Making Movies in the ESL Classroom

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Movie-making in the ESL classroom, is crucial in the English learning process. It allows students to practice what they have learned and what they know, through the use of scriptwriting and setting props to create a 'mock' environment of a situation. This environment allows the students to work together as a team as well as on an individual level, in a setting in which one would typically use English on a daily basis.

This setting allows for rehearsing the spoken lines (to include practice of proper pronunciation, grammar and memorization), and writing the script (editing and rewriting the script or scenes.) This form of paradigm is the foundation that results in conversations which are processed and memorized by the student much more successfully. Not only does movie-making in the ESL classroom allow for practice and use of correct English speaking, reading and writing, but it also creates a stronger motivation in the students. Movie-making creates a more practical approach to learning English as a second language, rather than an unrealistic environment.

Movie-making allows students to discover, through practical use, the creation of using and improving English language skills, through film which includes, scriptwriting, finding locations for shooting their film, setting props, etc. until they have achieved their objectives. Academic Movie-making in the ESL classroom offers the most advantageous chances for learning and improving upon the students abilities to master English as a second language, in an environment that is more common to an English speaker.

There are three (3) topics of interest that should be understood regarding teaching or learning ESL through academic movie-making; Needs, motivations and Intelligences. Though each has multiple levels of effect, and has individual characteristics for each student, needs, motivations and intelligences work simultaneously, to help the student accomplish their goals. Essential to motivation is to understand human behavior in the way motivations are created by basic needs being met.

Needs vs. Motivations

As basic needs are met, motivations, at varying levels, begin to emerge. The needs surface in an order of importance. As the lower level of need is met, their motivations can increase and lead them to the next level of needs. As more needs are satisfied, more motivation is built up in the student.

In the ESL classroom and in movie-making for learning English as a second language, the students will have varying needs. While some have an intrinsic need for power, others have extrinsic needs for the reward of a diploma. Student's have differing motivational factors as well. While it is virtually impossible to satisfy each individual learner's needs, there may be unique methods to increase one's motivation; based upon their need for reward or only their need for recognition and praise.

There are several theories regarding needs and motivations. Following is a brief explanation to understanding needs and how those needs are satisfied and their relation to motivations along with a description of the theory it has been associated with.

Human Needs

McClelland's Theory of Needs

David McClelland developed a well known theory known as the "Human Motivation Theory". Through this theory, McClelland resolved that motivation is only subjected to three (3) needs. The three (3) needs being power, affiliation and achievement (Christie, Jordan, Troth & Lawrence, 2007). The significance of these needs will be different for each individual. Satisfying these needs results in an increase of motivation.

The Need for Power

The Need for power is the need to be a leader or to make a difference. The Need for power can reveal itself in two methods. The first method is that which is of 'personal' power; which can be misleading and unwelcomed. The Need for power is the need to be a leader or have some form of control over others. The second type of is known as the need for 'institutional' power. Individuals with the need for institutional power; will likely want to be in charge or control the actions of the group or team, in order to increase the goals of the group.

The Need for Affiliation

The Need for Affiliation is the need for healthy and positive friendships and family relationships. This need is parallel with two (2) of Maslow's needs theory with the need for 'belonging' and the need for 'self-esteem'. It is the need to feel respected, loved, and accepted.

The Need for Achievement

The Need for achievement is the need in which the individual needs to be successful and excel in difficult goals that remain realistic. These goals will be challenging so that the individual may feel a strong sense of accomplishment. The accomplishment is, in itself, the reward and these types of individuals need no praise or recognition to satisfy their need.

Needs as they relate to Motivation

Types of Motivations

Though there are several theories associated with motivation, motivation can, in general, be broken down into two (2) levels or types. The first being intrinsic motivation (often referred to as expressive motivation). The second type of motivation is extrinsic motivation (also referred to as instrumental motivation) [Atherton, 2010] Intrinsic motivation is the motivation that one simply has from inside of themselves; it is the motivation that results in the feeling of satisfaction one creates within themselves, their desire to succeed or for social acceptance. Extrinsic motivation, on the other hand, is the motivation that is created for the purpose of receiving a reward of some tangible form or to avoid a negative outcome.

