Movie Circles 

Steven Asquith,  Rikkyo University 

Quick Guide

  • Keywords: Extended discussion skills, media literacy, collaborative learning, CLIL 
  • Learner English level: Pre-intermediate and above
  • Preparation time: Approx. 3 to 4 hours 
  • Activity time: 60 minutes 
  • Materials: Worksheets (See Appendices)

Movies offer nuanced insight into the most essential and mundane topics of our time and are a wonderful topic of discussion. This activity, based on the popular approach to reading—literature circles—supports students in communicating meaningfully about pertinent issues relating to growing up. As students each watch a movie and prepare according to a specific role, the subsequent discussions are effectively scaffolded to help learners explore the issues deeply. This results in authentic and lively discussions, which are intensely rewarding for students.   



Step 1: Select movies relating to a topic which are easily accessible to stream or rent.

Step 2: Create a worksheet including links to the movie trailers so students can choose a movie to watch (Appendix A). 




Step 1: Tell students they will be leading and participating in an extended group discussion about a movie. 

Step 2: Share a document with links to trailers (Appendix A) and ask students to watch them all.   

Step 3: Invite students to vote for the movies they want to discuss. In this case, seven movies have been chosen which have meaningful depictions of growing up. Based on voting, narrow the movie choices to four or five.

Step 4:  Create groups of four or five members by asking students to write their names next to their choices on the document. Explain to students that because groups must have members who will each take a role, they may not all get their first choice.

Step 5: Explain the roles: (1) plot summarizer: must go first and summarize the plot, main events, and characters; (2) character studies: must choose a character, describe him or her, and discuss their role in the narrative; (3) scene selector: must choose a scene and discuss why they chose it; and  (4) culture connector: must introduce cultural or personal connections to the movie. Each student must also introduce discussion questions based on their role and be prepared to actively talk about all the roles so that the discussion is lively throughout. Explain the rubric (See Appendix B).

Step 5: Tell students to choose their roles in their groups. 

Step 6: Model the activity using a short animation if time allows. 

Step 7: Tell students that as preparation for the discussion is time-consuming, they have around two weeks to prepare for the discussion for homework. 

Step 8: On the day of the discussion, first tell each group to watch their movie’s trailer together.

Step 9: Instruct students to start the discussion, which should last up to one hour (or around 12 minutes for each role). Monitor the discussion and provide support.



Option 1: Ask each group to prepare and give a presentation on their movie and the topic.

Option 2: Require students to write a shared reflection about what they learned from the movie about the topic.

Options 3: Tell students to record the discussion and use this for analysis of their spoken performance.



Movie Circles provide a stimulating method for students to engage with topics from multiple perspectives. The format can easily be adapted to any genre of movie or topic the instructor intends to approach. As the activity encourages students to consider issues in a critical way, it is especially useful for content-based instruction and CLIL- (Content and Language Integrated Learning) based courses. Students usually become so immersed in the content of these discussions that they forget that it is a graded assignment, and their communication becomes very natural. This is not only beneficial to their spoken fluency, but it also boosts their confidence.  



The appendices are available from the online version of this article at