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Hear no movie, see no movie, speak about the movie: A speaking strategy

Darren Van Veelen, Tokyo International University


Quick guide
  • Key words: Speaking, listening, gender equality, discussion
  • Learner English level: Pre-intermediate and above
  • Learner maturity: University and adults
  • Preparation time: 1 hour
  • Activity time: 90 minutes
  • Materials: Pictures of geisha, DVD of Memoirs of a Geisha (Japanese title: Sayuri), movie summary (Appendix A), and worksheet (Appendix B)
This activity is a speaking strategy that encourages students to engage in conversation about gender equality. The concept of geisha is still shrouded in mystery because of the public’s limited access to the inner circle of the geisha’s world. People speculate about geisha, which in turn stimulates the imagination whilst appealing to students’ recognition of a cultural icon. Memoirs of a Geisha brings such speculation to life and is a fun way to elicit discussion about gender equality in Japan.
Step 1: Find and print different pictures of geisha (A4 size) online. Cut each picture into four equal pieces (e.g., 5 pictures x 4 pieces = 20 students). 
Step 2: Print the movie summary (see Appendix A) and cut into ten-strip sets, one set per group (1 group = 4 students). This will give students an idea of the plot because only one scene of the movie is shown.
Step 3: Get a copy of Memoirs of a Geisha. Only one scene is shown where Sayuri is introduced for the first time as a maiko (0:59:30–1:02:46). 
Activity 1
Step 1: Brainstorm descriptive vocabulary for people with students in the class.
Step 2: Tell students that they are going to receive a random piece of a picture. The students need to mingle and verbally describe their pieces to one another. After this, they can look to see if their pieces match. Emphasize that verbal description must be done before looking! If they match, the students stay together and continue mingling until they have a group of four matching pieces.
Activity 2
Step 1: Have students form new groups of four. Give each group one movie summary (one of the 10-strip sets).
Step 2: Ask the students to order the strips in the correct sequence. Encourage students to negotiate an agreed sequence.
Step 3: Check the sequence as a class and explain anything that may be unclear.
Activity 3
Step 1: Pair up students and explain that one student in each pair must cover their ears and the other must cover their eyes. Play the movie scene.
Step 2: Ask students to reconstruct the scene by describing what they either heard or saw.
Step 3: Play the scene again (the same students cover their ears and eyes again). Have students make adjustments to their reconstruction then select pairs to reconstruct or reenact the scene for the class.
Step 4: Play the scene again so all students can watch, listen, and compare their reconstructions.
Step 5: Give each student a worksheet (see Appendix B) and have them fill in the gaps.
Step 6: Have pairs check their answers then play the scene again so they can check their answers and understanding of the script.
Activity 4
Step 1: Review language for presenting an opinion, agreeing, disagreeing, and hedging.
Step 2: In pairs (best to have males with females), prompt students to discuss whether geisha are artists who are respected by men or geisha are entertainers who serve men. This is a starting point for discussions about gender equality. This topic provides a platform to discuss gender equality in various other situations, such as work, family, sport, or study.
The objective of this lesson is to allow students every possible opportunity to engage in speaking and listening. The materials promote peer interaction allowing the teacher to focus on facilitation and feedback. There are other scenes in the movie that generate discussions about gender equality and Activity 3 can also be used repeatedly for these.
Memoirs of a geisha script–Dialogue Transcript. (n.d.). Drew’s Script-O-Rama. Retrieved 10.03.2010 from <>.
Memoirs of a geisha (film). (n.d.). Wikipedia. Retrieved 10.03.2010 from <>.
The appendices are available below.
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