The movie project: Movies as a learning resource

Bruce Lander, Kurume University


Quick guide
  • Key words: Autonomy, group work, self evaluation
  • Learner English level: Beginner and above
  • Learner maturity: University
  • Preparation time: Up to you
  • Activity time: 15-30 minutes at the end of every lesson
  • Materials: DVDs, Appendices A-C
Everyone loves movies, but the movies we watch and recommend to our students may not be to their liking. Why not let students choose their own from the selection your library or department has on offer? 
Time restraints may not allow for a full length movie to be shown during class. One way around this dilemma is to have students watch English movies of their choice on their own time, with subsequent help from subtitles.
The movie project is a simple activity that allows students, in groups of up to six, to choose a movie of their liking, watch it several times, choose a suitable scene from the movie and re-enact that scene as actors, in the final class of term. The goal is to foster autonomous learners and introduce movies as a learning resource rather than just entertainment. 
Step 1: Introduce the theme of movies in class. Prepare a short PowerPoint that introduces several well-known movies, actors and genres that your students may or may not know.
Step 2: Familiarize students with where the DVD collection may be kept at your school or library.
Step 3: Construct a sample poster or use the one here (Appendix A).
Step 1: (Weeks 2-5) Watching movies
Have students watch an English movie of their choice for homework, then write a 10-line summary and movie review. Repeat this three times. Make students do this individually and encourage the use of in-house facilities.
Step 2: (Week 6) Discuss in groups
Have students discuss what movies they watched.
Step 3: (Week 7) Decision of movie 
Students choose one movie and watch it again in groups.
Step 4:  (Week 8) Decision of scene
Have each group choose a 5-minute scene from the movie that will be re-enacted on the project performance day. This scene must be confirmed with the teacher first! 
Step 5: (Week 9) Decision of roles and project poster
For each Movie Project there must be one director, one announcer and at least four actors. The director’s job is to introduce the movie and describe the chosen scene. The announcer’s job is to introduce the members and the plot. Let students make the decisions on this part.
To help the audience understand the contents of each movie it helps if you have your students make a poster. See Appendix B for details.
Step 6: (Weeks 10 - 12) Practice
Practice the scene in groups, for 20-30 minutes at the end of each class. All groups should individually produce a printed dialogue of their scene, bring this to class each week and practice their lines together as a team. This will require assistance from the teacher.
Step 7: (Weeks 12 - 13) Teacher co-ordination
Try to meet each group twice, once for pronunciation check then again for emotion and action.
Step 8: (Week 14) Memorization of lines
It is important that you emphasize that students memorize their lines, extra credit is awarded for memory on the performance day.
Step 9: (week 15) Performance day
Students perform their movie project, with action, props, laughter, and excitement. Teachers should produce a simple “Self and peer evaluation” form with space for comments. See Appendix C.
Step 10: (week 10 - 15) optional Movie Project Poster
If you have every group produce a simple poster with information on their movie, it will help the audience understand each act. With this in mind, the poster could be included as part of the course grade. Up to now, I have incorporated the movie project as 30% of the final grade for the course with the following denominations: 10% for self-assessed performance, 10% for teacher-assessed performance and 10% for the poster.
Students may view watching movies for homework as a walkover; this works in your favour. This activity really is a joy for the teacher and the students. I have been doing the “movie project” for over 5 years now and not one group has failed to perform without providing sufficient props, pictures and a great performance. 
The appendices are available below.