Films can be an invaluable source of inspiration when teaching languages. Marian Jones puts on a few old favourites.This year, why not take one of your French classes to sample Christmas in rural Provence? Their (virtual) experience will take them back a century and allow them to see the treize desserts, which formed the centrepiece of the Christmas meal, to watch the children opening their presents and to eavesdrop on a conversation about the meaning of Christmas.
It's just one of the many cultural experiences you can give your pupils by turning your classroom into a cinema, using a DVD - on this occasion Le Chateau de ma mere (certificate U). Having watched the scene, they can answer vraifaux questions about what they've observed and fill in the gaps in a list of the 13 desserts.
Leave the subtitles on and lower school classes will cope, or switch them off and challenge a good GCSE group, perhaps letting them watch it twice so they have time to "tune in" properly.
We know most pupils love cinema, so it makes sense for MFL teachers to use foreign films to boost motivation and add variety. Advantages include extended listening practice and bringing the foreign culture into the class.
Of course, it's quite possible to devise your own materials too. You can write worksheets that help pupils practise grammar points or introduce topic vocabulary based on selected scenes from a foreign film that you think your pupils will enjoy.
If you don't always have time to write materials from scratch, bear in mind the following general tips for using film in the MFL classroom, which are quick to organise:
- Show an intriguing "still" from a film and ask pupils to describe the characters or the action in the foreign language. They could also ask you questions to establish what's happening. Follow this by playing an extract of the film.
- Show a short extract, with or without subtitles, depending on your pupils' abilities, and then ask them to tell you about it. Provide key vocabulary if necessary.
- You can phrase the questions to elicit responses in whichever tense you want to practise: ask what is happening (present), has happened (past), will happen next (future) or what pupils would do (conditional) in that situation. Ask older pupils speculative questions about why a character is doing certain things or what the relationship between two characters might be.
- Choose a number of 10 to 15-minute extracts from a film and play them in order once a week at the end of whichever lesson is their least attentive. In half a term, you can give a real flavour of the whole film and perhaps inspire them to watch it themselves.
Will your pupils watch foreign films in their own time? Try these ideas:
- A film club. Ideally, use a room with comfortable seats and be careful to choose only films that they will genuinely enjoy. Popcorn adds to the cinema experience.
- A collection in the school library. Issue a list and challenge everyone to watch, say, one film per half term or holiday. Set up quiz-sheets for each film to check they are actually doing it.
- For 12s and under, try Au Revoir Les Enfants or the thrilling He loves me, he loves me not with Audrey Tautou. Good 15 certificate films include the comedy Le diner des cons or the romantic, Hitchcock-influenced L'Appartement
Marian Jones is a part-time teacher and textbook writer. She set up Cinepacks, which specialises in learning through film. Cinepack, pound;3 from www.cinepacks.co.uk
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