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Assessing language learning using film sound

Exploring the use of film in the classroom and how it can be used to assess the progress of your learners.
One of the things that we found that’s been– that really reinforces the value of film in language teaching is for teachers not only to think about how they can change their content, the teaching content, but how they can incorporate film into their assessment practise, because I think maybe when teachers were starting out working with us on film, they would say, OK, we understand the teaching approaches you’re suggesting that we use. So we’ll write a scheme of work, three, four, five lessons.
But at the end of it, they assessed it through their usual assessment with a piece of writing or a piece of speaking, comprehension activity, until some of them started to say, but why can’t we use film, actually, when we’re doing our assessments? So we could get children to script and perform a dialogue and make that part of a short film. It only needs to be two or three minutes long. And that way, you’re assessing their authentic production of language. It’s an authentic production skill. So we’re very keen to encourage teachers to think about how film can help them actually assess what children have learned in languages, rather than just putting it into the content, into the body of their teaching.
Assessment is a crucial part of education, how you can measure learning, how you can measure progress, and understand what benefits are being accrued by the students through the teaching process. Film is a powerful tool for assessment of as many different opportunities and richer opportunities for assessment to be showcasing for learning to be evidenced by students. For me, it’s not about checking for learning. So along the way, there are many ways in which teachers can fit in small little activities to see how well pupils that say their pronunciation is progressing based on the kind of vocabulary of the film that you’ve really been working on.
They might be checking for understanding of a sequence of events or a use of particular sorts of verb tenses, things of that sort. And I would really encourage teachers to be always thinking about those little tiny steps along the way. How do I know? How well is this going? Ah, so they picked up on this. Are they starting to use that bit of language? Has this group over here become a little more accurate or adventurous in how they’re manipulating language so that they can talk about things that they have seen in the course of a film?
And in addition to that, of course, there’s what you could do to kind of sum up study, and that could be anything from sometimes some quite creative responses. Maybe it might be writing the next chapter in the diary, if you’ve seen a film, such as Le Crayon where the girl is writing in her diary. Or it might be writing some kind of sequel or a film, some sort of critique of a film. Teachers are incredibly creative in thinking about ways in which you might take this forward. I’m not trying to give you a shopping list, but simply to say, think about it, because there are so many both small and large opportunities for checking how well the learning is going.

Throughout this week we’ve been exploring how paying close attention to sound in short films can stimulate, surprise, and engage learners, and how that engagement can be mobilised behind learning aspects of language.

We’ve thought about the different dimensions of sound in a film soundtrack, and how sometimes that random collection of noises can prompt the imagination into strange and exciting places. We’ve considered how sound establishes different kinds of setting, and shapes our response to characters.

Now we’d like to ask you to think a little beyond using film sound to teach or introduce language ideas, and to consider how film sound might be used to help you assess the progress your learners have made towards your language learning objectives.

The short video at the beginning of this step explains some of the ways in which creative work with film can support assessment of learning in general, and language learning in particular. We also have two documents for you to download and read if you like: the first one is a general outline of some of the principles behind film-based language assessment tasks, written by course contributor Jenny Carpenter, and the other is a resource created by Into Film that suggests ways in which film might support assessment in literacy.


Your task in this step is to design a simple activity that uses film sound to help you assess your students’ progress towards one or more language learning objectives. Use the Thinking About Assessment Using Film resources in the downloads section to help you if you like. What signs of progress would you be looking for? What kinds of written/spoken/creative outcomes would you expect to see? Share your activity idea in the comments section if you wish.

Extension Activity

Using the Thinking About Assessment Using Film Table resource in the download section, create your own table of assessment parameters. Share your completed table to padlet.

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Short Film in Language Teaching

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