MovieTalk really works!

I’m going to be very honest right now. I have been loving MovieTalk in my classroom this year. But sometimes, I have wondered whether it truly “works.” That’s because I’ve only heard myself do it, and then I’ve read scripts in English. I haven’t been able to feel it the way that we get to feel TPRS work when we go learn bits of other languages or attend workshops that give us days of Chinese or Spanish.

Today I can tell you for sure: MovieTalk works. Our First Friday bunch got together with the goal of coaching one another through some MovieTalk. A student teacher was up first with a funny little video. She used French to tell us what was going on in the movie. I had to interrupt her right away. “I understand everything!” I was so excited! And she’s a student teacher…one who walks on water, obviously, but we don’t always expect stellar teaching in the first year. Then we watched a Water Boy movie in Japanese for a while. Again, we understood everything. Then it was Russian, then German. In German, where I have acquired more of the nouns, I found myself picking up verbs.

I can almost not believe this. I can understand how my kids picked up words after hearing them one time now. I can’t remember the French for “leg,” but I can remember these: cook, dog, woman, man, cake… and I can say them! I can understand a whole bunch of verbs and a few adjectives, but at this basic level, acquiring a few nouns is probably where I’m best, because I am a true beginner. (I won’t let myself go off on a tangent here about order of acquisition, that maybe we acquire nouns we’re interested in first, and more slowly verbs…)

The second most interesting thing about this experience is that I should have been dead tired (after a day of state Russian competition; I organized the judges and ran the competition room. It’s hectic). I was thinking I was crazy to have scheduled this meeting on the same day. But once the movies started and I was understanding everything, I was alive and energized.

It’s going to be a while before any of us knows enough about MT to know how to coach it. That will take a different kind of mind, but then we’ll be able to take off running!

My colleagues in the ASD rock. I am incredibly lucky to know these teachers who care enough to turn out on a Friday for a couple of hours and practice our craft. And the geniuses of the CI world also rock. They have been giving us the tools to help people acquire languages…for real…at last.


11 responses to “MovieTalk really works!

  1. Reblogged this on Kristy Placido and commented:
    I am just starting to experiment with this, but I am looking forward to trying it more!


    • I think MovieTalk is starting a revolution! Combined with the skills we need for TPRS and other CI techniques, we are going to take down the non-language-speaking world.


  2. Spanish Teacher

    Thanks for sharing! We recently acquired an ActiveBoard. (It’s a portable Mimeo that mounts on your whiteboard, turning that section into an ActiveBoard). It is perfect for MovieTalk because you can stand right next to the projection and just click the board to pause. My colleague is trying MovieTalk (I haven’t yet…I was waiting for the Mimeo to arrive). But she has used it in her Spanish III class and loves the new Mimeo (she was hanging out in the back of the room by the computer before). In fact, she decided to watch Alma in a small window on one side and have a student use the wireless keyboard to type on the other side into a Word document when she paused the video. These students had seen the video twice already, so they were ready for this type of work. Like you, we can’t “see” how Movie Talk is helping so we are going to go on your word (above) and keep plugging away!!


    • I’m so glad you’re plugging! Maybe our news that Ashley Hastings (the creator of the method) is coming to our state conference the last weekend of September will make other people jealous…or convince them to come to the conference. He makes it very simple. I’m wondering whether we can round up some ELL kids for him to demonstrate on.


  3. This might be a good spot for a confession. Apparently I missed something in my exploration of Movie Talk and I have (up to this point) NOT shown the entire clip before going back and narrating the clip bit by bit. The good news? It still worked so well!!! I like that I could show a piece with a surprise ending and the students would not see it coming.

    You’d think, after all of our conversation about framing the context with Embedded Reading and Scaffolded Literacy that I would REMEMBER how it really helps students to know what is coming!! It’s counter-intuitive to tell them the outline of the story and I am still unconsciously resisting it!!

    So, last week I was with Haiyun Lu in Wisconsin and she was using Movie Talk the right way, but showing the clip FIRST, then going back and using Movie Talk with it. EVEN WHEN I SAW IT WORK, I was incredulous!! The students did not care at all that they had already “seen” the clip!! What they were looking forward to was when Haiyun interactively narrated the clip!! She pointed out details that they had not seen in the few minutes that the clip flew by them. She pointed out cultural connections that they would not have picked up on. She also was able to point out literary elements in the script. AND she engaged them in discussion about the characters and the plot. They were TOTALLY engrossed.

