Agen – Using Films in CI with Judith Dubois

Agen has been absolutely amazing! In 15 minutes, an evening coaching session is starting downstairs in our hotel which I’d really love to get to, so hopefully I can quickly squeeze this in before heading off!

I would like to blog about the sessions I’ve attended here at the TPRS Conference in Agen, both to clarify my own personal understanding and also share what I gleaned. I hope I can do them all justice and explain them clearly.

At today’s workshop titled Using Films With CI, Judy Dubois had us all sitting in a circle in one of the rooms at the school situated behind the gorgeous Cathedral de Caprais. Pic

Behind Judy, through the window, was the back of the cathedral; so gorgeous.IMG_4467

Judy began by asking us who has ever used film with their classes and several people raised their hand. She next asked all those who have, to share their ideas. Here is the collection I noted that I believe would be successful with primary aged students:

  1. Students need to earn points in language classes to watch a film in the target language – thus being rewarded with input – and set the subtitles to Indonesian! Written and aural input.
  2. Movietalks – watch before stopping at significant places to PQA. You can then create an embedded reading from this conversation.
  3. Judy shared how she also used the dialogue from a scene discussed in class by typing out the significant sentences, printing them off and then cutting each sentence in half. Students work in pairs to match up the halves and then put them into the correct order! The completed text becomes a synopsis of the scene which is by now fully comprehensible!
  4. Diane Neubauer recommended Simons Cat clips with their repetitive actions.
  5. Carrie had a great idea for preparing for a relief teacher. Before the absence, show students a trailer for a film and discuss with students their ideas about what the film could be about. With the TRT, students watched the movie and then upon return, the language teacher again shows the trailer and pretends they want to know more about the movie – thus having the students do a group retell of the story!!
  6. Great idea to show familiar movies to students dubbed in the target language! e.g. Harry Potter, Lord of The Rings, Disney
  7. Very important to remember that the films shown in class must be enjoyable for several reasons but most importantly; you, the teacher, will not want to plan a unit around a film you detest watching!
  8. Take a screen shot of a movie scene (preferably one with action) before showing students the film and have them predict what the movie might be about.
  9. Judy only uses films in her classes that use the language that she is teaching. Students don’t hear the language if they are reading English subtitles.
  10. Diane recommends having (Target Language) subtitles on while watching a film because it allows you to stop a film and discuss/PQA/comprehension check/read the language at the bottom of the screen. A good way to explain common Indonesian phrases that are unfamiliar to non Indonesian people. The focus of the film is what is needed for comprehension and whatever is not important is simply translated.
  11. Judith’s goal with using films in her classes is to motivate her students to continue watching the films independently in their own time for pleasure!
  12. Judy recommends ‘The Mighty’ as a film to watch with students as there isn’t that much conversation. The Black Stallion is another film with minimal talking.
  13. Great to use a film that was made from a book because of the discussion created when comparing the 2. e.g. Hunger Games.
  14. Quirky commercials would be perfect for movie talks.
  15. Stop the film when there is a close up of a character not speaking – maybe listening to someone else or thinking – and PQA what is he thinking?
  16. How cool would it be to study a film in fourth term and then finish the year by showing the full film to the students?
  17. Plan movie talks for tricky/tiring times of the year and minimise the workload where possible to do exactly the same film with all year levels!
  18. Have a text for students taken from the film with a sentence missing from it. Give the sentence to students and they have to listen to the dialogue of the movie again and again to see where it fits in.
  19. Hand out to students the dialogue between the characters from the film and students have to add in the names of the characters speaking.
  20. Very important to come up with ways for the students to listen (willingly) to the dialogue in the films repeatedly in compelling ways.
  21. Students have to create the script for a scene. Requires listen repeatedly to the scene to get it!
  22. The background context of the story is ongoing and as students move through the film, it becomes very familiar and contributes to comprehension – setting, characters, storyline. 
  23. Take a screen shot of a character. Ask a student actor to become that character and then the teacher interviews them with scripted questions that help students gain a deeper understanding of the character.
  24. One day someone will make a better film of the wonderful book Holes!

Teaching Spanish w Comprehensible Input- Haste Not Waste

An awesome blog written by Señora Hitz. The blog includes many awesome suggestions and those I believe are appropriate for Aussie teachers can be found on my TCI activities pages found on the home page in the top right hand corner. 

Posts like this, for me, help me to stop and reflect upon an important aspect of TCI/TPRS teaching. They help me to remember and appreciate what second language acquisition is truly like for my students. I hope it helps you too not only with understanding SLOW but also the many facets of SLOW. 

Read and contemplate the truths of ‘Haste a Not Waste’. 


