How Do I do MovieTalk?


Movietalk is the single best, simplest add-on to t.p.r.s. there is. You can do it; your colleagues who don’t use tprs/ci can do it; here is How To Do MovieTalk! All you need is a way to show a video/Internet clip in your class.


A)  If you have done a story, find a short video– animated film, commercial, public-service ad, clip from a movie– which will let you say your target structures.

B) Watch it start to end to find the “natural pauses”– make note of these, or remember– and make sure it’s OK for your classes.


C) Turn sound off if the video has any language at all (though music etc is fine).

D) Play 10-20 seconds of the video. Pause at a good natural break.

E) Now, point and start making statements, and then circling them. Class, is there a boy or a chicken? That’s right, class, there is a chicken. Is the chicken beautiful or ugly? Etc etc. You can also EASILY personalise any of this: Johnny, do YOU have a chicken? Is she ugly or beautiful? etc.

The beauty of MovieTalk is that you can target not only your specific structures but also anything else the students have already seen.. If you structures are, say, wants, goes to and needs, you make (and circle) statements about those. BUT you can also bring up anything else you want reps on! Time, numbers, any other verbs, etc etc. If they have seen it, and they understand, you can use it.

F) When the circling runs out of steam, play 10-30 more seconds of video, then pause and repeat.

Where do I get videos?  

There are two searchable and organsied Movietalk databases of which I am aware:  one is here and the other is here.  Blaine and Von Ray and Mike Coxon have a new set of books and DVDs about Movietalk here (note:  I have not used these; this is not a recommendation or review).

My favourite Movietalk variations:

1) Picturetalk before the movie. Before showing the film, make screen-shots of 4-8 significant moments of the film not including the ending. Instead of showing the film, tell students “I am going to show you a set of pictures from a video which tell a story. Then we’ll watch the end together.”

Now, show them image #1 from the film, and ask, circle & personalise away. Repeat until you have gotten to the end of your images. Then, show the rest of the film. People always want to know what happens at the end!

2) Other-tense review.. Narrate/circle the film (and/or your screenshots) in present tense. Once the film is done, review it in the past tense. Just do your comprehension checks so the kids know what’s what– “Class, what’s the difference between the boy eats the cake and the boy ate the cake? That’s right– eats is right now, and ate is it’s already happened.” While this may seem a minor point, it’s important, as it’s easy to think students can tell the difference between the tenses when often– especially when you have beginners and use fully unsheltered grammar– they get mixed up.

Say you show 60 sec of your movie on Monday.  You will be narrating and asking questions in the present tense.  On Tues, put up 2-3 screenshots from those first 60 sec., and you review them in the past tense.

3) Movie trailers. This is not my idea (it maybe comes from Eric Herman). The day before MovieTalk, you tell the kids tomorrow we will watch a film. In this film there will be a girl who will have a problem…” Use one screenshot (and circle). This gets students interested, and allows you to use one of the future verb tenses.

4) Reading! You can write up your narration (which will obviously be a story, yay!) and have students read that when aural input is done.  Lots of teachers sell these on TPT or trade them. This is a killer way to reinforce the MT but it can be a lot of work if you r curriculum is untargeted and you are using new videos all the time.

A few pointers:

  • focus on your target structures and what the kids know. Do NOT use MovieTalk to introduce a ton of new vocab.
  • go S.L.O.W.L.Y.
  • this, like circling, is an art. If you are too repetitive, or too slow in getting through the film, etc, students lose interest. You do not want to beat each moment to death.
  • the success of Movietalk is because you have visuals to anchor language, and because you limit your vocabulary while giving loads of repetitions.
  • students often have great ideas for videos. Put the call out– “who can recommend a 3-minute video where there are people ______? Email/tweet/mssg me your suggestions.”

Ok people, please let me know if you have add-ons, or if I failed to credit people for ideas, etc.  By the way, Movietalk was initially called “narrative paraphrase” and was developed by Ashley Hastings as part of the “Focal Skills” approach to teaching languages.


  1. As an alternative to using movies, you could use works of art, easily available on GoogleArt. I did a MOOC through MoMA last summer and the Language Teacher discussion board shared great ideas for incorporating art and culture into their teaching. Students can play with language in describing and interpreting a painting — my students wrote postcards while on vacation in a Dali landscape and imagined a dialogue between characters in Van Gogh’s ‘Potato Eaters’. They can also use the TL by creating their own art in pairs by drawing a cadavre exquis or objet poétique.

  2. ^ that’s what Ben Slavic calls “look and discuss” or I call “Picturetalk.” I’ll do a post on this soon.

    I think the output using art is a bad idea at least for 1-3rd year kids. However using art as a basis for picturetalk is great.

    1. “Circling” is a TPRS term. You ask questions about the thing you Are teaching, always repeating the answer. Eg you are teaching “juega” (she plays):

      Clase, la chica juega al fútbol (aaaaah!)
      Clase, ¿juega al fúrbol la chica?
      — ¡sí!
      Muy bien, la chica juega al fútbol.

      Clase, ¿juega al basquetbol la chica?
      — Noooo
      Muy bien, clase, la chica no juega al basquetbol. Juega al fútbol.

      You ask y/n, either or, then where and when and whith whom. You should google this– there are demos– it’s a way to repeat language. Invented by Susan Gross.

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