Movie Reading Classes (Novels Only)

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20 thoughts on “Movie Reading Classes (Novels Only)”

  1. So helpful. Thank you for spelling this out. I had completely missed the point that this is visual CI. I was hyperfocused on auditory CI. I get it now!

    “Just as in stories the students are unconscious of the (aural) medium of delivery of the language, so also during these L1/L2 reading classes, the students are unconscious of the (written) medium of delivery of the language – they are just watching the movie. ”


    Today I “practiced” this (to myself) reading in English a section of Petit Nicolas. Even when doing both activities simultaneously ( me reading in English to myself and reading the French along with the English soundtrack ) which would never happen for real, I could feel the benefit of this.

    I guess my only other question is how do you recommend we do this? Is this best done day after day to immerse the kids in the story/movie? Or is that overwhelming? Once a week? Currently I am thinking of doing this on Friday since it seems like it might be really mellow and relaxing.

    In 2 classes we started novels a LONG time ago and I never kept up with them, partly because it was bringing down the energy (for a number of reasons). With this new process, I can see finishing them, because (at least in one of the classes) the kids actually do want to find out what happens. So…do I get back to these? Let them go and jump into something fresh?

  2. I’d go fresh. Their ability to be interested in the novel is relative to your tone of voice, your own attitude to the novel, your ability to keep yourself from going off on every tangent that comes to you when reading in L1, etc. All that has been lost now with those old novels and the emotional piece necessary to link their hearts with the books from before has been lost.

    I really want to stress the tone of voice thing. If you read it like when teachers used to teach with that lame “we gotta learn this” attitude, the novel will fail. Read it with kindness and a soothing voice.

    I also want to stress that you just can’t go off on tangents when doing L1/L2 reading of novels. Today I had to almost bite my tongue to avoid giving mini-pop lectures (that turn into 20 minute monologues) on:

    – US/French realations in the 18th century
    – that French farmer who ran over a McDonald’s with his tractor
    – how and why there is no single French word for “homeless”

    I just can’t stop and do that. The kids don’t care bc they have no frame of reference in which to place my brilliant (read “stupid”) addition to class. If you were watching a movie, would you want someone to run up in front of the screen and start talking about French politics?

    jen also on the time thing. I go from one to three pages, from 3 to 9 minutes on the reading. If I have a block class I could spin in and out of the L2 translation work, but I don’t. So, in these days of Fake Classes, I go in, they do the FVR, I translate (ideally) one page of Pauvre Anne, and then after a short break for texting off we go into dictation. This L1 reading is at best a ten minute deal. But, again, today, in those ten minutes (two pages of PA), I noticed every single kid peacefully following along, enjoying the class.

    1. glad for the clarification on how long to read aloud–3-9 minutes. I was thinking I needed to finish the whole chapter (which is sometimes 8 or 9 pages long).

      I had not thought about “visual CI” either. Now I get it. I should have known better–I read along in my Spanish Bible every week while the pastor is reading in English. I just never made the connection.

      Just what I needed to inspire me for the rest of this school year. thanks.

  3. I just want to put in a word for not forgetting fairy tales. In level 3 I do fairy tales and poetry. If the fairy tale is fairly familiar (e.g Sleeping Beauty, Cinderella, Snow White), we read and act out the fairy tale in German. Today my class did the “Bremen City Musicians”. I had actors for everything but the donkey, so I read and “acted” the donkey part. Those not up and acting had to make the appropriate sound every time I said the name of the animal. (I divided the class into groups for this.) I also had a light in the window and a house and a forest (everyone not assigned an acting role). My favorite point in the story was when the rooster flew up into a tree for the night. My actor jumped up onto a chair, and one of the quiet girls ran over to be the tree for him. It was a very sweet moment.

    If students don’t know the fairy tale (e.g. Bluebeard, Frau Holle, King Thrushbeard), I’ll read it in English while they follow in German. Then we act it out with commentary and questions.

