If your students are anything like mine, they love movies!
English-language movies are great, guilt-free entertainment for ESL students.
Action-packed blockbusters take the excitement to a whole different level.
If movies weren’t entertaining, we wouldn’t watch them. Plus, they’re language boosters since English learners get to practice listening and vocabulary skills while watching explosions, car chases and the hero and heroine falling in love.
Take advantage of this natural love of movies by using today’s top flicks as a jumping off point for writing assignment ideas.
5 ESL Writing Ideas Based on the Biggest Box Office Hits of 2015
If you’re after a great resource to showcase film and other native materials in the class then look no further than FluentU.
1. Write Emergency Plans with “San Andreas”
Who doesn’t like watching Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson show off his muscles on the big screen? This year his blockbuster “San Andreas” has him navigating an earthquake-devastated West Coast as a rescue chopper pilot to find and save his daughter.
This action-laden plot conveniently leads into the topic of natural disasters. It’s smart for anyone to have a plan in case of an emergency.
You can start your writing project based on this movie by having students discuss what to do in a natural disaster. If you have any students who have survived one, give them a chance to share with the rest of the class—but don’t force students who may be too uncomfortable to share.
Then have your students write an evacuation plan for their school or home. Have students write a list of actions to take using imperative sentences. Encourage them to draw a diagram that can be included with their evacuation plan. If you don’t have it already, post one of their diagrams in your classroom in case of emergency.
You can also have students do a little reading on what to include in an emergency pack and make their own checklist. Encourage them to follow their own advice and put one together just in case.
To wrap up the activity, have students share their evacuation plans with the class and let your students vote on which one they think is most likely to save their lives. If you don’t have it already, post one of their diagrams in your classroom in case of emergency.
2. Write Classifieds with “Minions”
The world fell in love with these adorable yellow creatures in “Despicable Me,” and now the minions have their own movie. In 42 B.G. (before Gru), the overall-wearing, smile-inducing Minions are saving the world from a super villain and her husband.
Minions are, by definition, subordinates or followers. What qualities do your students think are most important in an employee or minion? Have your students discuss the question in groups of four or five.
Once each group has its list, have them look on Craigslist.com at the classifieds for employees. What qualities are most businesses looking for? What qualities would your students be looking for?
Once groups have done their research, have each individual student write an advertisement for their own minions. Have each student email you a copy of their ad if possible, and then publish all the ads together in a class newspaper. If the assignments are printed or handwritten, then use them to make a bulletin board display.
Give a copy of your classifieds to each student in your class and then challenge your students to guess who wrote each of the ads. If they can, have them give reasons for their guesses. Then reveal the real advertisers to the class.
3. Write Predictions with “Star Wars: The Force Awakens”
The Star Wars saga continues with episode seven, “Star Wars: the Force Awakens.” The movie takes place after the events that closed “The Return of the Jedi.”
Though this movie isn’t slated to open until December of 2015, it is one of the most anticipated and talked about movies of the year.
Ask your students if they have seen “The Return of the Jedi.” If not, and if you have the time, watch the flick in class. Then have your students make predictions about what will happen in the next movie.
Before you make your predictions, or as you are making them, review with your students how to use the conditional structure as well as modal verbs. After your discussion, have your students write their own predictions about what episode seven will contain. You can have students write a bullet point list or write their predictions in paragraph form. If you choose the latter, you might want to review how to use transitions between paragraphs.
4. Write Persuasive Essays with “Avengers: Age of Ultron”
For the superhero fans in your classroom, “Avengers Age of Ultron” is going to be a huge hit. In the film, Iron Man and the Hulk accidentally create an artificial intelligence that tries to destroy humanity. The rest of the Avengers must then, naturally, save the world.
Artificial intelligence is a controversial topic and perfect for discussion with your ESL students. Put your students into groups of around four to discuss the advantages of artificial intelligence and the dangers it poses.
If your students are advanced enough readers, you might have them research what others have said about the dangers and benefits of AI.
For their writing assignment, have your students write a persuasive essay either for or against artificial intelligence. Students will support the claim that AI is a smart idea or a dangerous one.
Student essays should contain six paragraphs: The introduction, a paragraph for each of three reasons supporting their opinion, a rebuttal of the opponent’s opinion and a conclusion.
After students have written their essays, hold a class debate. Divide your class based on their opinion, and have each group choose one person to speak for their side. The goal of the debate will be to see if anyone can change the mind of someone on the other side.
If you like, follow the debate with a screening of “I Robot,” a movie that asks the question of whether AI is ultimately beneficial or dangerous.
5. Write Future Plans with “Jurassic World”
“Jurassic World” is the latest installment of the hit “Jurassic Park” franchise. It features a theme park where dinosaurs have come back to life.
Start with a class discussion about the ultimate vacation. Where would each of your students go for the vacation of a lifetime and why? You might want to remind your students how to form comparative and superlative adjectives for expressing their vacation preferences.
After the discussion, ask your students whether they would go to a dinosaur park or not. Make sure each student gives reasons to support their decision. Encourage anyone who would go to talk about how they might handle potentially dangerous situations.
After your discussions, have your students write itineraries for their dream vacations. They can include days for travel, attractions they would like to see and activities they would like to take part in. If you want to challenge your students, have them make estimates on the cost of each part of their vacation and come up with a total cost. Post their itineraries on a bulletin board in class and have the rest of your class vote on whose vacation they would like to take if they were not able to take their own ultimate vacation.
The beauty of writing assignments is that they can be on almost anything and still practice the English skills your students are learning.
After all, what is writing if not use of language?
Be creative in your approach to writing assignments this year and see how your students take to the assignments you give. No doubt the experience will be memorable for all of you.
Oh, and be sure to plan a trip to the movies to celebrate your students’ accomplishments!
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