Monday, 7 April 2014

Sparks of inspiration, Headway and Georges Melies

Do you know those little moments in life, split seconds, that everything just clicks? I was lucky enough to have one in my class today.

It was my first day back from what will forevermore be known as Lea's Extreme Conferencing Feat, where I went without sleep for two whole days at one point. Needless to say I was intending to stick to the book and hope for the day to pass without falling asleep in my coffee.

I was staring at my Headway Intermediate book, where they were kindly offering a listening about space and space tourism. There were a few pictures of rockets there, one of them a tiny segment that I recognised from a 1902 film Voyage Dans la Lune. The school bell signalled the beginning of my lesson and rockets went off in my head. I decided in a split second to ditch the book and do the following instead.

First I wrote Space in big black letters on the whiteboard and invited students to come up with any and all words connected to the concept and write them down. That gave me the three minutes that I needed to find the version with music only.

This is the one I used:

There is nothing but music and moving pictures, so no language input.

We put up all their ideas on the whiteboard, they came up with words and phrases like keyboard, Star Trek, meteorite, rocket, and many others. By then they knew what the general topic of today's lesson will be.

I then showed them a still of the film and asked them when do they think it was made and we speculated about different years and why they thought that.

Then it was time for their writing assignment - watch the film and write down the story as it happens. The narration is slow which gives them time to think on their feet. I didn't help with any vocabulary, but I wrote down questions that might help them write the story as we were watching. They're only in their first year so I thought it would be helpful for them to have a frame to which they can refer.

There was much giggling when the rocket landed in the Moon's eye.

They were herded together into groups of four and instructed to add all the information that other students got and they didn't to their own work.

While they were busy doing that, I took a picture of the questions I wrote up so we can refer to them tomorrow when we do the rest of the activity.

There were thought up as the video was playing. Mind, if I didn't know the video extremely well, this would be impossible to do.
The lesson ended with us talking very shortly about how differently they imagined the Moon landing way back then. This is important for the last activity, as you will see below.

Tomorrow, they are going to finish comparing their narratives and then we will spend a bit of time discussing what makes good feedback and how to give constructive feedback. Then they will exchange their narratives and comment on each other's work, perhaps paste the narratives on the walls and I'll give each student two post-its and they will be required to write two comments on narratives other than their own.

Next step, we'll compare our narrative with this charming version which has a narrator telling the story as it happens.


I'm pre-watching this version now and I anticipate these are a few words that my munchkins might need pre-taught to understand the main gist of the film or I think might be useful for them in their later studies and/or life.

Made with worditout.com. If you want your words to stay together, write them with a tilde ~, for example to~ascend makes it stay together in the word cloud.

I am not expecting them to understand everything, this is just a bit of support to help their own unique narratives. I decided for this version as the one I like best has a pretty heavy French accent. It can be found here if you have a more high-level students that would enjoy the charming accent.


Here you can tell them the colourised versions were quite popular back in the day and it took immense skill and patience to do them. If they show any interest, I'm doing a cross-curricular lesson on technology of film.

After that, we revise the texts once more to get a complete text that will be used as a basis for the next activity.

As a final step, we're watching this lovely music video, which was inspired by the film.
(Fun fact about your resident blogger: I used to be obsessed with this song. I would play it five times in a row. Aaaand I'm doing it again.)

We're going to write down the similarities and differences of the two films, which gives us a lovely chance to practice linking expressions (also, however, but, in comparison, while, whereas, likewise, same as, just like,...).

We might round up the series of lessons with a short debate on history of film, the long way special effects have come and are they important for enjoying the film. We will definitely talk about how people viewed the future in times past and what we can learn about predictions of the future from that fact (protip: They're all rubbish). The topic we are covering, is in fact, Life 50 years from now.

I am full of win!
The general outline of the lesson took me three seconds to decide, the rest came together in a series of quick flashes. I actually wouldn't be able to do this at all if I hadn't been a huge fan of silent films and that film in particular. As I said, a magical, once-in-a-career moment.

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