Five ways to use film in class

When I was at school, a film would be a treat. Maybe once a term we’d get to watch a bit of Mr Bean. In hindsight, it was also the end of a very long term for a tired teacher whose treat was no planning for this class. While I now appreciate those no-planning days from the teacher’s perspective, I completely disagree that film should be kept as a treat for the end of term. Use short clips whenever you can as a quick way to engage your students!

  • No image. Just audio – Play a short clip of a film that the students are not familiar with. It could have dialogue or just sounds – it doesn’t matter. Students speculate on what might have been happening in the film.
  • What can you see? – This is particularly useful for building vocabulary with lower levels. Choose a clip that is based around the vocabulary you want to teach. Pause the clip and ask students what they can see. Build a lexical set of these new words and have students note them down.
  • What next? – Stop at a climactic moment in a film. The students then continue on the dialogue. Again, this works better if the students aren’t familiar with the clip. 
  • Split viewing – Have half the class facing the screen and the other half facing away. Play half the film, then swap the students over so the other half of the class get to watch the 2nd part of the film. Follow-up activities might be students telling each other about the clip they saw, or keeping the students in their groups and speculating on what the other group saw.
  • Dubbing – Show a very short clip – 20 seconds or so. It needs to include dialogue and allow students see the characters’ faces. A good example is this clip from Five Easy Pieces


Play the whole thing with no sound, then again, pausing line by line, again with no sound. In pairs, get the students to write what they think the characters might be saying to each other. When everybody’s finished, have groups ‘dub’ the scene and vote on the best.  


Try to choose scenes that are open to interpretation and have a good amount of expression in the characters’ faces. If you’ve not seen this film before then why try it yourself right now!

Why not try making your own film, or get students to make their own and repeating the activities above!


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