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Using film images for assessing language learning

Reflecting on what we've learned so far throughout the course, we now make a short film to demonstrate an aspect of language learning.
When you use filmmaking, what you’re doing is giving the students a great impetus to get their speaking and their accent correct, and to make sure they’re using the correct form of the verb, to make sure that they’re pronouncing it properly so that it’s properly understood, and to take really great pride in the work that they’re producing, because they’re going to be seen by an audience, whoever the audience may be; It may just be themselves and their group or their peers, but they really do take pride in making sure that that product’s going to be a quality product.
And obviously, because you’re in a team, they’re not going to want to let the team down by being seen to not give it their all to their part in the process. Ideally, I would actually use filmmaking in my lessons all the time. The learning from each other is very, very deep and very bubbly and profound. And the peer correction is constantly happening, so it feels like I’m not the only one giving them feedback about the language. They’re giving each other feedback all the time. When students engage in filmmaking, they often need to find out different ways of phrasing things, different ways of describing things, different vocabulary that they may not have encountered as yet.
But because they are engaged by the project– they’ve had some creative freedom about perhaps the story of their film or the content of their film, so that motivation encourages them to learn new language and to learn how to pronounce it. It’s also a wonderful opportunity to actually show their progress from the first script they’ve written, where you help them to improve it, and also peer correction, them improving each other’s scripts.
You can really see the evolution at the beginning of a term and at the end of term, how they arrived to a much more accurate final product, how their pronunciation has improved, their vocabulary base, because they have independently looked up words, they’ve linked the worlds together, they have worked on the looking up the gender and agreeing the adjective and the position of the adjective. So it’s a beautiful way to showcase a whole project. Where I’ve seen filmmaking deployed particularly successfully in the languages classroom is encouraging students to create very short animations.
Students really enjoyed this because they weren’t in the film, but they could plan the narration and the dialogue and create some really fun and engaging stories for their peers. We did a whole module with the upper sixth looking at job interviews. And as part of that, they had to stage their own job interviews. But we tried to make it as spontaneous as possible, so they designed their own role-play, and they worked out who was going to play what character.
But actually, when it came to filming, they weren’t quite sure what questions the interviewer might ask them, so they had to come up with questions and answers on the spot, which worked really well to get them to use the language more spontaneously. And then once we had it recorded, we were able to play it back to students, much as we would do with any other film, really, so play it back without any language, without sound. What you think might be happening here? Who are they? What job do you think they might be going for? And them play it with the sound and break it down.
And the students actually wrote questions based on their own recordings and their own videos for the other students to answer, as well. So because you were able to listen back to it, they were able to identify their own mistakes and their pronunciation and give peer and self assessment that way as well. The advice I would give to other teachers who would like to use filming within a language classroom is to explain to the children that actually the filming is a cherry on the cake. It’s the destination, not the journey.
And that to get there, you have to do a lot of planning and a lot of thinking and a lot of evaluating of what you have created, and that it’s a kind of ongoing process to be able to see that you have learned a lot of things on the way. I would tell them also to limit the time schedule, tell them that you actually are only allowed to do a film that is between one and three minutes long. Otherwise, you just have far too much volume and not enough quality to show for it. And I would just say trust the process.
When you do start it, because the children are using the language not just effectively, but also affectively, with their emotions, they sometimes forget absolutely everything you taught them. So it can feel bewildering when you see all the mistakes they make, but its a wonderful way, through making so many mistakes, to actually progress and gain accuracy. And I would just say share the films around. If we could have international projects, filming project, it would be so much fun, because children love watching other children.
And I would love, for instance, to make a film about our school and then send it to a French school and they send a film back about their school so they can also have much more insight into intercultural understanding and get a real appreciation and realise that French children are actually the same as English children, just within a different background.

So far in Week 2 we’ve focused on the visual aspects of film. We have looked at spaces, including rooms, and the characters and objects we find in them, as well as the way characters dress, and use non-verbal communication to support what they’re saying. We’ve suggested ways of exploring these visual aspects of film, and related them to concepts and skills in language learning.

In this step, we’d like you to think about how to use practical activities with film images to create a piece of work that would enable you to assess the progress made by an individual or group of learners in acquiring a skill in a particular language, or learning a new concept.

The video in this step shares some teachers’ views on how filmmaking can support language learning, and it ends (at the 05:00 mark in the video) with a short example of a student-made film that illustrates how practical filmmaking can help us assess a student’s progress in language learning. The English transcript for this is available in the download section.


Please add any of your own filmmaking and language assessment ideas to the comments section. Even if you have never made a film before, can you imagine how this technology could be used for assessing language learning? How can these concepts be adapted to suit your classroom? Add your ideas to the comment section.

Extension Activity

We’d now like to encourage you to create something yourselves using simple filmmaking technology. If making a film seems a little daunting to you, why not try scripting or storyboarding your ideas instead. See Step 1.10 for the storyboard template. And remember that extension activities are optional; you do not need to do the extension activities in order to successfully complete the course. We’d encourage you to give them a go though!

If you do have the technology and feel confident with it, go ahead and make a short film – it can be as little as 30 seconds long – that demonstrates an aspect of language learning and assessment. Or, if you’re able to, ask a group of students to create a short piece of film that does the same. You can use the technology guides mentioned in Step 1.16 to help you. Share your videos to padlet or alternatively if you have uploaded your film to YouTube, copy and paste the YouTube URL to the comments section.

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Short Film in Language Teaching

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