Movies in the ESL Classroom

Movies in the ESL Classroom

Using movies in the ESL classroom can be a great way to engage your students and provide a juicy topic for discussion. However, it has to be used in the right way so that you don’t end up with students viewing this as a time to relax.

CinemaDo you remember watching movies in class when you were in school? Those days were the best, weren’t they? Movies can reinforce or set up a lesson depending on how you teach it, what it is, and when you show it.

When learning English as adults, showing movies in the native language and from the various countries that speak it can be a great idea for your lessons. Here are some great movie ideas for integration!

1.The Bucket List (Future)

This can be a perfect movie set up for a unit on hopes, dreams, and creating your own bucket list. I use it to reinforce the present tense, present continuous, and future tense in our grammar studies.

Introduce the movie, ask the students to tell you what a ‘bucket list’ is, what is on a bucket list, what is on our characters’ bucket list, and if they complete the list or not.

After the movie, have the students create a ‘lifeline’ about their own life so far. The different axles will be age and happiness, have the students map out their line with important life events.

Review the past tense, reinforce the present and reintroduce the present continuous by talking about what they are doing now and what they want to do in the future. Have the students create their own bucket list with the future tense to talk about where they want to go and what they want to do someday.

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2.Anchorman (News)

Any type of newscast report movie can be used for this unit of who, what, where, when, and why. Introduce how to form a question in English and use this review to teach the basic questions surrounding a basic story—who, what, where, when, and why?

Watch the movie and ask the students to tell you the answers to these five questions. Have your students form their own stories—put them in groups and have each group answer one of the five questions. The class will put them together and form a story out of their answers—the funnier, the better!

3.Lights Out (Scary)

This is a fun unit to talk about fears with students. Review present tense and verbs when teaching this lesson—remember he/she/it verbs always end in an S! The students can then work on their own horror movie.

Remember how we just learned the who, what, where, when, and why? Apply that to the students’ biggest fear and have them create a horror film of their own! Always keep in mind that the movie should be appropriate to the age of the class.

4.Rudy (Hobbies and Games)

When talking about hobbies and games, what different people enjoy doing, Rudy can be a great film to talk about bravery, motivation, and determination. Talk about what Rudy enjoys doing and how he overcomes obstacles to get it.

Teach your students to play football or a new game, then make them report on a little-known game or have them create a brand new game to teach you!

True Grit(Past)

Country western films are perfect for reviewing how to use the past tense with your students. Pick a movie with the tallest of tales and ask your students about the story—what happened to make this a famous story?

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Have them put the events in order and report about it. Ask them what famous stories happened in their country’s past—do they have famous figures they make movies or tell stories about? Have them create their own present day hero and write a tale for them. Is Justin Beiber going to make it into the history books?

Chef (Food)

A film about food or a food network TV show is a great way to talk about favorite foods and what they taste like. Talk about new vocabulary and likes and dislikes with the students in regards to food.

Have them role-play at a restaurant and order food, translate menus, or create a new dish. Talk about which countries are famous for what types of food—what is your country famous for? What is their favorite dish to cook? Have them write the recipe for you!


When you view a film, be sure to pause and review key scenes with questions you have asked. Let them know if there are any colloquialisms and ask them what they think they mean, if there are any references to current events ask if they can tell you about those as well.

Films can be a great integration into your lessons as a cultural immersion and review for unit topics. What other movies can you think of?

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