    I also do a “fairy tale project” – despite some of the comments about projects, but this is level 3 after all. Students create groups of various sizes and choose a fairy tale with a similar number of characters (including speaking furniture, etc.). Then they convert the narrative to a “screenplay” and storyboard. Finally they video the fairy tale and present it in class. Of course, they have to keep going back to the text for the screenplay and storyboard and dialogue. (CI can be sneaky that way.) Most of the work is done outside of class, and I give them several weeks for the project. It’s a nice diversion for the third quarter slump. I show the videos to all my classes, and we vote for the best. Then come the “Academy Awards”. Having the other classes as an audience definitely boosts the quality of the productions – and the students don’t really think of this as homework. We, of course, also get blooper reels. (Last year one group was in the middle of killing the villain when a woman came by and started yelling at them.)

    I love the fact that fairy tales are authentic texts for German. Later we’ll also look at “Max und Moritz” (the original Katzenjammer Kids – am I dating myself?) and “Struwwelpeter”.

    I believe fairy tales occupy a niche between class-generated stories and novels.

    1. Thanks, Robert. One of my students wanted to do a fairy tale–but from the villain’s point of view. I may scrap the mini-project I’d planned for April (suggested project to go with the textbook on markets and bartering) and do something like you described instead. I have students who can’t wait to act in front of the camera. Blooper reels sound like a great thing to review that last week of school (memory time…)

  4. I just posted this to the Latin Best Practices group, and wanted to share it here. The story in the textbook is a famous one about the shepherd who takes a thorn out of a lion’s paw, and then encounters that same lion in the arena when he is thrown to the beasts for being a Christian:

    I tried this exercise today, because it is the last day of the quarter, Also, my 8th graders are receiving their high school letters today, and so I needed to do something low key, but I want to keep some input going. This activity, which I called “read along with Magister” seemed ideal for a day like this. The whole activity took about 20 minutes.

    The students had not seen the story before, so I began with a pre-reading exercise, a discussion in English of the new vocab at the bottom of the page (CLC stage 8 Pastor et Leo). I asked them what English cognates they could think of, and then I asked them to guess what the story is about based on just the new vocab words. I then told them that their job for this exercise is to listen closely to my reading, and, as best they can, to read the Latin along with me. I made a point of reading VERY SLOWLY, in English, taking a moment each sentence to look at the kids and see that they are reading along with me. I might remind them what line we’re on, or even point out which Latin word I am translating if I know it’s new to them.

    After this, I asked them if there were any words/phrases that didn’t make sense to them, and I answered a few of those. Next, I asked a few questions using cur: Cur leo lacrimat? (why is the lion crying?) A student said, using his copy of the reading for support: quod est spina in pede (because there is a thorn in his paw). Then I asked Cur Romani comprehenderunt pastorem? (why did the romans arrest the shepherd?) And a student responded “quod pastor est Christianus” (because the shepherd is Christian) This led to a brief discussion of christians in Rome in English. After that we pretty much ran out of time.

    So I did not have grand expectations for this lesson, but I think students took in a lot of Latin, and pretty much understood a Latin story. Even though they’re hearing English, they are seeing Latin (an “unseen” passage at that), and understanding a large portion of it.

    I am thinking I will use this for stories I want students to know about, for the sake of the continuous narrative, but which I don’t want to spend more than a class working our way through. This is also a great way to ease kids into readings they’re not quite ready for. I told them not to take notes, or write anything down, and that there won’t be an expectation that they memorize anything, so it was low stress, and they trust me not to trick them. It is just a simple read along, nothing more. If I want to go further with them with this particular story, we will revisit it in other ways, and I’ll be clear from the outset about the expectations and the product I want from them.


  5. …it is just a simple read along, nothing more….

    And yet so many of us have focused on other ways to work with a text that logically would FOLLOW the simple read along. We may have switched horse and cart, or forgotten, even, to attach the horse to the cart, focusing rather on all the cute reading techniques we learned about reading in workshops. We make things complex and they don’t need to be.

    Diana came in today and I was able to show her the value of this reading technique, the way you read to them today, John (and thanks for the details – they are super important in this discussion). She suggested that the kids put their fingers on the words. But I didn’t need to require that from them. As John’s kids above were given focus and direction (and a feeling that they could do it) by his reading so slowly and constantly correcting certain kids’ behaviors in a loving way, the finger on the word deal was not necessary. One kid did it bc it worked for her.

