don't want to be looking frantically for the pause button, in dim
light, while the movie plays on and on.
The presentation cycle that we recommend assumes that you have divided
your movie into short presentation segments (PS), usually from one to
three minutes in length, as explained in our earlier discussion of
- We recommend that you play each PS twice.
- The first time, play it through without pausing or commenting in any way. This has three major benefits:
- It gives the students a preview of the PS, allowing them
to become acquainted with the visual content. This helps them form a
cognitive framework into which your subsequent input can be
incorporated. Rather than having to deal with new scenes and new
MovieTalk input simultaneously, they are presented with only one new
thing at a time.
- It gives you a perfect opportunity for a last-minute
review of the PS, allowing you to silently rehearse the narration and
other input that you have already planned.
- It gives your voice a rest.
- Then go back and play the PS a second time, while presenting your MovieTalk input.
- Use the pause and back controls as needed to keep the screen image synchronized with your MovieTalk input.
- Pausing a scene gives you time to point at the parts of the scene that you are referring to.
- Paraphrases, pantomimes, sketches, etc. should be done while the movie is paused.
- Occasionally, you may want to let a scene play while
narrating the action, perhaps in slow motion, perhaps with the sound
temporarily muted if necessary to make yourself audible.
- When you have reached the end of the second pass through a
PS, you are in perfect position to start the first pass through the
Every MovieTalk teacher has to develop a personal style. It would be
futile and wrong to try to force everyone into a rigid mold. At the
same time, there are certain principles that we believe are important
enough to be listed here.
- If you are using MovieTalk in a multi-skill class, then you
may want to integrate the technique with other classroom activities
that focus on reading, writing, and speaking.
- However, if your class focuses on listening comprehension
(as in the Listening Module of a FOCAL SKILLS program), then we
recommend that you stick to a relatively "pure" form of MovieTalk.
the board sparingly, mostly for sketches, numbers, and names. Don't
write vocabulary on the board or use written materials in class. The
purpose of MovieTalk is to improve listening
comprehension. Writing words on the board takes you away from your task
of providing listening input, and reading takes the students away from
their task of listening.
- Written materials that students can use before or after
class are a different matter; they may be helpful to those who can
already read the language.
- Showmanship is important. Other things being equal, the
movie will be more entertaining than you, so if you want the students
to pay attention to you (and you do want them to), perform your
narrations in a confident, showmanlike manner. You're on stage. Don't be shy.
- Don't use notes; they would be distracting. You need to
know your material well enough to present it in a way that will appear
spontaneous to the students.
- Stay anchored to what is visible in everything you say,
especially if your students are at a low level of listening
- Use pause, reverse, slow motion, or whatever is needed to
help the students match what they hear you say with what they see on
- Use a wand to indicate exactly what you are referring to.
- We do NOT recommend the use of laser pointers, as they may be reflected into students' eyes.
- Try not to make comments that don't refer to what is
visible, unless you absolutely must. Then, try to use pantomime,
sketches, realia, or whatever will help make the meanings visible.
Remember, the basic principle of MovieTalk is to make the spoken input
comprehensible by pairing it with visual input.
- Use careful pronunciation and controlled tempo.
- Students at
this level need clear acoustic models of the language. We all slow down
and articulate clearly when a colleague is having trouble understanding
us, do we not?
- Rapid, casual speech is derived from slow, careful
speech by a set of natural processes that systematically reduce the
amount of phonological information in the speech signal. That's why
rapid, casual speech is harder to understand: the listener has to "fill
in" the missing information that would have been present in careful
- Second language students will find it easier
to understand casual speech after you have helped them become more
familiar with the careful style of speech.
- Do repeat words, phrases, and sentences if students ask you
to. That's a good sign that they are focused on listening.
- Take every opportunity to watch your students for signs of
comprehension, confusion, or questions. Use this feedback to decide
when to repeat, rephrase, slow down, or invite a question.
- To check comprehension and keep students alert and focused,
ask questions occasionally.
- Use Yes/No questions, or information questions that can be
answered with a word or short phrase.
- Be careful about asking HOW or
WHY questions, as these require full-sentence answers and may be beyond the
abilities of students at the level for which MovieTalk is intended.
- Don't permit long silences after you ask a question; wait a few seconds
and then answer it yourself. Silence is not input.
- Don't single students out or require anyone to speak; keep
your MovieTalk classroom an anxiety-free zone.
- Be receptive and encouraging when students volunteer questions and comments.
- Don't "correct their errors," but do rephrase and expand
as needed. This is a natural and supportive way to model the spoken
language, by providing input that is perfectly comprehensible (because
it echoes what the student was trying to say).
- Don't allow more advanced students to monopolize class time
by talking too much; their input is probably not what the other
students need, but all can benefit from your input.
Good timing will make your jokes funnier if you are a comedian, and
good timing will make you rich if you play the stock market. Timing is also very important in MovieTalk.
In planning each class, a good rule of thumb is that each
minute of movie will take about three minutes of class. (Naturally,
this will vary depending on the material and your personal presentation
Make sure you are well prepared for the movie segments you
expect to cover each day, plus a bit beyond that for safety's sake. (Of
course, you can speed up or slow down a bit, within limits, to fit the
material that you've prepared into the time you've allotted.)
If you expect to finish a movie with class time remaining,
be ready to start the next movie. Have a break between the end of one
movie and the start of the next one.
- Give yourself and students breaks as needed. You will need
a rest from time to time; MovieTalk is fun and effective, but it can
also be tiring after a while. Most teachers can go for about an hour,
but if your block of class time goes beyond that, a ten-minute break is
in order before continuing. And if you are working with young children,
you will probably need to present in shorter time blocks.
For best effect, try to time scenes with the breaks and the
end of class in mind. When you know a movie well and are well prepared,
you can sometimes make major junctures in the movie coincide with break
time. "Cliff-hanger" scenes are great places to take a break, leaving
the students in a delicious state of suspense. When your timing works
perfectly, it really heightens the dramatic effects of the movie and
the positive energy of the class.