Showcase: Jerry Miller

Jerry Miller


In this edition of Showcase, Jerry Miller describes how he incorporates movies into the classroom with the help of a useful website.


Jerry Miller

As language educators, our job entails not only the promotion of linguistic, but also cultural knowledge. One way to address both is through the use of cinema. In addition to providing a wealth of colloquial expressions, movies also serve as a model of foreign culture—and they’re fun too! In order to take advantage of film in the classroom, one helpful website I have found is ESL Notes <> by Raymond Weschler. This site gives vocabulary, synopses, and questions for over 100 American movies.

I typically divide each movie into two classes. Before showing the movie, students are instructed to access the ESL Notes website, check the vocabulary, and read the synopsis for homework. In addition, they are given a worksheet of approximately 20 words with examples taken from the website. The chosen words are crucial to understanding the movie or extremely common. Further, acquisition of those words will be evaluated later on a quiz. In the first class that the movie is shown, we check vocabulary, briefly discuss the themes of the movie, and read over comprehension questions (which I create) that students will answer during the movie. In the second class, the remainder of the movie is shown and students answer the rest of the comprehension questions. After the movie, students share their opinions about the film and American culture using post-viewing questions from the website. In closing, ESL Notes has enabled me to incorporate movies into the classroom in a structured and meaningful way.

Jerry Miller is a lecturer at Yamagata University. His research interests include learner autonomy and student motivation. When not consumed by work or family matters, you can find him at the local golf course.

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