Number one for English language teachers

Imaginative materials: using movies to teach English

Level: Starter/beginner, Elementary, Pre-intermediate, Intermediate, Upper intermediate, Advanced Type: Teaching notes

Most students enjoy watching a good movie, whether at the cinema or on TV. Here are a few ideas for making use of their interest and knowledge to create some unusual activities.

Instant film scripts

  • Ask your class if they can think of any spoken sentences that typically occur again and again in films - things such as “OK everybody. Put your hands up.” or “Oh darling. Don’t go!”.
  • Give students some thinking time to discuss possible answers in pairs then collect all their sentences on the board until you have a good number, taking the chance to correct mistakes and practise some exaggerated intonation.
  • Make groups with four or five students in them. Each group must now select some lines from the board and put them in an appropriate order to create a complete mini film scene. They cannot add extra words! 
  • Each group should write down their dialogue, rehearse it and later perform their scene in front of the class.

Favourite film keywords

In groups students agree on a film they have all seen e.g.  “8 Mile”. They must make a list of three key words that catch the essence of the film - but not including the film name or the names of any of the characters, places, actors or actresses. Example words for 8 Mile might be: rapper, contest, city. When ready, each team reads their words to the others who try to guess the film names.


  • Groups agree on a film they all know and list as many characters as they can remember.
  • Tell them that Hollywood is considering remaking the film but to save money they want to use students from their class as actors.
  • Groups must now discuss which students would be good for playing each of the roles, aiming to make a good cast list.

This is a good discussion task - but be a little careful; don’t use it with classes where there is any antagonism or negative feelings as there is some potential for unkind casting decisions and arguments!

Watching the detectives

  • First teach the class the 'truth rule' - i.e. if someone says something it becomes true and cannot be contradicted later on. 
  • Tell the class that they are all in a cinema and the blank board is the screen. Invite them to watch the board and imagine the movie being shown there. 
  • Say “The detective’s white car is stopping outside a house.”  Invite students to imagine the next part of the film.
  • When a student can “see” something he/she says a sentence about what is on the screen - e.g. “The detective is going into the house.” 
  • When the next student is ready he/she continues with what happens next (always following the truth rule).
  • Slowly a story will evolve as if from nothing - which is amazing as the board is completely blank. You can vary the story type by changing the opening line.


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Readers' comments (1)

  • oh this is fantastic!! I will try the first and last one. This will definitely make my class more exciting!

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