Extrinsic Motivations

It has been suggested that most human beings are, for the most part, influenced more by the extrinsic motivation than by the intrinsic motivation (Csikszentmihalyi & Nakamura, 1989). However, extrinsic motivations, typically, results in only short-term accomplishments whereas it is in reality decreasing any long-term interest in the topic. As such, it is imperative that the extrinsic motivators be supported by intrinsic motivators, if supporting the extrinsic with intrinsic motivations fails, it can result in a lack of interest of the topic or activity.

Intrinsic Motivations

"One of the most frequent failures in education is that students rarely say that they find studying to be intrinsically rewarding" (Csikszentmihalyi & Larson, 1984). Intrinsic motivators are those that the learner does for no reward at all, except for that of their own enjoyment or interest. One's own pleasure is to say, rewarding enough for these learners. It is crucial for the extrinsic motivational learner to uncover an intrinsic motivator for their success in learning or performing.

Every person has different motivators. And these differing motivators result from different needs; though every human has the same basic needs, each has their own growth needs. Needs play a key role for motivations as well as the role needs play for one's personal and various intelligences. Intelligence theories teach of the different types of intelligences rather than the amount of intelligence a person may or may not have. Information regarding intelligences and learning styles is useful, especially in the ESL classroom. Being aware of one's learning style or intelligences will help to develop new approaches to make up for one's weaknesses and make better use of one's personal strengths.

Movie-making stimulates both intrinsic and extrinsic motivational needs. Extrinsic motivations are satisfied by the rewards associated with the final results of the movie and also through the admiration and praise of one's classmates and instructors. The intrinsic motivations are satisfied is through the pleasure the learner gains from the writing of their scripts, rehearsals, practices and editing their own work. These actions offer more pleasure and interest of learning while developing their self-confidence at the same time. The various 'intelligences' (learning styles) have an affect on motivations.


Maslow's hierarchical theory

As mentioned, there are several theories regarding motivation. One of the most notorious theories associated with motivation comes from Maslow's hierarchical theory [Abraham Maslow's 1943 paper A Theory of Human Motivation.] In which Maslow proposes five (5) diverse levels of motivational needs. The five needs being portrayed with a single pyramid, having five (5) levels.

1. The most basic human needs being at the bottom, physiological (physical and biological needs, without which no human could survive. (i.e. air, water, food, sleep, sex, etc.) These needs require no genetic programming; these needs are naturally, instinctually programmed needs for human survival.

2. On the second (2nd) level we find the need for security and safety. This need motivates one through their need to attain safety and security of themselves and that of their family.(financially, physically, and orderly.) The safety and security need may be different for each individual, as each individual's view of safety and security varies, but the need for safety and security is none the less a basic required human need.

3. The third (3rd) level expresses the need for love and belonging. This manifests into a motivation driven by emotions and the need to be included or accepted. (Socially, religiously, professionally, etc.) Human interaction is significant to human survival and, thus, the need for love and belonging is very motivating. (Human interaction can include positive family relationships; strong bonds of friendship, satisfying sexual intimacy, acceptance in a religious organization, professional recognition, etc.)

4. The fourth (4th) level of motivational needs brings us to our self- esteem need. This motivation is driven by all humans need to be shown respect and to have a stronger sense of self-respect. The human self-esteem need follows along with the need for belonging. It is the basic need which concludes that every human has the need to be respected and recognized for their accomplishments. The self-esteem need also follows along with the intrinsic motivation, in the fact that to increase one's self-esteem, there is no need for a tangible reward. The satisfaction of the recognition and praise for their accomplishment is rewarding to the individual. However, to earn a reward of sorts, would fill the extrinsic motivator, as well as increase one's self-esteem. (Examples could be earning a raise in their pay or a promotion within their job, or a trophy or award for their accomplishments.)

