Film Study

I have often wondered if students get much out of watching movies in the target language. Since it is difficult to make movies entirely comprehensible, they may seem to not fit well with the TPRS method, however there are other reasons to show a movie than as a tool to help students acquire language. Often movies are tied to a cultural topic, and they can be a good way to capture students’ interest as well as to give both yourself and the students a bit of a break. If you want to, you can even teach the movie in a CI-friendly way. For example, a film study unit could happen as follows:

  • begin with an attention-getting activity
  • introduce the background culture in the target language through CI techniques (such as storytelling and circling)
  • vocabulary study (list cognates that may come up in the movie and/or relate to the topic)
  • show the film (in English with subtitles in the target language) and discuss
  • once per week (possibly on Fridays), show 10-15 minute sections of the movie and watch each section twice to discuss (watch the section in the target language without English subtitles the first time and with English subtitles the second time)
  • once per week, do a lesson related to some aspect of the target culture in the film
  • once the film study is complete, discuss the topic in depth
  • tie the film study into a novel study (ie. the movie “Romero” and the novel “Vida y Muerte en La Mara Salvatrucha”
“I have had so many kids leave after 4 years of Spanish saying that they were so grateful that we had studied the language but also gotten deep into cultural topics. I couldn’t do it without the films. It is a way to really hook them into learning the material without feeling like its a chore. It goes beyond food, capitals, and landmarks and really into those 21st century ACTFL skills of making connections between their culture and the culture of other people. The visual images of life in another country are very powerful.”

Source: Carrie Toth, moreTPRS

Posted in Culture.


  1. One strategy that I have found essential to successful movie viewing (in English or in the target language) is to stop the movie at least every 10 minutes and discuss something that the students have just viewed. It keeps them from zoning out, first of all, and also helps them process what they are seeing and fill in gaps of misunderstanding.

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