Six ways to exploit the Oscars in class

academy_award_oscarI have tried to avoid many of the “typical” topics at this site, which is why there wasn’t anything about Valentine’s Day last week. But the Oscars are too much to resist. For those of you, like myself, who are planning the week’s lessons and want to include a bit of Hollywood glamour then here are six ideas. None involve gawping at celebrities or debating who had the best dress by the way, I leave that to others.

1. Watch the trailers! You can see all the trailers in one place, here. Otherwise find them on youtube. Select half a dozen or so and make a worksheet to go with them. You could extract a line or two from each film trailer and then students have to listen and match. Include a couple of “distractors” too (lines that don’t belong to any film) to give extra challenge.

2. Make a speech! Ask students to work in pairs and write a one minute acceptance speech for an award. Use this to teach them phrases like: “I’d just like to thank…” “I owe a lot to…” etc. This could lead into discussion on the culture of speeches and speech-giving (who usually gives speeches in their culture, when is an appropriate time for a speech…)

3. Trot out your movie discussion questions! Lots of teachers I know have a bunch of these. Examples: What was the last film you saw? What’s your favourite film? Where do you sit in the cinema? What film do you remember from your childhood? How often do you watch a film on television? etc. I like to set up small groups with one person as the “questioner” who interviews the others and reports back. 

4. Make a scene! Put the students into groups. Give each group a title and a mini synopsis of one of the nominated films. For example: Revolutionary Road. A husband and wife in 1950s suburban Connecticut, dissatisfied with life, decide to move to France and their relationship deteriorates into an endless cycle of squabbling, jealousy and recriminations.

The students have to organise themselves into a frozen scene from the film. When they have done so, the other students must comment on what they think is going on. Alternatively, one of the students is the director and he/she explains the significance of the scene.

5. Organise a “class Oscars”! Basically, by this I mean a class awards ceremony. You could have different categories, for example: Best Joke told in Class, Quickest Speaker in English, Best Pronunciation Award… choose categories that won’t cause resentment depending on your students. Students could decide some of the categories themselves. Have an awards ceremony, having different students open the envelope and read out “And the winner is…” + the name inside. Winners have to make an acceptance speech.

6. Teach passives. Can’t bring myself to add an exclamation mark at the end of this one, but all this film stuff does lend itself very well to teaching or reviewing the passive voice. And we are language teachers after all. You’ve got “was won by…” “was played by…” “X and Y were both nominated for…” “was directed by…”. Impossible to ignore! One possibility would be to create a series of sentences about films, actors, awards etc. Students must complete the sentence with the passive, or switch the active sentences to passive or some kind of language focus work. Once they have done that, tell them that three of the sentences contain false information (e.g. Titanic was directed by Ridley Scott). They must decide which sentences are the false ones. That way you are focusing on form and meaning.

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Published in: on February 16, 2009 at 10:25 am  Comments (3)  
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3 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. This is great! Thanks a bunch!

  2. Another idea on this theme might be to use trailers from several movies to show to the class. Then have them write or talk about which movie they’d like to see based on the “teaser” (trailer) and why? For movies which might not – or didn’t – play in your city / country or even those which haven’t yet “arrived” this is often quite intriguing for learners. If the selection of trailers are all from the same movie genre (westerns, thrillers, horror, comedy, etc.), learners then would be comparing them on a more even footing.

    All the post ideas are great though.

    Thanks Lindsay!

    Larry M. Lynch
    Santiago de Cali University
    Cali, Colombia

  3. Thanks for these ideas. I know that the Oscars were some months ago, but in my school we’ll dedicate a whole month to this topic. I wasn’t sure I’d find something but I found you. Thanks a lot.


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