quinta-feira, 5 de novembro de 2009

Interview - Movies in the classroom

Do you like using movies in the classroom, but sometimes run out of ideas?
Thanks to Claudio Azevedo, coordinator and teacher trainer at Casa Thomas Jefferson, in Brasília (DF), you won't have this problem anymore.
He has two blogs where he posts ready activities to be used in the classes, including the snippets and the worksheets. His first blog http://moviesegmentstoassessgrammargoals.blogspot.com/, as the name suggests, is aimed at teaching grammar through videos, and the second one, http://warmupsfollowups.blogspot.com/, can be used to stimulate discussions, teach vocabulary, brainstorming etc.
Get to know a little more about his work:

Tell us something about your graduation and experience.
Claudio -
I've been an English teacher for 26 years, 25 years just at Casa Thomas Jefferson, where I am currently the Lake Branch Coordinator. Before becoming the Coordinator, I supervised course levels, developing materials for teachers of all levels. I graduated in English Letters and I am a teacher trainer as well. I teach Methodology.

How did you have the idea to create the blogs and when did you start them?
Claudio -
It was not a planned thing. I'm not a technology freak, so I decided to learn a few tools on the internet that would help me not be technologically behind the teachers I supervise. Ronaldo Mangueira Jr, a fantastic teacher at CTJ, provided the Coordinators with a course. We started with blogging. One of our assigned pieces of homework was to create a blog. That's when I decided to develop my blog, using the activities I had developed for workshops I used to present, connecting grammar and movie segments. That's why I'm so surprised with the results.

How many activities have you published already in the blogs? What's the main difference between the blogs?
Claudio -
At Movie Segments to Assess Grammar Goals, so far, 78 published activities. Planned and programmed, there are 60 activities. I publish a new one every Sunday. At Movie Segments for Warm-Ups and Follow-Ups, my two-month old blog, 13 published and 50 programmed. I publish a new post every Saturday. They are completely different blogs. Grammar Goals is for grammar practice and assessment, which is something that teachers have difficulty finding activities about, using movie segments. Warm-Ups and Follow-Ups is for topic based classes, focusing on conversation, vocabulary acquisition and listening. What they have in common is the fact they have the lesson plan and the segment, but the goals are different. Grammar Goals also have the worksheets for each of the activities.

How do you have the ideas for the activities? Do you first think of an activity and then try to find a suitbale movie or do you come up with something according to what you see?
Claudio -
I do it both ways. Sometimes I look for a certain grammar point and watch the movie with those eyes. Some other times, I think about the grammar point while viewing the scene. The most important thing, though, is the scene itself. It has to be contextualized, you can't depend on too much explanation to understand it, and it has to be appealing. It must be from 2 to 7 minutes long, otherwise it can be distracting and out of focus. This kind of scene can be used for various grammar points. Usually, the best scenes are in the beginning of the movie, when the director is contextualizing the plot. But it is not always like that. Well, I go to the movies with a post-it pad and write down - present perfect, subjunctive - so I remember it. I know, no one will ever do it...

Can any movie be used in classroom? What recommendations would you give for teachers?
Claudio - Certainly not. You must know the audience. Observe the ratings and the cultural aspects. Even adults may be sensitive to certain topics. I avoid scenes with overt sex, homossexualism, politics and religion. But the teacher is the one to select what can be shown. Brazilians are pretty liberal to certain topics, such as racism and sensuality, but it may be different in other places. Violence is so common nowadays. If it is not too blunt, it is fine with me. But you must observe the rating and the audience. Always.

How do you insert the snippets of the movies in your blog? Do you download them from Youtube, for example, or do you use any program to record the scenes?
Claudio -
I do not use youtube. Major film making companies may eventually withdraw the videos from youtube because of copyrights, so nobody will have it available and the objective of the blog is lost. I upload it directly to blogger. The disadvantage is that you cannot enlarge it. The advantage is that you can still download it and it will always be available. I have a friend who prepares the snippets for me. Remember, I'm not a techy. My purpose is 100% non commercial and educational, so I'm fine by copyrights issues. Everything is free on my blogs.

Should teachers use the movies with or without subtitles in the classroom? Does it depend on your aim with the activity or on the level of the students?
Claudio -
It depends. If the focus is listening comprehension, no subtitles. My goal, though, is grammar. Grammar is contextualization. The better students understand the scene, the more accurate their grammatical production will be. So, subtitles on, in English. For the conversation blog, I also leave them on. It makes the second viewing unnecessary most of the times, which makes it less time consuming. They talk more, because they understand the scene better and have more to say. Beginners and basic learners need scenes with little language and lots of visual input. Otherwise, they panic. Subtitles on always make them more confident.

What are the advantages and disadvantages of using movies in the classroom?
Claudio -
I only see advantages. Authentic language, real motivators, easy access, everyone likes it. Disadvantages? Well, dealing with technology can cause unexpected difficulties right when you are showing it. But, there are great advantages, for sure.

Any additional comment you wish.
Claudio -
I've always loved and used movies in the classroom for all sorts of reasons. I always see all kinds of films and have been doing it all my life. Nowadays the access to movies is so easy that it became a piece of cake for me to come up with these activities. That's why I like sharing. It can be so difficult for other teachers, and making these activities available certainly help the lesson planning of my peers. I love to receive a message from South Africa, for example, saying about how their students enjoyed one certain activity. Or from the Ukraine, saying how the teacher's life was facilitated by the blog. I have been receiving so much recognition that I don't intend to stop doing it. Connecting hobbies and work is everyone's dream. What seems to be a lot of work - well, it is - is what I passionately prepare for my students and classes. Then, I share it. I hope teachers and students enjoy it too.