Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Using Film Clusters to Boost Your EFL Learners’ Listening Comprehension Skills

Use of Film Clusters
Who doesn’t like movies? Not only are they stimulating, interesting and enjoyable for your English as a foreign language learners, but the broad selection of available genres and types offers a substantial range of didactic aids for the EFL professional. So just what is a film cluster? It is simply a group or series of related movies, clips or videos. Some films and character series like the Star Wars saga, the Matrix sequels, the Indiana Jones series of adventures, James Bond, Harry Potter, the Die Hard series of films, King Kong remakes, Tarzan, Batman, Spiderman and numerous others also have sequels, trilogies or multiple parts. For the improvement of listening comprehension, vocabulary, idioms and expressions or use of connected speech elements in English language learners, such clusters or related series can be highly effective in several applications.

Image: The visually-impaired Mr. Magoo

Film Genres or Types
The more widely known movie and film genres or types include:

Horror or Terror – “Nightmare on Elm Street”, “Saw”, “Halloween”
Romance – “Titanic”, “Pretty Woman”, “An Officer and a Gentleman”
Drama – “Man on Fire”, “Code Name: Swordfish”
Action / Adventure – “Die Hard”, James Bond
Westerns – many films starring John Wayne, Clint Eastwood or Lee Van Cleef
Sci-Fi or Fantasy – “Star Wars”, “Matrix”, “Lord of the Rings”, “Harry Potter”
Animated – a number of Disney and children’s movies or cartoon characters
Documentary – “March of the Penguins”
Police / Detective / Crime – “Dirty Harry”, “Bad Boys”
Thrillers – “Fargo”, the “Alien” series of films, the “Jason Bourne” trilogy of films
Historical – “Frida”, “The Motorcycle Diaries”
Comedy – many movies starring Jim Carey or Eddie Murphy
War and Military – “Saving Private Ryan”, “Black Hawk Down”, “The Hunt for Red October”

Lesson Stages
While a number of methods can be employed to determine what the learners like or prefer, one way to reduce your background preparation and movie titles search is to use a cluster, or series of related films. For the first film in a cluster or series of related films, some extensive pre-viewing preparation needs to be done. Lessons with a video or movie clip component basis typically have three basic stages:

Pre-viewing activities that activate the schema of the learner and introduce or warm-up the learners to the theme or topic

While-viewing lesson stage aspects that can be applied as the learners watch the film, documentary segment or movie clip

Post-viewing activities such as comprehension questions, discussions, written exercises and presentation preparations

Film Cluster Aspects
There can be a distinct advantage in using clusters or a related group of films or movie clips such as:

The settings, characters and topics become familiar to the viewers
Less pre-viewing and introduction are required
EFL Learners develop an interest in continuing the series
Film trilogies, remakes or sagas may be easier to acquire for the time, resource and cash-strapped English language teacher
Multiple aspects of the film series or cluster can be explored through repeated or multiple viewings in addition to different lessons
The level of vocabulary in English, American and British or other English accents, connected speech elements, register and additional linguistic or cultural elements tend to remain consistent throughout the film series or cluster

Everyone likes movies of some type. We as English language teaching professionals know that not only are they stimulating, interesting and enjoyable for our English as a foreign language learners, but the broad selection of available genres and types offers a substantial range of didactic aids. If you want a sure way to help lower the Affective Filter (Krashen-Terrell, 1983) you must definitely give the regular use of clusters of films, movies or video clips a try. For some interesting clusters to start off with, consult the other articles in this series or e-mail the author for the full article set.

Larry M. Lynch is an English language teaching and learning expert author and university professor in Cali, Colombia. Now YOU too can live your dreams in paradise, find romance, high adventure and get paid while travelling for free. For more information on the lucrative, fascinating field of teaching English as a Foreign Language, get your copy of his no-cost, full multi-media, hypertext-linked pdf ebook, “If You Want to Teach English Abroad, Here’s What You Need to Know” by sending an e-mail with "free ELT Ebook" in the subject line. Need professional, original content for your blog, newsletter, e-zine or website? Want more information, have a comment or special request? Contact the author at:

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