PQA, My Way; By Alina Filepescu


Here is an amazing post and video by Alina Filipescu. While the post is specifically talking about how she does PQA in her classrooms, there is actually sooo much more in it that we Indonesian teachers here in the southern hemisphere can learn about. Not only has she included an amazing video of herself brilliantly and seamlessly PQA-ing with a primary aged class but she has also included an explanation of what she does to cue her students when she wants them to respond. It is a truly amazing video and post and I highly recommend that you read/watch it to appreciate where we are all heading with our TPRS skills!! I look forward to the day when  my students participate to that extent and are so engaged in my lessons!


Almost Midterm Reflections

The end of week four has just arrived, thankfully, as I am so exhausted. Our community has a variety of nasty viruses in circulation at the moment which has had in some classes, a devastating affect. I just hope the sore throat I feel coming on is just the result of my previous class which consists of several challenging students!

This term, I approached my story slightly differently to how I have done so before. The main target structure for the current story is bisa (can/ to be able to do something) but I also wanted menyanyi (sing) & mencium (kiss/smell) to be taught explicitly too because both are great TPR words. I love the way Eric Herman uses TPR,to introduce target structures and know that I will be able to get good mileage from both words during brain breaks.

I firstly focused on bisa. This took about 2-3 lessons. I began by focusing on the skills and abilities that students identified having and then had a fun lesson asking students, “Siapa bisa handstand?” If students raised their hand, I then asked them, “Billy bisa handstand?” and if they didn’t raise their hand I would go right up to the student, look them in the eye and then ask suspiciously, “Jill bisa handstand?” I then circled their answers briefly before inviting the student to the center of the chairs which were arranged in a U for this lesson. The student then did the handstand and I was able to get many repetitions of bisa. Billy bisa handstand? Billy atau Bobby bisa handstand etc! One class asked me, “Bu Cathy bisa handstand?” To which I answered,”Tidak bisa.” yet they insisted I show them, so we all had a good laugh because I could barely got my feet off the ground. More repetitions of tidak bisa!!  Such a fun and relaxed lesson.

My lesson on mencium was a culture break – because it was largely in English. We talked about the differences between mencium and kiss/smell and also why in Indonesian, mencium means to kiss and to smell. This collaborative blog has a post which clearly explains the various ways in which Indonesians greet each other. I had students pair up and practise hand shaking (gentle and finishing on your heart), mencium (cheek to cheek while doing a gentle smell/sniff) and also kasih hormat kepada guru (holding the teachers hand to the students forehead). We also demonstrated all 3 greetings at a whole school assembly with a group of young students finishing up the demonstration by showing respect to our principal. It was a hoot.

I  next did Martina Bex’s wordle activity as outlined in my previous post. The link to this and other activities is on the new TCI activity page, found in the top band of the homepage. All these activities meant the lead in to the story took much longer than it did in terms one and two. Because bisa is such an important word in Indonesia and comes up constantly in a variety of contexts, I really believe it was vital to devote several lessons focusing on it. Also now that I am into my second semester of TCI, I feel a lot less pressure to cover topics/target structures quickly which has been a wonderful revelation. It is so empowering to be able to focus on student acquisition as apposed to keeping up with a rigid term overview. 


Movietalk in the Primary (Elementary) Classroom

Most CI teachers rave about Movietalk. Movietalk is using a short video/film as an engaging method of sneaking in repetitions of specific target structures. Martina Bex has a very detailed explanation on her website. Catharina mentioned in our last Skype call that her students (junior primary) absolutely love movietalk and constantly ask for another one. It was a technique that I was both been very keen to try and yet was also apprehensive about trying it. While I knew students would enjoy watching and talking about a movie clip, I am aware that my students only have a very small pool (puddle) of acquired structures and also that I am still a real TPRS beginner!! Circling, PQA etc are TPRS techniques I am still developing and the idea of doing them all on the fly about a video was slightly intimidating. So, I read up about it, looked at  video clips recommended by other teachers and put it in the ‘maybe later’ basket. Then on the moretprs listserve, this Mr Bean video was posted as a good Movietalk option. As soon as I saw it, I was struck with how perfectly it supported:

  • terlalu besar – too big
  • terlalu kecil – too small
  • pas – just right.

So on the weekend I watched the video and took some screen shots to make up a smart notebook file. This way unfamiliar vocabulary eg towels, bathers, shirts, toothbrush, toothpaste etc could be labeled and thus be easier for us to talk about them without needing to lapse into English.

terlalu besar, kecil atau pas




I also wrote up on the board some vocabulary that would help the discussion but is not a focus:

  • libur – holiday
  • tas – bag
  • mengepak – to pack

Finally I felt comfortable enough to dive in the deep end and attempt a Movietalk.

On Wednesday, the year 3’s were the first class to do a Movietalk with me. Together we went through the notebook file, talked about the screenshots and then watched the movie. Thank goodness it was the year 3’s who were my guinea pigs!! For various reasons, the notebook collection of screenshots was not that successful. Mostly because the quality  of the pictures was poor which together with a fading smart board bulb meant students had difficulty grasping what we were talking about! I realised towards the end of the lesson while we were actually watching the video, how much better and easier it would be to watch the video and just stop it when needed.

