Christmas commercial competition and Film in Action ( part one)

     Christmas commercials competition - part one

Over the past few weeks there has been an intense competition regarding Christmas TV commercials. Every year the big companies such as Coca Cola, John Lewis, Sainsbury, H&M, and many others enter the competition to surprise their clients. However, as it was stated yesterday in the Telegraph, the most "moving and touching the heart" seems to be the Polish version (2.5 mln people can't be wrong). It is a story of a man who desperately wants to learn English. In order to do so, he orders a set of books for the beginners from one of the Polish auction sites Allegro. Yes, you are right, it is a commercial of the auction site but what an expressive one. But why does he want to learn English in the first place? And how can we use such short but heartbreaking stories with our students? In three days I would like to present you three ways in which I use  these short films with my students. At the end you will be able to decide which of the ads appeals to you the most.

But before that I would like to present you a ground-breaking resource that I find useful every time I want to run a lesson with the use of a short film. 
Film in Action by Kieran Donaghy is a fascinating edition directed to all professionals who have something to do with films during their work, teachers in particular. With over 100 activities for different levels I'm sure you can find something for yourself.  At the beginning you will find some introduction concerning the history of the film in education, visual literacy and the benefits of using films.  Then the ways of exploiting the film, the sound, the music as well as the characters and the script of the film follow. It has a clear chapter dvision and ready to use activities with the examples. Just try!

1. Screenshots in action!

"Forget the John Lewis Christmas advert - this year's tear-jerker comes from Poland" - The Telepgraph

So let's come back to the story. An older man orders a parcel from the auction site. Inside, there is a set "English for beginners", It's just the beginning of the story during which he uses various ways to improve his speaking skills. Purpose? Among two million Poles living in the British Isles is his first and probably the only granddaughter, who unfortunately doesn't know any Polish. That is why, his prime aim is to be able to communicate with her. Despite his age and difficulties he finally manages to communicate both with his granddaughter and his new daughter-in-law. There are many aspects that can be discussed while and after watching the film. 

Topic: the problem of immigration (over 2 mln Poles living in GB at the moment), family bonds, relationship between grandparents and grandchildren, aims in life and persistance required to achieve them and finally Christmas

 20-30 min

Level: pre-intermediate +

Age group: 12+

Activity aim:
  • to practice group speaking, class discussion
  • to use the language of predictions: perhaps, I'm not sure but I think, probably, modals of deduction: must be, might be, can't be
Vocabulary to pre-teach: sticky notes, parcel, delivery boy, memorise, aim, emigrate, revise

Film address:

One of the ways to use such a story is to prepare a few screenshots of the most important scenes and give it to the students. Here are some examples:



Stage one: (group work)
There are two ways of doing it. 
1) Show a selection of screenshots to a group of max 5 students and ask the students to put them in a logical order and then ask to tell the story to the other group.
2) Give students only the first and the last screenshot and ask them to guess what might have happened in between. After they have read their version of the story, the students are given the other photos and they try to put them in a logical order.
Set the time limit about 5-8 min.

Stage two:
Now play the film but pause at a suspenseful moment when the taxi arrives at the house. Rememeber you cannot reveal the ending at this point. After that, students check whose version was the closest to the original one.

Stage three: (group work)
Students still work in the same groups. This time their task is to discover the reason why the man is learning English so intensively. You can write on the board the expressions that they can find useful when guessing: He may/might be -ing/ Perhaps he is...... and so on. (2 min)

Stage four: (Class discussion)
Play the rest of the film. Ask the students about their reaction. Did they guess correctly? Now you can have a follow up discussion about family bonds and how important they are for them. You can also ask if they have any relatives living abroad and if Christmas is the time they get together. Why? Why not? With my students at this point we also talk about their aims in lives and how to achieve them. Was the man successful? Why? Why not? Did they notice that it was a commercial? What was advertised?

Stage five:
For homework the students can write a narrative with an alternative ending. Just trust their imagination.

Tomorrow the next Christmas commercial with new ideas based on the practical book Film in Action.

Good luck!