Using Film Extracts in TEFL

There is no room for discussion that films represent an inexhaustible source of inspiration for teachers, as there is a great variety of activities they can design. They can also find them online, already designed by other people and they can easily adapt them to meet their students’ needs and interests.

May the Force be with you.”
“There’s no place like home.”
“I’m the king of the world!”
“Carpe diem. Seize the day, boys. Make your lives extraordinary.”
“Magic Mirror on the wall, who is the fairest one of all?”
“Keep your friends close, but your enemies closer.”
“Hasta la vista, baby.”
“Nobody puts Baby in a corner.”
„They may take our lives, but they’ll never take our freedom!”

Yes, you got it, these are famous quotes from films that many people know, say and use in different situations. Do you know which films they belong to? Well, you can go to to check your answers to these and find many more. This can be an example of activity you can do with your students in class, but there are so many more.

Graham Workman mentions, in his book ”Popular Films for Language Use 2”, a variety of activities you can do in class exploiting  films/film extracts, such as quizzes about:

  • film titles & names of the actors/actresses;
  • real names & screen names;
  • film taglines found on film posters (”a tagline is like an advertising slogan and is used to help market a film. It is a memorable phrase that gives an idea of what type of film it is and what the film will be about.”);
  • film lines and actors who said them and in what film;
  • funny film lines;
  • film directors and so on.

Here are a few useful sites or blogs which can help and guide teachers to choose the best film extracts to teach whatever they want:,,,,,,, etc.).

Moreover, films are a powerful tool during classes which engages and inspires students as well, motivates them for additional research, opens new windows to new things in life, helps them reconsider their values, etc. From a pedagogical point of view, combined with correct curriculum, films can open the door to key discussions and offer context for different topics or hot current issues. They provide different sorts of teaching as they include both verbal and non-verbal communication. For example, they can help put focus on attention (the visual clues like facial expressions and gestures, support the verbal message), offer authentic and varied language, real situations, real-life conversations. They bring variety and flexibility, as they can help students practise the four language skills (speaking, listening, reading and writing).

But how can we integrate films in our teaching in order to make our lessons vivid and meaningful and also create a positive classroom atmosphere? There are some steps which we should follow in order to choose the right film that we can use. This should be made according to our students’ level and interests and our purposes – both pedagogical and linguistic. The script should be checked beforehand for the teachers to make sure the English level is appropriate, as well as the film/extract itself from all points of view.

Film extracts are multidimensional and this offer teachers the possibility to exploit them at least on four levels, such as: vision, sound, text and film. In addition, a wide range of activities can be created by the teachers, such as:

  • description of the setting/ characters/ gestures;
  • discussion of theme/ plot/ characters’ points of view;
  • listening activities;
  • filling-in-the-blanks exercises;
  • guessing what’s next;
  • studying cultural differences, etc.
  • watching, without sound and  guessing what the characters say/ predicting what happens next.

The lesson can be designed in three main parts:
pre-viewing (examples of activities: to predict future events/guess information about the characters/a jumbled dialogue that they check during the viewing part);
viewing (completing a table with some very short information);
post-viewing (comprehension questions/discussion questions about cultural differences).
As follow-up activities there can be mentioned writing short paragraphs about characters, presenting the plot from a certain character’s point of view, writing the summary, changing the ending, etc.

I will add few of the films, that I have used at class with my students so far, because I think they are very worth sharing.

  • Film: Green Card (pre-intermediate to intermediate) – on the topics of studying/living/working abroad, knowing other people, adverbs of frequency.
  • Film: Modern Times (intermediate to advanced) – on the topics of jobs vocabulary, describing machines, inventions.
  • Film: Lost in Translation (intermediate to advanced)-  on the topics of culture shock/ differences, travel, learning languages, advertising.

In conclusion, learning in such a way can be motivating and enjoyable at the same time, not to mention that it is helpful both for teachers and students to work/learn in a pleasant way, to think critically about films and to mix knowledge and cross-curricular topics with fun and entertainment.

Sample lesson taken from Popular Films for Language Use 2, by Graham Workman

Film: 101 Dalmatians – elementary level (language focus: present simple, telling the time, question formation, theme: daily routines, pets)

Orientation – Who gets up first in the morning in your house?

– What do you do every morning?

– What do your pets do? etc.

Extract 1 – The start of the day (00mins58secs – 2min35secs)

Viewing Task 1

1. Which four rooms does the dog visit?

2. What does the dog do in each room?

Language Task – Match the words in the box (e.g. alarm clock rings, turn the PC on, licks the man’s ear, dog wakes up, brings in milk, etc.) to the pictures below.

Viewing Task 2 – Watch the extract again and number the pictures in the order in which the dog does them.

Listening – Mime the actions (in pairs). Students are given a piece of paper with instructions on it. Then, taking turns, one reads an instruction and the other one mimes it. E.g.

– you’re asleep.

– the alarm, clock rings.

– take off your pyjamas.

– open the front door, etc.

Speaking – One student mimes a typical day and the other has to describe what his partner does (using Present Simple). Then, they change roles.

Speaking – Talk together, as a class about daily routines, an activity such as: „Find someone who………”

Speaking – Tell me about your pet – interview your partner. Sample questions: How many pets have you got?, Is it  a male/female?, What colour is it?, What do you like most about your pet/pets? 

Class survey on pets – Students talk together as a class to find out the answers to some questions: Who has the most pets?, Who has the youngest pets?What are the advantages/disadvantages of having pets? , etc.

Homework Task

1. Write a description of your typical Sunday or Monday, saying what you like and dislike about it.


2. Describe a typical day in the life of your pet, written from the pet’s point of view.

Workman, Graham, Popular Films for Language Use 2 – Gem Publishing, 2008


prof. Aurelia Nicolae

Școala Gimnazială Radu cel Mare, Găești (Dâmboviţa) , România
Profil iTeach:

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