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Suitable Movies for the ESL Classroom

For general discussion between ESL teachers.

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Suitable Movies for the ESL Classroom

Unread postby cegr » Thu Dec 30, 2010 2:25 am

I am currently teaching an ESL class made up of Chinese students studying at the high beginner level. The school where I teach allows me to show movies once a week to the students. So far, they have watched the movies "Mulan", "Up" and "Twas The Night Before Christmas". For next semester, I will show the movie "Snow Dogs" and I am thinking of having them watch "Lassie Come Home". Could someone please recommend other movies that would be appropriate to show? Thanks in advance for your help!

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Re: Suitable Movies for the ESL Classroom

Unread postby rwells » Tue Feb 08, 2011 8:12 pm

Movies are definitely a fun way to have students hear the language at the pace it is used in everyday life. When teaching in Korea I found the animated film The Iron Giant to be enjoyable for both children and adults. Showing DVDs with English subtitles is a good idea, as it allows students to read words they may not have understood aurally. In addition to discussing the characters or plot of the movie upon finishing, it can also be a good opportunity to create various activities related to the film.

If you are looking for movies to show absolute beginners (not so much for language comprehension, but just for fun), Mr. Bean episodes, especially Merry Christmas Mr. Bean, always get a good laugh. And I'm not just saying that because my name is Rowan!

My classroom also had a good internet connection and large monitor, so I was able to incorporate Youtube video's related to the subject matter to engage the students and stimulate discussion.


Rowan Wells
Oxford Seminars

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Re: Suitable Movies for the ESL Classroom

Unread postby sheffdave » Wed Feb 09, 2011 9:14 am

Movies are a fantastic way of engaging the students and being useful at the same time, especially with the subtitles on, and if you can take the opportunity to go back over specific clips of the movie to focus on particular phrases or expressions.

I also used these with chinese students and found a popular genre was animated movies that can be watched by children but are not exclusively 'children's movies', like Toy Story, Cars etc.

My students were 18+ but lower intermediate level, so this is a good blend of accessible language plus sufficiently interesting to the audience. My other recommendation is ask them about their favourite movies - if they are already familiar with a dubbed version then the english version will be a winner as they will already have a lot of the context.

Good luck!
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Re: Suitable Movies for the ESL Classroom

Unread postby samuel » Thu Feb 17, 2011 4:52 pm

Movies should be watched a lot more in the language classroom because they are an excellent source for authentic language that is produced at a normal rate. Depending on the level of English, I would consider always leaving subtitles on unless students are very skilled. Interesting movies that would be enjoyable are animations and comedies! For example, any Adam Sandler movie will always be a hit in the classroom! I would probably show the movie Click personally because it has a great message behind it. You can teach that to your students.
Regarding animations, Shrek is always quite appreciated and is easily usable to create fun post-viewing activities.

A list of good movies:

-Mr. Deeds
-50 first dates
-Big Daddy
-Billy Madison
-Happy Gilmore


-Toy story
-The aristocats
-Ice age
-Finding Nemo

There are so many great movies out there! The list could go on and on and on!

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Re: Suitable Movies for the ESL Classroom

Unread postby JEEPY » Thu Feb 24, 2011 2:48 pm

Samuel, I totally agree with you. I think integrating movies is an awesome idea in ESL teaching. As far as I am concerned, I believe that there shouldn't be any taboos in an ESL classroom and thus almost every movie can be used (as long as they use relevant English material and that they lead to a discussion). Also, students tend to be more involved in the movie if they watch something unexpected or something that can be considered harsh. One movie I would recommend watching in class is American beauty: awesome movie and you have a lot you can say about it. Also, maybe you can share movies you really enjoyed when you were their age (they probably didn't see). Also, make sure they didn't see the movie (if more than 5 students have seen it, scratch it from the list). There you go buddy.