    I don’t know why I haven’t done this before as a big part of my CI reading instruction. It works bc it creates the movie.

    I will admit that my kids are fluent in Spanish, and so this may be a lot easier for them than other kids. That is probably important to say in this discussion. But John’s kids, I would assume, have command of probably just one language, and he made it work for them today, as per:

    …I then told them that their job for this exercise is to listen closely to my reading, and, as best they can, to read the Latin along with me. I made a point of reading VERY SLOWLY, in English, taking a moment each sentence to look at the kids and see that they are reading along with me….

    …I told them not to take notes, or write anything down, and that there won’t be an expectation that they memorize anything, so it was low stress, and they trust me not to trick them….

  6. I did this yesterday in a couple of my classes. We are working on fairy tales, so I read an unfamiliar one. Every few lines we stopped and discussed the story in German, but the reading was in English. There were a few places that needed extra-slow pacing and repetition because the German and English word orders are so different. Overall reaction from the students was strongly positive. Engagement was high.

    We even got to laugh because I was translating spontaneously and kept saying “Frau” in German instead of “Wife” in English.

      1. I wish there were laugh counters in our classrooms. Like those machines that count who watches what TV show when. I bet we would have a lot of laughs, all of us combined, at the end of each week of instruction using PQA and stories and reading. If, of course, we were relaxed in our instruction that week.

        1. Just talking about laughing makes me laugh a little. It makes me look forward to the next week of teaching, wondering which student might come up with the first honest (no L1) laugh of the week. It’s funny, or maybe not, that for 24 years none of my students laughed when I told them that in the past tense when the helping verb is avoir the past participle agrees with any preceding direct object, including relative pronoun objects.

    1. When students do this Robert, it is the highlight of my day. When a student is translating a piece from Spanish to English, and just uses the same word in Spanish instead of translating…without even realizing it….I know that that word is deeply and firmly cemented. It is also a sign for me that this student doesn’t need to be translating this reading at all…s/he should just be reading. :o)

      with love,

  7. Thanks Robert for that last comment. For Mvskoke everything gets imbedded in the verb that usually comes at the end–I mean everything. But in English it is so different. I’ve been really reluctant to read out loud. So I really like that you stopped and talked about what you were reading every few sentances in the TL2 not TL1.

    There is so much to learn. I feel so overwhelmed somedays. Thanks. And btw I can hardly wait for your book to finish. I love the serial novel! It is a wonderful throw back to me to radio days. And that might be another project your highest level students could do. Are you going to do an audio with your novel?

  8. On the issue of pointing during this exercise. I did not require it because Latin and English word order can be different. In addition, I wanted to translate loosely, and if I required pointing, kids would get confused. Some of them did point to words, because they are used to it when I read aloud in Latin.

    What I love about this community is that the members are willing to try something new the very next day. After you began this thread, Ben, I posted on Latin Best Practices that I was planning to try this. Then, Bob and David decided to try new things in their classes (David did this exercise, and Bob did a dictee for the first time). Then I read about how you Ben, and Robert are also trying this out on the very same day. One posting on this blog literally affected the lives of HUNDREDS of language students all across the country. I’m sure more teachers gave it a shot, or gave it some serious thought, but haven’t reported back.

    This is so diametrically opposed to the so-called “wisdom” of traditional pedagogy, that is, to implement change slowly and gradually, in the belief that kids need stability (but this is mistakenly applied to curriculum rather than classroom culture), but it’s really that these teachers need to feel they are in control. But what we’re doing is fresh, flexible, human. These are qualities that kids can relate to, and want to be around.

    1. In my room we use a reading strategy that I stole from our resource people:
      The “drop and drag”. Students use an index card (I really like to use the colored ones), drop it on the page and drag it down as we read. It eliminates the pointing at the right word problem, yet isolates one or two lines at a time. This is very helpful for students who do not “track” easily. It is also easy for the teacher to see who is “with’ you and who is not…even from the other side of the room!!! Also…if we do stop during the reading, we can immediately go right back to the line we were on. (I actually have a few fidgeters who prefer Post Its, because they won’t slip or move around. )

      with love,

  9. Thank you John. The old idea of what an expert is (the sage who needs to be emulated) is now giving way to a much greater idea of expertise as an ever emerging kind of energy that is shared by all. It is like we are finally learning that we are all experts.

