Movies In The TEFL Classroom: Write The Dialog Activity

“That cake you brought to the staffroom…it was delicious.”
“Why, thank you. It’s my mother’s recipe.”
“I’ll have to get it from you.”

One of my favorite add-ons to a film lesson – and this tends to work best with very high level students, or when you have a lot of time – is to let students watch a scene of a movie without sound, make some guesses about what’s happening, and write the dialog themselves. If there’s enough time to practice, you can play the scene, still without sound , and have the students “act” it out by reading their own lines.

This does take time (I find that writing any dialog tends to take more time than I expect), but can be an interactive add-on to a tv show or movie shown in class – it can just be fun for students to show what they know and their creativity or sense of humor.

If you will have time to do this, give them a form to show how many times each person speaks, and even this will provide some indication of time length. You could also add in a key word or two to help with ideas, but this is not really necessary; the point is not for them to guess the exact dialog. The point is just for them to use their imaginations and come up with something reasonable or even funny in English.

This works very well with the final scene of the Friends episode above, with Chandler and his bad date/Rachel’s boss talking. One group of students had Chandler “coming out of the closet” to the bad date so he could avoid going out with her again. This has also works marvelously with an Indiana Jones scene, where Indy and his father are tied up, back to back, by Nazis and start a fire as they try to get away. The cake recipe dialog at the beginning of this post was written by some high advanced students as a quiet conversation between two bad guys.

Don’t expect them all to have a clever sense of humor, and keep in mind that it takes time to come up with dialog at all and more so to fit the timing of the movie…but if you’ve got time it can be a creative and fun way to wrap up a movie showing.