MovieTalk is a technique for language learning developed by Dr. Ashley Hastings as part of the FOCAL skills program used to teach ESL at the university level. You can read the ‘official’ background on MovieTalk here.
MovieTalk was ‘discovered’ and brought to the TPRS world by Michele Whaley, a Russian teacher in Anchorage, AK, in 2012. She has led several trainings with our local TPRS group and blogged about it quite extensively. She also connected with Dr. Hastings and arranged a Skype session with our local group and helped bring him to Alaska in 2013 for our annual AFLA conference. Read Michele’s blog archives here.
MovieTalk is a great way to present your students with a broad range of vocabulary in an engaging manner. It provides comprehensible input because students are seeing images (instead of written translations) of the structures as you describe them. It is an excellent way to provide differentiated instruction, because student will pick up on whatever they are able to based on their current level of language ability. Beginning students will pick up a few words, since most words will be new to them, and advanced students will pick up on the few new words to them and will notice grammatical constructions.
How to MovieTalk
MovieTalk is simple. If you have ever attended a TPRS® training, you will easily be able to transfer the skills that you learned to MovieTalk. Just imagine that instead of a reading or a story with live actors, you are circling and discussing what is visible on the screen (NOT the dialogue).
Begin by choosing a short film or a short segment of a longer film. It shouldn’t be more than five minutes long. It should be visually stimulating, with little dialogue (rather, little dialogue that is essential to the understanding of the clip). The ‘plot’ should be fairly obvious when the volume is turned off and the film is simply watched, not listened to. Typically, I choose a film that fits in with whatever structures we are currently studying, so that I can get in more repetitions of those structures. However, this is not necessary–you could choose a film just for fun that has nothing to do with what you are currently learning. The students will still acquire language as they view it!
Turn off the volume. Begin playing the clip, but pause it once the first image appears on the screen. Describe anything and everything that you see on the screen in the target language. Use the TPRS® techniques that you have learned to get in repetitions of the structures–circling, personalization, and comprehension checks. Typically, I concentrate the MovieTalk on the structures that we are working on in class (since I choose the films based on those structures). I describe everything, but I really perseverate on the target structures. Once you’ve discussed the first image sufficiently, push ‘play’, and play the film until something else happens or appears on the screen. Pause the film again, and describe what is in this new image. Circle, personalize, and check for comprehension. Continue this process–pausing and describing each new image–until you have finished the clip. (If there is a ‘twist’ at the end of the clip, you may wish to stop the clip before the film ends in order to create suspense.)
After you have finished MovieTalk for the clip, play it from the beginning with sound and without pausing. (The kids will probably mutiny if you don’t!) If you saved the ‘twist’ at the end, the kids will really be anxious to see what happens! You can discuss it after they’ve seen it.
For more MovieTalk ideas, click here to view my MovieTalk archives or here to view my MovieTalk & Música board on Pinterest. You can also view demos posted by Michele of various teachers in Anchorage using MovieTalk on Michele’s YouTube channel (including a great series of French demos by Julia Stutzer). Finally, read Chris Stolz’s MovieTalk tutorial here and Haiyun Lu’s here.