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Image of Cine-minis DVD of short French films

Teaching languages with film - some key approaches

Working with film in teaching, like with any medium or supporting object, requires some thought about how to get the best out of the materials. In education, this kind of thinking is about pedagogy - the theory, or sometimes the science, of teaching and learning. We say teaching AND learning, because the two are not always the same. Often what we teach is not the same as what learners take away.

In film education, a number of techniques and approaches have been devised, tested, and shared over the years. In this step we will look at three examples of pedagogical approaches to film, and ask you to write a few lines in response. Do you think they would work in your own education setting? Do they offer advantages or limitations in your view?

The three approaches are:

  1. Basic Teaching Techniques

  2. Cs and Ss

  3. Tell Me

The first set of approaches come from a resource published many years ago called ‘Moving Images in the Classroom’. In this booklet, a group of teachers and advisers came up with eight ‘Basic Teaching Techniques’ (BTTs), designed to help teachers who hadn’t used film, video or TV before in their teaching to make the most out of these media. The BTTs are on pages 7-11, and then on pages 26-28 we show how the BTTs might be used by language teachers.

The second and third set of approaches are from a resource called Ciné-minis. This is a DVD with a booklet and website published by the BFI in 2012, which collected 12 short French films for teachers to use. We have extracted two sections from the booklet. One is called Thinking About Film, which covers the ‘Cs and Ss’ approach, and the other is from the section Teaching with Short Film, that looks at an approach called ‘Tell Me’. Throughout the course we will be drawing on the techniques in these resources and others like them, showing you how they can be applied for classroom use.

Download and read the three documents from the downloads section. Comment on the suggested list of teaching approaches in the comments section - have you used any ideas like this before?

In the next step we will be moving onto thinking about film sound, and how to work it into language teaching.

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This article is from the free online course:

Short Film in Language Teaching

The British Film Institute (BFI)

Get a taste of this course

Find out what this course is like by previewing some of the course steps before you join:

  • Welcome!

    Introduction to the course. How can film make language learning and teaching more effective and engaging?

  • Why use short film in languages classrooms?
    Why use short film in languages classrooms?

    Let's hear from the experts about how using short film in language classrooms can enhance the teaching and learning of languages.

  • Teaching with film music
    Teaching with film music

    In this step we explore music in film and how it informs mood and genre. We also link this to teaching languages.

  • Film sound and setting
    Film sound and setting

    Here we discuss how film sound can be used to establish scenes, places, and spaces, especially in opening scenes and apply this to language learning.

  • Dialogue and inference - working with creative technologies
    Dialogue and inference - working with creative technologies

    Here we suggest editing packages and new technologies that can aid language educators and learners in the classroom.

  • Visualising character
    Visualising character

    Using short film images to visualise character, and using the 'Role on the Wall' resource to help teach and learn languages.

  • Image of all characters in the cafe from the film Szalontudo
    Visualising character - teaching ideas

    Exploring teaching ideas and activities to analyse character in film and help built a bank of words in target language.

  • Narrating - teaching ideas
    Narrating - teaching ideas

    Here we examine different written genres that relate to film, and we consider how they can be exploited to create language production in the classroom

  • Developing film language
    Developing film language

    In this step we look at film language and explore its terms to develop target language learning.

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