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Ellipsis – teaching ideas

Through narrating the sequence in a short clip, we practise making sentences in present tense as well as words and phrases that are connective.
No, no, don’t eat me. Please, wait, wait– I could be helpful.
I’m pretty resourceful, you know, I may be small but I’m pretty smart.
What if I brought you some food? Something tastier, way, way, way tastier than I am.
You’ll see, I’ll bring you something delicious. [music] Oh, alright, alright, I’ll get you something else, I’m going, I’m going. But are you sure that you don’t want to try it? [music] Alright, alright. [music]

The principal technique used by works of art is that of withholding information. Withhold too much information, and the work is opaque, obscure or obtuse, and difficult to follow. Give away too much information, and audiences or readers or viewers will be disappointed that it’s obvious (think of ‘whodunnits’ that are too easy to solve).

Being works of art in their own right, all of the short films in this course follow the principle of withholding information. You can withhold information about space (we don’t see Les Crayons is set in a cinema till 2 minutes in; we don’t see the businessman in Szalontudo sit at the wrong seat). You can also withhold bits of crucial time, or what a character is thinking.

Ellipsis, you will remember from Step 3.2, is when a story takes out or withholds story time, whether because that time is redundant, or because the filmmaker wants to create a mystery or enigma. In La Queue de la souris, the mouse moves between one animal and the next and ties them all together. But we don’t see him actually walking or running between each of the animals – instead the filmmaker just cuts from one animal being tied up to the next. All the ‘in between’ action is cut out. Crucially, we don’t see him tying up the lion – though this is less to do with cutting out time, more with using close-ups and withholding the wide shot that would show us what’s going on.

We can use ellipsis as the basis for teaching one or more aspect of languages. For example, narrating the ‘lost time’ in a story can be carried out as a simple past tense recount, or as a present tense narration. In this step, we will focus on present tense narration.


Watch the video clip of La Queue de la souris and look at the sequence where the mouse visits each animal and ties them up. Then, create a narration of what the mouse is doing. For example, ‘Meanwhile, the mouse scampers around the jungle, searching for other animals to offer as food…’. Use the list of connectives in the download section to help you.

Thinking about pupils at an early stage of language learning, suggest what connectives and time indicators you expect your pupils to use to sequence events? What additional support would you plan to make sure that pupils can tell a coherent story?

Teaching Idea

Using the downloadable Shots in Sequence Activity resource, ask your learners to write two or three linking sentences between the stills that ‘fill in’ the story activity that has been cut out. Attached is a list of connectives to help you and for use in your classroom. Feel free to translate them into your target language. How could you use and adapt this more structured resource for your language learners?

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Short Film in Language Teaching

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