Movie Talk: Un hombre triste se pone feliz

Movie talk on the fly

Recently a teacher asked me to describe how I do movie talk with my classes. I believe that Movie talk is most effective when planned out so that target structures are recycled, but thinking about Krashen’s argument for non-targeted CI has led me to feel better about all of the Movie talks that I do on the fly. Nonetheless, even with my impromptu movie talks, I am still recycling target structures by relying on the super sixteen verbs that are posted on my wall. Here is an in-depth (perhaps tedious!) description of how I stretched a 44 second video into a 55 minute lesson with my level 1 students… and we could have kept going!!

(1) Talking through the video
triste When students came in today they saw the frame to the left. I asked them ¿Qué ven ustedes en la foto? (What do you all see in the photo) and we spent a few minutes commenting on everything we could think of, including asking if the man were happy or sad and guessing what might be in the photo. My favorite student response was: es una foto de una hamburguesa y el hombre está muy triste porque comió la hamburguesa. Then we watched the first few seconds of the video; click here to view the entire video on youtube .

The first time through I stop it as often as possible, simply describing what we see. I stand in front of the classroom at the screen and tap on the screen whenever I want my student, sitting at my computer, to press pause or play. Simply standing up front is very important to keep my students focused and engaged; when I am in back behind my computer they tend to be less engaged.

I rarely write anything on the board the first time through (unless a student explicitly asks); I want them to hear the language first. While teaching I am looking at the list of sweet sixteen verbs posted on the wall, so it is easy for me to improvise drawing from previous learned structures. When the man in the video puts the photo on his nightstand, of course I say Pone la foto sobre la mesita de noche and then circle that phrase (drawing a parallel between mesita and mesa and then defining that explicitly in English to make sure everyone understood). I can also say ¿Oye un ruido? ¿Quiere otra foto? ¿Sabe que hay algo debajo de su cama? because these all come from past target structures. In all we spend about five minutes with me mostly narrating and asking pointed questions to verify student comprehension.

(2) Paired retells
retellsEarlier in the year I would not place a retell so early in a lesson so as not to intimidate students, but at this point in the year some of my students are demanding the opportunity to talk. In fact, with a quieter or less confident class I would place a whole class retell here (see step 5). With such a short clip we have the luxury to watch it again, this time in pairs. I stopped it at three places and just asked them to speak in pairs and describe everything they could. I spend less time on this step than on the first step.

(3) Personalization
This is the most enjoyable part of the lesson. I ask a student: ¿Tienes una foto en la mesita de noche al lado de tu cama? ¿Es una foto de la clase de español? ¿Es una foto de tu perro? We build a word image for several students, comparing their bedrooms and using the vocabulary from the video. ¿Hay una ventana en tu dormitorio? ¿Te gusta abrir la ventana cuando llueve? (we are in inland California where it hardly ever rains). When we find something interesting we could follow it using the storyasking process until interest gradually dissipates, but today I cut this off after 15 minutes.

(4) Questions
I asked students to write nine questions about the video using all of our question words. After about five minutes I started to ask for student volunteers: they read their questions aloud and I wrote them on the board, corrected. It is funny, in a TPRS classroom they hear many questions everyday but once they sat down to write their own questions many made mistakes with word order. It was interesting to watch the recognition on their faces as I rewrote their questions and they were recognizing proper word order. One even said, “oh yeah, that sounds better”, which is an appropriate response for their level of acquisition. Once we had nine questions on the board I asked those same questions to nine other students, allowing us to reread the questions again. Altogether we spent around 12 minutes on this section.

(5) Whole class retell
I write on the board: Hay un hombre que… (there is a man that…) and then students add suggestions. It goes without saying that this and all other activities are conducted entirely in Spanish, with the exception of when I write words in Spanish with their English definitions on the board. With the class retell we are trying to fill all three whiteboards (my handwriting is fairly large) with long, complex sentences. Hay un hombre que / mira la foto / de su perro / y el hombre está triste / porque su perro está de vacaciones en México. What I like about this activity is that students add what they can but learn how easy it is to construct a more complex sentence. After 8-10 minutes we have a student-generated (but teacher corrected) summary on the board.

(6) Quick write
We just barely had enough time for a quick write, although we could have just as easily extended the personalization part of the lesson. As a prompt I wrote on the board: Yo tengo una foto en la mesita de noche al lado de mi cama. The responses varied from goofy stories about a girl who has a family of cows to a touching one about the photo of one of my student’s recently deceased grandmother. Reading these quick writes helps me build a relationship with my students, and also reminds me that I need to explicitly write the yo forms on the board more often.


  1. Thanks for sharing your insight and methods of MovieTalk, I will share at an upcoming state conference and plan to reference your blog as a wonderful resource for Spanish teachers! 🙂

  2. Thanks for the post! This was very helpful. You said you did this with all your classes, does this mean Spanish 1-4?

    Thanks again!

    1. I meant that I did this with all of my Spanish 1 classes today. I could do it with varying levels, just like sometimes I tweak a story and ask it with varying levels. I guess I would have instinctively chosen different structures, different comments to make according to the level.

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