The Movie Talk Hack for Wild Classes

I’ve got some WILD Spanish 1 classes this year, so much so that I’ve had to totally reimagine the ways I provide CI to my Little Darlings. The tools and strategies that have served me well for the past 15 years just don’t cut it with this year’s bunch. In addition to totally revamping my lesson structure, providing lots of prerecorded input and integrating small group instruction, we’re doing something new for our Movie Talks, and I am so excited to share!

What is a Movie Talk?

(Skip this section if you don’t need background info!)

A Movie Talk is a technique, developed by Dr. Ashley Hastings, where the teacher uses a Movie clip as the springboard for Comprehensible Input. My favorite way to Movie Talk (in normal classes, in normal years!) is to find a great clip, watch a bit, pause, talk about it, watch a bit more, pause, talk about it, etc. Like everything we do in a CI classroom, our goal is to go slow, and give students loads of language they understand. We talk about the characters, what has happened, what they think will happen next, describe the setting, develop a back story…there’s just so much to talk about! Here’s what my Movie Talks in the Days of Yore looked like, back when my students would listen politely and respond enthusiastically, without constant interruptions and occasional physical altercations:

Ahhhh…the good old days of (prepandemic) Movie Talking!

Movie Talk Hack

This year, my kiddos whine incessantly every time I pause a movie clip, then promptly tune me out when I start to ask questions. We’ve tried discussing screenshots from the clip, but the engagement takes a swift nosedive and I have maybe 5 Little Darlings with me while about 20 are off in LaLa Land and the remaining 7 are hitting, poking, or kicking their classmates. Not ideal conditions for language acquisition to do its magic!

My neighbor Amy and I were brainstorming ways to increase student focus and I hypothesized that perhaps incorporating Write and Discuss while Movie Talking might be the magic formula. Amy suggested embedding the screenshots right into the Word document to streamline the process and voilà! It worked like a charm in BOTH of my Spanish 1s last week, on TWO separate occasions. There is hope, people!

To Prep: Screenshot your Movie Clip, drop the images into a Word Doc. I typed in the first few words for each image to get us started (so the font and size would be ready to go).

In class: I zoomed in (so they could just see the first image) and we talked about it for a few minutes. As soon as we’d established the important details OR I felt like they were getting antsy or bored, I scrolled down a bit and they copied down the story onto a piece of paper. Then collaboratively we finished writing about the image. Then I scrolled down a bit to the next image, we discussed it as long as they could stay with me, then we transitioned into writing again.

The constant refocusing (copying down the writing) between the questioning really seemed to keep them attentive. At a good stopping point, we watched the video, (which happened to be the Estrella music video because we’re all about Locura de marzo right now!) Of course they talked through the whole movie…but at least they were talking about the video!! (Small victories, right?! )

I wanted the ending of the video be a surprise, so we didn’t write out the entire video…just up to right before the end. The following class, we revisited our writing, changing the perspective as if we we were telling the story in the 1st person YO form, and then wrote the ending of the video together, following the same process described above.

Here’s what it looks like:

I wish there was less English and more focus, but…I’m teaching and not fantasizing about quitting mid class, so it’s an improvement from last semester, at least!

A few more tips:

  • You might have a few Little Darlings, like I do, who might decide to “opt out” of participating in the Write and Discuss. Although I never collect their W&Ds, I ALWAYS circulate through the room, checking everyone’s writing, after we’ve finished. For my Little Darlings that just scribbled along thinking that I’d never know, I just let them know that they’ll need to write it down before they leave my classroom, OR if they need help at lunch, I’d be happy to assist them individually. They always seem to find time to get it copied down before I check their paper again at the end of the period. Señora Chase isn’t messing around.
  • I’ve got a number of students who, for whatever reason, have a hard time copying down the W&D or they have an accommodation to get a copy of all class notes. I just communicate with them privately to do the best they can while we’re writing together. All Write and Discusses are linked in our Google Classroom, so they (or anyone else!) can access them from home if they’d like to.
  • If you’re going to do something with a Write and Discuss to span more than a single class period, collect one student’s paper (with good handwriting!) and make some copies, for the absent students AND the ones that can’t hang on to anything from class to class!
  • And lastly, if you’re particularly astute, you noticed that the two YouTube videos above are published to different YouTube Channels. I use my school YouTube Channel for my students, things that I’ll use in class, or that absent students should watch from home. The 2nd one I use for teacher tutorials…things that are of no interest to my Little Darlings! Feel free to subscribe to either or both!

