Why Short Films

 

  • Authenticity: film is one of the closest mediums to a real life.

  • Brevity and manageability: a short film can be screened in its entirety easily within one lesson.

  • Accessibility: film is an inclusive medium, accessible to students of diverse learning styles, experiences and needs.

  • Unique qualities: Short films, like short stories, are not governed by the same conventions as their longer counterparts and can provoke stronger responses.

  • Stimulating:  films can generate a range of talking, conversational and dramatic activity, stimulating an active engagement with language. 

  • Cultural immersion: Film offers a holistic picture of a language culture, rather than just the abstracted spoken or written words alone.

  • Authentic language use: Films can help children listen for gist and detail, and show them gesture and facial expressions that support speech. 

  • Writing in a target language can be supported by creative and interactive approaches to film. 

  • Relevance: films encourage learners to engage with challenging issues and contexts in ways that develop passion, commitment and enthusiasm for language learning. 

 

 

BFI has produced a number of compilations of short films to support language and literacy learning:

 

 

  • Cineminis; Short French Films for Language Learning and Literacy (that this DVD includes many films with resources on this site).

  • Story Shorts 2 - Short films for the Primary classroom. Age 7+

  • Real Shorts - Short documentary & non-fiction films for Year 7+

  • Moving Shorts - Short films for English and Media Studies

 

Follow the links above for more information on the compilations, and to get copies.

 

Muriel Huet teaching a lesson based on Quais de Seine.

BFI has been promoting the value of short films for supporting literacy and language learning for many years.  Teachers and learners have found a range of reasons why short films contribute to powerful learning experiences:

Getting started with short film in the MFL classroom

At the BFI we have found over the years that short films offer very powerful experiences for teachers and pupils.  They are often more like poems than feature films – rich, densely allusive texts, whose stories are told in the language of pure cinema, principally because, as they are only typically shown in festivals, it is expensive and counter- productive to use lots of dialogue. There is also the length – a 4 minute short can be shown in its entirety in one lesson and explored to the full in two or three further lessons.  And the added bonus is that unlike much of Disney and Pixar’s output, children have very rarely seen the short films we choose. 

 

However, film is one of those teaching resources that language teachers always enthuse about and claim to value and yet rarely use, partly because short films do not fit neatly into the ‘topic’ boxes. However, a number of the challenges of the new Key Stage 2 and 3 curricula can be explored through short films as both the linguistic cultural content of lessons. More broadly, short film has the potential to revitalise MFL curriculum content at all key and has an important place in the curriculum of the future.

 

 At Key Stage 3, the greatest challenge in the new curriculum is the emphasis on cultural content such as literary texts, poems and stories. This emphasis requires a fundamental redesign of schemes of work and a different approach for many teachers. There is now the opportunity to develop new and different pedagogical skills to engage learners with a more intellectually challenging content.  It is not an impossible task, but it will require teachers to rediscover, or discover for the first time, the resources and experiences that underpin a language culture.  It is within this context that the Screening Languages project was conceived, drawing on long-standing work in developing approaches to using short films in MFL classrooms. Film is an accessible art form that can link to other aspects of culture, such as poetry, literature and art and which pupils of all ages are keen to engage with.

 

This short introduction is intended to help teachers develop approaches to teaching MFLs with film that understand the value of film as content and not just as a resource or vehicle for learning a set of vocabulary or a particular tense. The most important thing to be conscious of is that a film is a work of art, just like a piece of literature and it should be explored in its own terms for its own worth.  We can explore the combination of words, images and sounds that are film’s unique narrative form to engage the interest and imagination of learners and to initiate them into this accessible art form.  As MFL teachers, we may not be experts on film, and this is not necessary. All we need are some imaginative teaching ideas and these, combined with some basic technological ‘know-how’ in the use of software to ‘pedagogise’ short films will enable us to create lessons that make pupils want to learn.

 

The teachers involved in Screening Languages have already created a bank of resources for teachers to adapt and use in the classroom which are accessible on this website. But we know that many teachers are keen to develop their own materials and so, what follows are a few introductory ideas for getting started with short film in the MFL classroom.

To support them, we have also included a guide to some of the free technical tools available to teachers, created by Caroline Thomas at Robert Clack School in Dagenham, and information on where to find guides on free editing software.

Caroline Thomas’ guide to free technical tools

A guide to getting videos and free editing software resources