SPICE Up Your Lesson Plans with FILM ENGLISH

When I was a student, I always thought our classroom lessons were lifeless and dull. They somehow missed that spicy element. Of course, there were a few creative teachers who broke the shell and presented stunning lessons with great material, but this was almost as rare as a miracle. The classic teachers would just get in front of the board and talk, talk and talk. If they were generous enough, they would scribble a few notes on the board and leave without any interaction with the students. By doing so, the teacher would carry out what was required by the school or university which was to ‘teach a lesson’. Unfortunately, a large number of teachers use this method while teaching. I am not claiming it is wrong; however, these types of lessons are immensely dull, tiresome and monotonous.  During the lesson, I would talk to myself begging the teacher in my head, ‘Please SPICE up the lesson! You are missing out on the visuals, the visuals, come on, please, everybody is about to sleep.’ This would happen especially when I couldn’t sleep the night before because of completing an assignment. You can imagine what would happen later, I would daydream and daydream and the teacher would complete the lesson while I would discuss my future plans to myself.

When I became an English teacher (Click here to learn why I became an English teacher) I promised myself not to use tiresome and monotonous methods of teaching. I was determined to become a creative teacher who provides a learning experience that is student centered and engages the students to the fullest through discussions. To become a creative teacher, it is necessary to put an immense amount of effort in researching different methods, techniques and materials for teaching. It is also crucial to experiment with these methods to discover the ones that suit your goals the best. It can be a challenging task to design creative lessons, as there are so many online resources for language teachers; thus, making it overwhelmingly difficult to choose the pedagogically appropriate resources.


One lucky day, while surfing online to find different, innovative and contemporary teaching materials that students can relate to, I came across the Teacher-Savior Kieran Donaghy.  Kieran Donaghy runs an ad free site called Film English (embed), where he provides full lesson plans that use film for creative and critical language learning which are stunningly learner friendly. It is hard to describe the feelings that embraced me when I found his site: Kieran Donaghy had done what I had been craving for as a student. He had accomplished what I had been expecting from my teachers. With his lesson plans, he spices up the classroom using engaging visual context which provides an exciting learning experience.

On his site he states;


“The site promotes the innovative and creative use of film in English language teaching and learning. All of the lesson plans revolve around the use of video and film to teach English. The site promotes cineliteracy, the ability to analyze moving images, and considers cineliteracy as a 21st century skill which our students need to learn. In addition, the lessons promote critical thinking in the language classroom, and encourage learners to reflect on values while learning a language.”

It might be late for me to make use of Film English as a student, but I can definitely benefit from it as an EFL teacher. Kieran Donaghy made my dreams, or rather my daydreams, come true. Using his method helps students to actively engage in lessons while having thorough discussions about moral issues (these types of educational topics are usually not included in student text books). He successfully provides an effective method of teaching that brings visual context to the language teaching environment, which makes the learning experience ENTERTAINING and ENGAGING. This contemporary approach to teaching also helps busy teachers who don’t have time to prepare creative lesson plans. The site has all the material embedded (video, images, quotes etc.) and there is also a downloadable pdf version of the lesson plans.

Recently, Kieran Donaghy’s article titled “How can film help you teach or learn English” was published on the blog of British Council. In his article, he shares other websites that provide useful teaching and learning material using films. He also mentions the benefits of teaching with film.

Below you can find a summary of these benefits based on the article written by Kieran Donaghy.

Learning from films is motivating and enjoyable: Motivation is one of the most important factors in determining successful second-language acquisition.

Film provides authentic and varied language: It provides a source of authentic and varied language of real-life conversation from ‘real’ situations.


Film gives a visual context: It enables learners to understand more by interpreting the language in a full visual context while facial expressions and gestures support the verbal message and provide a focus of attention.

Variety and flexibility: Film can extend the range of teaching techniques and resources and help the students develop all four communicative skills.”

In addition to the benefits pointed out in the article, I would like to add that when you teach English through films (short movies, clips, animations etc.), not only are students engaged and enjoy the lesson but also the teacher gets motivated. This enthusiasm provides an unforgettable teaching experience that will project to your students.  When I use this method to teach a lesson, the sparkle in my students’ eyes are clearly observable; the motivation and excitement I have during my lessons mirrors on the students’ own learning experience.

It is no secret that students being motivated and engaged in the lesson are some of the key factors to second language acquisition. Teaching English through films is an exceptional teaching tool that applies a contemporary creative approach. If you would also like to spice up your lesson with motivation and creativity for the students’ and your own advantage, visit film-english.com and read Kieran Donaghy’s article where he writes about the benefits of teaching using film and provides further sites with links that serve the same objective.

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