    I can’t wait to get back in with a clip and try it again. I can always stop it before the surprise ending!! (why didn’t I figure that out before? duh!)

    with love,


    • We had quite the good discussion before we started coaching yesterday. It reminded me of our Embedded Reading sessions because when people asked questions about the better of two ways to do something, we had to conjecture that the answer was “Yes.” MT was developed for college-age students who are very motivated. We are adapting it to an environment where students have to be evaluated, and where we may have to introduce other skills, like reading and writing, earlier than might otherwise be done in a stricter Focal Skills setting.

      Before I get going on some of those adaptations and reports from the field that we heard, I would say that I’ve personally used MT both ways now: showing the whole clip in advance and showing it bit by bit first. My students like seeing it after the fact, and the student teacher yesterday did it after the fact. She had SUCH a great movie, with a parallel of a woman preparing for a date, and the guy preparing for the same date by cooking a cake. The host teacher said it was perfect for reflexive/non-reflexive verbs of the same form. (Hmm…maybe we need to start a MovieTalk movie site so that we could have all these great clips in one place…the same teacher, who knows Russian, had used a Russian clip with her French students, because she liked it so much…)

      Teachers reported that they used MT or an adaptation thereof for anywhere from five to thirty minutes at a stretch. Another student teacher commented that his behavior problem kid turned into a rabid German student, once MT was instituted (this in an already TPRS classroom with a fabulous host and student teacher combo). She’s thinking of going on next year, rather than hating the class. Others talked about the rise in interest. One teacher said that she’d do only MT, full time, if she thought she could get away with it.

      Some are using the subtitles at higher levels, even though we did discuss the caution that we shouldn’t combine listening skills with reading skills, but it really depends on the class. My gut tells me that needing to use the subtitles might mean that the movie doesn’t have enough action to tell the whole story (at least, that was the case with the movie I did that way). On the other hand, it’s one way to mix the skills when we need to, and it gives us the chance to relax a little and not be the sole conveyer of information.

      We also discussed pre-telling the dialogue, as Dr. Hastings suggests, especially where the course of the movie hinges on the action.

      Now that we’ve tried it in a group, I also feel a little more relaxed about using non-target language clips for MT (although I was totally entranced by the German fairy tale we saw with the real castle in the background…obviously that lays the groundwork for a lot of other connections), especially at the beginning levels. One of our teachers is combining reading Piratas with showing Pirates of the Caribbean in Spanish in her level 1 class. But again, she’s using really short clips, rather than showing the whole movie at once.

      All of us have/had issues with the kids’ wanting to see the entire movie, but now we’re getting better at explaining the science of the method so that they understand why they see clips…it’s all input! I think that we have to remember that the kids don’t know what we’ve been studying, so it’s good to keep that (insert forgotten eduspeak word here…metacognition?) piece so that they “get” what we’re doing. After the third or tenth time, it will sink in.


  4. Michele,
    Do you think the student teacher would be willing to share a link or title for the clip she used? I am currently working on reflexives and it would be a perfect clip to use and a great way to jump into trying out MT. I have been wanting to start but haven’t made the leap yet.

    You guys know how lucky you are to have such a great learning community I imagine. I spent our time together yesterday working on common assessments from the book (ugh!) for my Spanish classes. Lucky for me I still have freedom in French!

    Thanks for this post. Inspiring!


    • I’m sure she would. It’s on my desktop at school. Something about romance and baking a cake on YouTube. On Monday, I’ll look for it.


    • Hi, Ruth. At around 20 minutes there should be an episode titled “Trotro Fait Sa Toilette”. My kids love this little donkey and Michele, I think it’s in Russian, German, and Dutch. After we watch and talk, I can take screen shots and make a PP for more discussion, assessment, etc. Loving this thread!
      All the best,


  5. Hola! I am so envious of you. I do not have a group of colleagues anymore at my school. However, today I was reminder how it looks like. I went to a tech symposium and had the opportunity to spend sometime learning with other teachers and good friends… that is the best! Have you used the software frames? It is a great tool for student-made animation and storytelling.


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