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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 music has been around since the very early days of cinema. Maybe there was something uncanny about the silence of the very first films that encouraged cinema owners to play live music alongside screenings. When the first proper sound films were made after 1928, music became increasingly important, washing over or underscoring around 75 per cent of a film’s running time by the 1940s.

Listening activities are simple to set up, and can engage learners in thinking about how film music works and what it contributes to our experience of a film. Music very often ‘underscores’ dramatic or exciting moments in a film such as action, tension, or high emotion. Teachers of film and languages have long used activities to match different music types with different genres of film.


The activity in this step is in two parts: first of all, listen to the sample of the film soundtrack we’ve selected, without the images, and think about the mood or moods it conjures up. Use the downloadable resource on Film Music and Mood (here translated into French) and see if any of the moods listed correspond to your feeling about the clip of music.

The second part is to follow the mood or feelings associated with the music and speculate what the genre of the film might be. Use the Genre Cards resource in the download section to help identify different genres.

Teaching Idea

The two activities you have just completed can be adapted in various ways for use in your classroom. The genre cards, written in another language, could function as a reading activity before learners listen to music and use them. As an example, we have already translated the genre cards resource into Arabic for you. Or, learners could be asked to match short descriptions of each genre in target language to a clip of music.

Please note that many of the resources are downloadable in Word format too so that you are able to edit and adapt them.

This article is from the free online

Short Film in Language Teaching

Created by
FutureLearn - Learning For Life

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