MovieTalk was developed by Dr. Ashley Hastings as part of the FOCAL SKILLS approach to language instruction and was targeted at ESL teachers. In recent years, foreign language teachers have been increasingly adopting this technique due to the low prep involved, the high-interest subject matter, the low-pressure storytelling format, and the abundant access to short videos online.
The basic premise of MovieTalk couldn’t be simpler: play a video and talk about it in the target language. However, there are definitely some ways to refine the process, and I’d like to share some ways in which you can maximize this powerful technique by giving some advance thought to selecting your video!
There are many ways to select an appropriate video for your class! There are no right or wrong answers to the following questions, just ideas to consider:
1. Do you want the video to complement something else that you are currently studying in class?
I personally really like to tie my MovieTalk videos in to other things we are studying, even if it is very loosely tied in. I am just a person who likes a theme. For example, the music video of Jesse y Joy’s song Con quién se queda el perro? (Always preview first! This video may not be appropriate in your classroom!) is a story in itself and might be really cute presented in conjunction with the novel Brandon Brown quiere un perro. Toward the end of reading the novel Robo en la noche I always use this commercial as a MovieTalk.
With that said, sometimes you just find an absolutely adorable video and you just cannot WAIT to use it in every single one of the levels you teach even though it has nothing to do with anything in your curriculum. DO THAT TOO! If you are excited about something, share that with your students! It doesn’t always have to tie in perfectly!
2. Do you want a video that contains dialogue or narration? (If so, should it be in the target language?)
It really doesn’t matter if there is dialogue or narration in a video. I tend to think it is better without any. If there is dialogue or narration, you may even just want to mute the video entirely as you do the movie talk lesson. If you want a video that contains speaking in the target language, perhaps your focus is not going to be the movie talk technique for that video. That might be an example of a video that you can use as an authentic listening resource.
3. How long is ideal? Will you use the ENTIRE video?
I find that when I do MovieTalk, I tend to spend an entire class on one tiny video. You cannot possibly use a 10 minute video with this technique. I’d say a 3 minute video is about the maximum. You can also select a portion of a video or even a scene in a television series or feature film and do movie talk just with one short segment.
4. Will any vocabulary need to be pre-taught?
Think about the video you are selecting and what your students already know. Also think about whether you can simplify the description of the video down even further. Perhaps rather than saying “The grandma is proud of her grandson for saving money in his piggy bank” you could simplify it to “Grandma sees that the boy has money. Grandma thinks it is good that he has money.” If there are any words that are absolutely critical to the story, but not high-frequency, pre-teach them OR simply write them on the board with a translation and then point to it as you use the word during the MovieTalk.
5. Will you be able to simplify the description of the video enough to make it comprehensible to your students?
It is important that you not go off into the weeds during your movie talk lesson. This should be fun and feel effortless. Your input needs to be made comprehensible enough that it will be easily comprehended by all the students. If this is not an area of strength for you, I recommend that you script out your MovieTalk prior to the lesson. The bonus to scripting what you will say is you will also have a reading ready to go for the next day!
Are you interested in giving movie talk a try? Eric Herman has compiled a wonderful collection of scripts/readings that are available for anyone to use. Christy Miller also curates this fabulous database of MovieTalk resources. The International Journal of Foreign Language Teaching has a fantastic article on MovieTalk by Eric Herman.