Are your Movie talks Step 2 or Step 3?

A few thoughts on pitfalls of a popular strategy

A few weeks ago a colleague confessed to me that she has been bypassing step 2 altogether.

“Oh, you mean you´ve been doing solid PQA instead of story-asking?”

“No, we have been going straight from establishing meaning to the reading…”


It is in step 2 that students acquire the target structures. Step 2 is the reason TPRS practitioners can say things like, “never, ever force output; always wait until the words fall out of the student’s mouth.” Step 2 is where we use the target structures until students can respond with confidence, accuracy and without hesitation. Yet step 2 is difficult exactly because remaining compelling, holding their attention and keeping them responding can be difficult. If the teacher is going to lose control of the class, if the class is going to stray from using the target language, if the educator is in any way unsure of her or himself, then step 2 can be a minefield. I understand the desire to move on to step 3. I do not agree, but I understand.

Yesterday Haiyun Lu from the moreTPRS yahoo group posted a wonderful comment about how she deals with students coming from traditional non-TPRS schools. Among them she mentioned that she has found students who appear to come from TPRS-like schools that have eliminated step 2 altogether. As a result the students have a passive understanding of the language, unable to actually speak and trained to tune out the spoken language.

I have long advocated for a step 2 approach to Movie Talk. Stop frequently, use target structures or already known high-frequency structures, but keep playing with the language until students respond with confidence, accuracy and without hesitation. Ask “what if” questions. Ask background questions. Move from asking about physical descriptions of things students can see on the screen to what they have to imagine. Expect a one minute video clip to last all class.

Kids often want to passively watch the whole video first, but what if that kills the creative, active process that is characteristic of step 2? What if Movie Talk becomes a way of giving more repetitions of target structures so that students can read our written stories, but we unwittingly unravel the process from which our students learn to speak and write?

Perhaps I am wrong on this one… Movie Talk was originally created solely to develop listening ability. I am surely wrong if you continue to story-ask and PQA in your class. However, if you realize that you are using Movie Talk to pole-vault over the messy step 2, then use the interest inherent in the videos to actively engage your students´ imaginations. Plan your questions ahead of time, turn on the lights when you pause the video and use the video to help develop your step 2 skills.

1 comment

  1. No, you are right, done correctly Movie Talk can replace or enhance the class story, but eliminating the step where the language is heard and used would be detrimental to the student’s acquisition of the language. They have to hear it and use it in a low anxiety, low effective filter manner in order to be able to write and speak the language. Thank you for posting.

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