So with the year 5’s, I did just this and it was brilliant. Students really became involved in the discussion and the repetitions of the above structures were brilliant. The story line was much clearer and students got far more involved with the craziness of Pak Bean.

So if you too, are keen to have a go at Movietalk, read up about it on Martina Bex’s blog, watch a few YouTube clips of teachers demonstrating Movietalk (watch this or this) and then search for the perfect clip to try it with.  If you have trouble finding a clip for specific target structures, I recommend asking the moretprs listserve or joining Ben Slavic’s website. Both provide awesome TPRS support.


PQA & Direct Instruction in the TCI Classroom

Last week, 2 important aspects of TCI gelled for me. The first was the true understanding of the Personalised aspect of PQA (Personalised Questions & Answers), and then experiencing how it transforms discussion. Read this and/or this to learn more about PQA. Ben Slavic also has published a book called PQA In A Wink which I am reading at the moment and can highly recommend. 

Over the holidays, I created a notebook file full of quirky pictures to support the acquisition of 

‘terlalu’ besar’ (too big)
‘terlalu kecil’ (too small) &
pas (just right/perfect).

As the class was looking at the pictures on the smart board during the first day of school, it became clear that once the novelty of the pictures wore off, I lost the students. I puzzled over this during my evening dog walk that evening. I revisited in my mind all that I had done in the lessons, trying to pinpoint where I had stumbled. It suddenly dawned on me that PQA was not asking about the colour of the jacket nor whether the bike was big or small. That was incredibly boring because, honestly, who cares if the bike is red or green! Ho Hum… PQA is asking questions that relate directly to the students.  I was so excited to finally get this that I couldn’t wait for school the next day to give it a go! 

The following day I had great success and students were thrilled that I was asking them questions about their own personal lives, their likes/dislikes etc. For example, one of my pictures was a pictures of a man in a pink tutu riding a tiny bike with the word ‘sepeda’ typed and an arrow pointing to the bike. I asked questions such as:

  1. Siapa punya sepeda? (while pointing at the word sepeda with my magic laser pointer) then asking the student who had responded:
  2. John punya berapa sepeda? and then asking: 
  3. Sepeda John terlalu besar, terlalu kecil atau pas? I then moved on to asking about the bikes of their siblings which also apparently, is mesmorising! 

Another picture was of a tiny turtle dwarfed by a strawberry with the turtle labeled kura kura & the strawberry labelled arbei. For this picture I asked:

  1. Siapa suka arbei? ( One year 4 boy answered, saya suka makan arbei dan kura kura! It was pure gold!) 
  2. Siapa tidak suka arbei?
  3. Siapa allergi dengan arbei?
  4. Siapa suka makan arbei dengan es krim?

I am still amazed at just how much questions such as these are engaging for our students. My only concern was that general questions to the class evoked an incredibly enthusiastic response which was at times deafening. Awesome that everyone is so engaged but so hard to manage and keep students focussed without lapsing into English.

Then after school Wednesday, I watched a webinar from the TPRS Publishing website which led to my second realisation thanks to Carol Gaab. The beauty of this webinar is that it is specifically for elementary language teachers. I have seen it several times and each time I watch it I learn something incredibly useful. I was delighted this time when Carol outlined several techniques she uses to minimise students calling out during PQA. She recommends asking students to do a given action if they agreed/disagree with a statement, eg berdiri kalau suka arbei, angkat tangan kalau tidak punya anjing. Once again, I couldn’t wait to try this idea and again, it worked so well and made such a difference. 

So this week (week 2) I combined asking personal questions together with asking the students to reply to questions by standing/ sitting/ raising their hand etc and it was brilliant. One of my year 6/7 classes today arrived to class in an unusually unfocused fashion. They fussed around getting jobs allocated and with the delay became even further unsettled. Yet as soon as I started PQAing the pictures on the smartboard, they were suddenly quiet and hanging off every word. At one point I asked whoever had 3 dogs to stand up, I then asked each of the students standing what their dogs names were. This produced some  hilarious names which had the students in stitches. However when I tried to move on to another question, the students quickly reminded me that I had yet to ask Winter about her dogs, who was not fussed at all that she didn’t get to share!!! We also had a giggle when Connor told me that he had 13 dogs but he couldn’t keep a straight face and then quickly confessed that he actually only had one! 

A truly terrific week due to finally experiencing the power of the ‘P’ in PQA and learning techniques which help to keep us all in Indonesian!! My next personal goal is to learn how to incorporate awesome student contributions into our class stories! Imagine the story we could have created involving a turtle  hamburger!


Written by the Penulis Twitter