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Re: Suitable Movies for the ESL Classroom

Unread postby MikeV » Thu Feb 24, 2011 3:01 pm

If you want to help them practice their understanding of English through movies, I suggest you first show them animation movies such as the ones samuel suggested (Toy Story series, Ice age series, etc.). With a colorful visual support, it is always easier to understand the dialogues. If needed, there are always the subtitles you can use. I personally like the Shrek series a lot, as they incorporate humour and morals through an easy speech with an easy-to-understand story. The story of each movie (there are 4) refers to well known fairy tales characters as well. If you wanted to make short questionnaires on the movies, you could even refer on these. It would be appropriate if you wanted to include extra cultural information to your teaching! However, if you find good movies that are not animated and are easy to understand, go ahead. It is always enjoyable for students when they can understand the story. I think comedies are the easiest ones you could pick for your students' comprehension. Note that I never taught english as foreign language therefore I can only imagine what it is like! I hope I helped you!

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Re: Suitable Movies for the ESL Classroom

Unread postby amrif » Thu Feb 24, 2011 3:05 pm

Movies are a great way for students to relax/unwind and learn all at the same time. They will want to understand what is happening so they will focus and force themselves to listen and learn. I would say that animated/cartoon movies are always a great choice. They do not use the most complicated language, and the story lines are pretty straight-forward. Any Disney or Pixar movie is a great choice. Some of them have already been mentioned: Toy Story, Finding Nemo, and Ice Age. Another thing that teachers can use in their class, are television series. They are shorter (between 30min-1hr) and this is very useful in a classroom environment.

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Re: Suitable Movies for the ESL Classroom

Unread postby cyndie » Thu Feb 24, 2011 3:06 pm

I think that movies are en excellent way to improve students' knowledge of English while having fun. Some movies are very interestig for kids and adults as well. I'm thinking about animation movies like Shrek or How to train your dragon. These are all movies that are perfect for students of 10 years old or around that age. In a later stage, teachers could even provide questions for the learners to pay a close attention to the movie dialogue. Having closed captioning movies is also a good way to improve students' reading skills. Overall, I think that movies are more than useful for leanres to improve their English.

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Re: Suitable Movies for the ESL Classroom

Unread postby samantha » Thu Feb 24, 2011 3:10 pm

Movies are a great way for students to learn English. Depending on the students level of English you way want to consider the length of the motion picture you are showing. Movies are great because teachers can choose to present the motion picture with or without subtitles. The subtitles will help students follow the story.
For less advanced learners, watching short television episodes can be a great way for students to learn English in context. Since the episode is short, you can also view the show more than once. Two viewings of the episode allow students to grasp the content, and it’s also a good way to make sure that they have understood everything. Before viewing a second time, teachers can allow students to ask questions to clarify certain misunderstandings. Then, once they watch it a second time, they understand even better.

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Re: Suitable Movies for the ESL Classroom

Unread postby nicolasbrunette » Thu Feb 24, 2011 3:19 pm

For elementary students any movies similar to Shrek or Ice Age are more than appropriate. These movies are amusing on two very different level: the actions and the conversations or topics are quite funny. This why I believe that these movies could still be appropriate for high school learners. On the secondary level, it is more difficult to choose the right movie since at this age, most of the students enjoy movies that simply couldn't be show at school. Many teachers like to ask the students what movie they would like to watch. It is not a bad idea, however you have to make sure that the movie is appropriate for every students. Watching the movie before is more than required. On the other hand, you are sure that they will enjoy the movie. However, please use your judgment!

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Re: Suitable Movies for the ESL Classroom

Unread postby jetar » Thu Feb 24, 2011 3:24 pm

First I want to say that it is good that your school allows you to have your beginner ESL learners watch movies in English every week. Since movies are authentic materials which provide a lot of input and visual support, I think it will help your students a lot.
To answer your question, I do not have specific movie suggestions for you. However, I think it would be a good idea to ask your students what kind of movies they would like to watch. If the movies are related to their interests, it will motivate them a lot. You could also ask them to give you titles of movies they already saw and liked. Since they would have already seen them in their native language, it could help them to better understand the English version.