I sure hope this simple hack is helpful for you and your Little Darlings!


    • Hi Tanya. Everyone writes it by hand as I am typing it out during class. The following class, I asked them to take out the paper they wrote the story on the previous class, and we changed the point of view together. I had copies ready for the students were were absent (and therefore don’t have their own copy) and also for the kids who were present, but couldn’t find their paper from last class. The vast majority used their handwritten paper. Does that clear it up?


  1. I always pay attention when I get your newsletter. Today is an example of how on target you are. Constant interruptions. Fantasizing about quitting mid- lesson. I’m partially ashamed that Friday I stopped and asked if they wanted a teacher. I can stop and just give you the assignments I said. Course that worked for five minutes. Damn it felt good. But I can’t do it again. They will roll their eyes the second time. Ha! Anyway. So encouraging to hear someone else is trying to figure out how to manage kids who …. Won’t listen or sit still for CI. Honestly, I was deciding that CI was a myth and I couldn’t do it. — and frankly I’m still not convinced that isn’t true. Ha! But your piece gives me hope. There are many kinds of CI. I need to adjust to my kids. I need to change and adapt. Lord help me! So glad for your example! 🙂 🙂


    • Oh Lessie! Hang in there!! I assure you it’s not a myth…when it is good, it’s soo good! Like you said, we’re all trying to figure out how to make it work with this need breed of Little Darlings. This year really has me on my toes trying to figure out how to meet them where they are! Wishing you the best of luck!!


  2. Writing and Movie Talk – yes I do this a lot. Using Slides however is much better than a document : )


  3. This is a genius idea! I can’t wait to try it with my next movietalk. In the video, you mentioned that there might not be enough time to play the game you had planned. Was the game related to this activity?


  4. Thank you so much for your blog posts! I learn so much from them and it makes me feel less alone with the problems I’m having this year. I’m only in my 2nd year of teaching so I think of your website as my “mentor teacher” in a way. I’m going to try this out tomorrow!


  5. Thanks for being honest about living in the current teaching reality. Your posts are so helpful! The video you posted felt like my class– kids needing to focus on the really basic stuff.


  6. Once again, I have taken your idea and pretty much used it intact – I can’t thank you enough! I have long used still images for Movie Talks, but not in exactly this way, and the activity went great with my 8th-grade Spanish 2 classes. They also LOVED both the video and song! Two questions –

    1) Do you have other music videos you’d recommend with similar combinations of school-appropriate lyrics (even though my students can’t understand fully, I need to keep this in mind) and a coherent and engaging story told via the video? While I have lots and lots of ideas for Movie Talks with video shorts, I’m weak in the area of music…and my students really liked this.

    2) After this initial exposure with the Write & Discuss, I also did some follow-up activities with a teacher-created “master story” – you know, tricking them into repeated exposure. In particular, playing “¡Seis!” with a gap-fill was SUPER fun. If interested (you or your readers), here are some links –

    Recent Video from “La Maestra Loca” about playing “¡Seis!”

    Gap-Fill Story we used to play
    p. 1 = master story
    pp. 2-4 = 3 different versions of gap-fill (so groups that do it fast could re-group and play again)
    pp. 5-8 = 1 of the versions broken down to use for whole-class review

    The end of the year is in sight – we can do this!


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