“Movie Reading”

Over on Ben’s blog, there’s a discussion going about “movie reading.” The idea is that the teacher reads in L1, while the kids follow in TL. This works well in certain situations, with certain kids, though as JB mentioned, it may just lead to a perception of understanding, and she gave as an example the general US population’s ability with the Centigrade thermometer. Most of us see it frequently, but because it is immediately translated with the Fahrenheit equivalent, we don’t acquire it.

There’s a lot more to this discussion, but I wanted to share what happened in my advanced class today. It was the best-case scenario of movie reading.

Kids are reading the completed version of the book they wrote, but most of them hadn’t yet seen it in a full piece, with all the revisions. They mutinied on me when I asked them to read in pairs, either in Russian or English. Instead, one student read out loud dramatically in English, while they followed (a technique they had come up with on their own the other day when I was out of the room). Forty-five minutes of straight reading allowed them to finish the book. They were glued to the pages. When the leader’s dramatic efforts left the words on the page behind, they would start reading the real words for her, and when she made mistakes, they would correct her. It was almost magical.

I’ve tried to do this movie reading before, and now I realize how baby-easy the text needs to be for it to be successful as far as acquisition. It simply can’t have any impediments.

We’ve talked about using movie reading to get through an interesting but difficult article, and while I think that’s okay, I would prefer to have it as easy as the text we read today. My student was still making occasional errors (mostly in tense and similar words) in a book that she had helped write! I am now more convinced that the better we can prepare kids for a text at any level above super easy, the more they will be able to acquire.

Still, this experience was idyllic. I was completely superfluous!

3 responses to ““Movie Reading”

  1. I have conflicted feelings about this one. I can see why your students were so attentive: it was their creation and they were looking forward to see their own contribution somewhere along the way. I find that my kids work better with partner instead of an all class read. They can move at their own pace and negotiate the meaning together versus relying on someone else doing it for them. I walk around to help with anything they’ve underlined and hold them accountable by giving an easy quiz every once in a while.

    I do see your point though about making it super easy so all that really matters is how dramatic/silly the reading is. I’ll have to think about it some more.


  2. You know, I’m not sure the technique would work so well if they didn’t have a regular diet of processing the L2. I wonder if the contrast between the normal routine and the occasional L1 carpetbombing is what makes it work. Without the tension of “can I really do this? Oh wow, I can.” going in in their heads, my classes tend to fall flat more often than not.


  3. I think you’re both right about this. It’s a technique to be used rarely, and in small doses, and this may have been the best application for it. I’d forgotten that half of it might be seeing their words in print, even if it was only classroom copies!

    Usually we do English reading in pairs exactly the same way you do it, Natalia, and it was only that one girl took over the other day without my presence that they changed it up. That might be another reason that it worked…it was totally their idea.

    It was just so nice to have them so focused!

    Today we’re going to the lab to divvy up the chapters again, because we need an English translation for our publisher, and I don’t want to have to type it. Meanwhile, we need to get the drawings under control. Once that’s finished, we’re going to start a CYOA, and see whether we can’t turn one of those into a book for first-year. Or maybe the intermediates can do that and this group will do another “book” based on the ideas of a different boy.


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