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Re: Suitable Movies for the ESL Classroom

Unread postby eigonosekai » Thu Mar 03, 2011 3:27 pm

There is always a way to use different kinds of movies in the classroom. Last semester, I prepared an Halloween activity for my 6 graders on scary movies. This may sound wrong, but I carefully chose a few scenes from popular movies suitable for them (Hocus Pocus, Poltergueist, Goosebumps and Signs). They loved it and they even asked their parents if they could watch the full movie at home. The scenes I selected did not show unsuitable content such as blood, violence, gore, super scary stuff, etc. Plus, if students were interested in watching the full movie, their parents had the possibility to refuse and ask them to wait until they feel their kids are old enough to watch it.
''Suitable'' movies for the classroom also mean that you have to present movies which have proper language content (no bad language, appropriate language level).
Some documentaries can also be very interesting to show to your students.

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Re: Suitable Movies for the ESL Classroom

Unread postby paddyinthailand » Fri Mar 11, 2011 3:22 pm

I teach primary school kids and while a lot of the animated cartoons of Disney/Pixar are good, some of the English used can be way above the level of my beginner students. However, I have found a couple of movies with content suitable for kids, an appropriately easy level of English and plots which the kids found thoroughly engaging.

Both The Karate Kid(2010) and E.T.(1981) use readily accessible English and are entertaining movies to boot. There are plenty of scenes where the English used is useful even for very low-level beginners. The scene where Elliott names and explains the functions of various household items to E.T. is a perfect example.

Hopw they prove useful to some of you.

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Re: Suitable Movies for the ESL Classroom

Unread postby Shmooie » Sat Mar 03, 2012 10:00 am

Although I agree with most, I won't repeat what people have written about the great benefits movies can provide.

I would like to try to add some information and tips:

1. The movies you watch with students should be appropriate for the age level. I don't show movies with excessive sex, drugs, language, violence ect. to my high school students. (They can watch those on their own).

2. Decide whether the movie is a learning tool or just entertainment. If it's just entertainment, don't waste their time and money by doing a movie in class.

Many of the titles listed in this forum have so much slapstick comedy and visuals, that the students will tend to focus on that instead of trying to understand the dialogue and messages of the movie. A healthy combination of visuals/slapstick comedy and comprehensible dialogue is great.

3. Try to show movies that will give ESL students a better understanding of another culture. Right now I am working with students who will go to college in the U.S. so I pick movies that will show American culture, particularly high school/college life.

4. Pre-teach blocking vocab. Try to integrate it into your class in the days preceding the movie.

5. Have the students write a summary, or a description of their favorite character, so that they actually pay attention to the movie, not just the visuals, and reflect on the content of the movie in English.

6. Try to show movies they have not already seen. (I know someone has said this already). This may cancel out any movie made in the past ten years;) If they have already seen the dubbed version, they may not pay attention as much to the language, as they already know what is being said and what will happen. Also, they may be bored.

The language in older movies seems easier to understand than newer movies anyway. Thin 80's and 90's. This may just be my perception.

7. Get feedback after the movie. Did they like it? Why? Why not? What were their favorite parts? I also give them a few questions to answer during/after the movie.

8. Subtitles or no subtitles? I try not to use them if they are not absolutely necessary. The students tend to read more than listen if they are there, but I do want them to understand.

Here are a few movies I have done. Many are oldies but goodies. (They all reflect American culture/American holidays/high school life)

I have pre-teach vocab lists and questions I made for each of these movies, which I would be happy to share if anyone is interested.

Little rascals
The sandlot
Can't buy me love
10 things I hate about you
Mean girls
the goonies (they loved this)
Back to the future
Ernest scared stupid (for holloween)
trains planes and automobiles
Family vacation (for christmas)
don't tell mom the babysitter's dead
Encino man (i did a reading lesson on cave men the day before to prepare. This was a HUGE hit)
ferris buellers day off
bill and ted's excellent adventure
home alone (also a good christmas movie)

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