Film As Extended Listening?

Some teachers warn against using film (only) as extended listening: is this a valid criticism?

Students do tend to be enthusiastic about film, but if all it really provides is listening practice, there are plenty of good reasons to avoid it in favor of more communicative activities – or to make an effort to incorporate not only discussion which compels students to analyze what they’ve watched but also activities which play on the more creative aspects of film. See this post for some earlier suggestions.

Frankly, it can also get boring for students to answer a long list of questions…that’s not what we do when we watch tv in our own language! However, if you want to do other activities, especially when it is a higher level class, it is generally important that they understand what happened, and preparing questions and getting students to predict answers is a decent way to check and/or ensure this. And among similar alternatives with the same goal (asking them to summarize what happened, coming up with questions on the spot after they’ve watched it) I think preparing questions is generally preferable.

You may also be able to incorporate prediction of vocabulary using context as well as visual clues in a somewhat traditional way (“listen for a word that means … and starts with “t””; “is this slang term positive or negative”;”what do you think the speaker means by …?”).

Overall, I think it is also fairly rare for teachers to use film – as in movies and tv – in the classroom to begin with (in Internet-friendly schools, video sharing sites like YouTube and YourSkool are becoming more popular). Despite conventional teacher wisdom to the contrary, it’s my impression that students can still enjoy and benefit from film, even if used in a more traditional way – in a reasonable proportion – and even if only to serve as a change of pace. Everybody loves movies.