Developing film literacy in a foreign language class

Teaching language with film is about content based learning (CBL), i.e. the language becomes the medium through which something new is learned

CBL helps students to become better at diverse thinking and provides them with multimodal texts and learning activities. Authentic texts broaden students’ vocabulary, add the culture aspect to language learning, and improve motivation.

We chose a 2009 American-South African biographical sports drama film called Invictus to be our film. It tells a story about the South African President Nelson Mandela and François Pienaar, the captain of the South Africa rugby union team, and how they together fought against apartheid in South Africa. Our aim was to work on our students’ vocabulary as well as extend their knowledge of history, sports and human values.

We divided our film project into three parts: pre-film activities (content and language preparation), watching the film (note taking and task sheets), and post-film activities (whole group discussion, film reviews, group presentations and feedback)

This project was a success, and it encouraged us to undertake another film project next school year.

  • Teacher guidelines for preparing their students to write film reviews
  • Student handouts and worksheets
  • Open class: slides on group presentations

According to the constructivist approach to learning, technology should be given increasingly more space in foreign language instruction. However, the use of ICT should be well-thought-out.

Undoubtedly, teaching language with film makes the learning process more varied. Film is then used for learning purposes rather than for entertainment. Film has the potential of motivating even the most indifferent students and it inspires everyone to defend their positions more vigorously. Along the way, students will be able to considerably improve their writing and public speaking skills.

As this was our first film project, we didn’t know what to expect. However, as everything turned out better than we had expected, we felt encouraged to take our film project to the next level. So what we are doing right now is creating a set of film literacy activities students can do online. We are happy to be able to give an access to the first module on Moodle soon.