    This kind of expertise is an energy that gives us permission to all be flawed and yet still try and not be wrong* – we are all just trying to get better at using comprehensible input in our classrooms together. I feel this kind of expertise from Blaine when he shares his knowledge with us.

    I am so glad to have found a way to teach that guarantees that my worst students can succeed in my class, and that they are not bad at all, but rather, they are good. All of them are good.

    Sometimes, not often enough, I start class in English with a little canned speech that I feel is very necessary that my kids hear from time to time. As they sit there, some of them with broken hearts over what happened at home last night or what happened to a friend, or to them in another class, I tell them, as a way to start class:

    “I know that you hear how bad you are in some of your classes or maybe at home. I know that you don’t hear too very often that YOU ARE GOOD. But I just want to remind you that YOU ARE GOOD. I feel that it is necessary for you to hear that and so I am saying it. I am very proud of you because you come to school every day and you try and you don’t always succeed. But, all the same, don’t forget that YOU ARE GOOD. I am very proud of you and you are all very important to me.”

    And then I start the class.

    *This is my greatest concern, that our students feel that they can be wrong. This is what properly done comprehension based instruction will do away with, and kids won’t have to feel like they can’t learn a language any more. Teachers won’t make them feel stupid anymore. If Krashen is right, and he is, then language teachers will finally get it that language learning is an unconscious process and that if a student just hears and reads a language enough, they will make startling gains.

  10. Ben, I really like this little speech. It rings with such truth and this little affirmation goes a long way. It is so easy to get caught up as teachers in all the things we have to do, and all the things we THINK we have to do and neglect being positive. The other day when we were administering the exit exam I helped out in our gym and stared at 280 beleaguered 10th graders. As other teachers were preparing the tests to hand out, I got on the microphone and told them they were going to do great and that I was going to tell them a few jokes to cheer them up. Even that small amount of human interaction lightened the room and encouraged everyone. I was acknowledged at our faculty meeting as a “Zen-Master” who could “calm a room of 280 kids with the sound of my voice.” But really all I did was speak like a human to them in a difficult situation. I think a lot of the “uncluttering” I’ve done this year has helped me become more aware of my students, their faces, their weariness and their needs.

    And also, John is right I did use the activity and it was great. Since I haven’t used my textbook yet with my first level Latin class I just read the first two chapters worth of stories (which are pretty funny in their own way). The kids knew about 90 percent of the Latin and it took about 10 minutes.

    As they came in I had books on the desk and I told them “sumite
    libros” which was already something different for them since we don’t usually
    use the books. The kids know about 90 percent of the vocab already and I warned them there would be words they wouldn’t know but that I would be reading slowly and with expression in English. After a little settling the kids were in a zone much like you would see in an English class during SSR.

    The kids were laughing outloud by the time we got to “Grumio is very happy”
    where we ended at the last story in Stage 2 (I read the picture stories too, all
    connected like a little novel). At that point in the novel a slave is eating and drinking in the master’s dining room with a slave girl after the master and his guest have fallen asleep on the couches they were reclining on. The slave, Grumio, is understandably, “very happy.” It was actually like a real reading experience for them and flowed so well. I know I can trust the language net is doing some great work here in the subconscious because the experience was definitely positive, and feel-good, like when their parents would have read to them as kids. I asked the kids if they wanted to do it again and they all (well most) gave a strong yes.

    I’m excited because I can really still use textbook and it won’t interfere with my TPRS stories or compete with class time. I think that delaying the book until now is what gave a more pleasurable reading experience (than say
    if we had started out from the beginning with it because it would have been over their heads (except for the 4 percenters of course). And if this is the reaction I get with my textbook, I can only imagine that other texts will yield the same enthusiasm.

    Valeatis, David

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