5. Self-actualization, the fifth (5th) level on the pyramid of hierarchical needs is the pinnacle of Maslow's motivation theory. Self-actualization focuses on the pursuit of attaining one's full potential; however, the Self-actualization need can never, in reality, be completely met, different from the lower level needs. With Self-actualization there will always be room for development as one grows and expands their own mind. The self-actualization need is directly related to the intrinsic motivator. While the self-actualization need can never be wholly met, the intrinsic motivation continues to drive one to continue to grow and gain more knowledge, For example we find the need of self-actualization high on the needs of the followers of many religious organizations in modern day. The need to understand one's place in the world, one's position with a creator, and one's external future continues to be the motivating factor for many of the followers, but can never be completely met. Generally speaking, one can only be motivated intrinsically to continue to grow in their faith and expand their knowledge of the religion they follow, but their extrinsic reward, according to most religions of modern day, comes after their death.

In his book "Motivation and Personality" (1987) Maslow speaks of "unmotivated behavior" [Motivation and Personality Abraham Maslow 1987] and "coping (purposive) behaviors vs. expressive behaviors". The "coping behavior" is one of striving and goal setting, whereas the "expressive behavior" is one of reflection of one's personality. Student's who have a 'coping behavior' will seek to achieve a goal, and those with 'expressive behavior' may not try to achieve anything. Maslow later stated that the 'average behavior' generally displays both of these behaviors, to a certain degree.

Through English as a second language classes that incorporate movie-making into their curriculum, students can learn from and with each other and broaden the understanding of teamwork and understanding for their classmates. The students will make decisions as a result of sharing ideas with each other. They will be responsible for compromising, communicating and generally working together to accomplish same goals. There are a numerous additional positive linguistic characteristics of movie making that consist of mutual rehearsing, writing, rewriting, editing, practice of pronunciation and fluency of the second language, practicing one's listening skills, and for expanding one's vocabulary and for improving upon the student's grammar.

Intelligence theories

Gardeners' Multiple Intelligence Theory

This realistic approach to learning or teaching English as a Second Language also allows for the endless possibilities for reflecting on Gardeners' "Frames of Mind: The theory of multiple intelligences." Gardner has continued to challenge the suggestion that intelligence is a single body (1943) and it is through this dispute that led Gardener to conclude that there are distinctive intelligences and that the modern education system (1991) is subjective and presumes that all students can learn the same subjects in the same manner. Gardener challenges this fact stating "Students learn in ways that are identifiably distinctive. The broad spectrum of students would be better served if disciplines could be presented in a numbers of ways and learning could be assessed through a variety of means" [Gardner 1991]

Gardner perceived intelligence as "the capacity to solve problems or to fashion products that are valued in one or more cultural setting'" [Gardner & Hatch, 1989] Gardner originally devised a listing of seven (7) distinct intelligences; which included:

I. Linguistic intelligence: Gardner claims that students of these intelligences are those that use both spoken and written language to achieve their goals. Linguistic intelligence consists of the learners' ability to efficiently apply language to express oneself and language as a method of retaining information. Writers, lawyers, and speakers are amongst this group of intelligences, according to Gardner.

II. Logical-mathematical intelligence: This intelligence involves logical and critical thinking and deductive reasoning. Scientists and mathematicians are most common in this group of intelligences.

III. Musical intelligence: This group of intelligences includes those with the ability to identify and create musical tones, rhythms and pitches and According to Gardner musical intelligence corresponds with that of linguistic intelligence.

IV. Bodily-kinesthetic intelligence: The Bodily-kinesthetic intelligence introduces the aptitude to use mental abilities to direct bodily actions. Gardner views mental and physical activity as connected.

V. Spatial intelligence: Gardner concludes that spatial intelligence is associated with the group of learners who have the aptitude to recognize and use the patterns of wide space and more confined areas. Spatial intelligence is often referred to as "Visual intelligence. Spatial intelligence is the learners' capability to determine parallels across various realms.

VI. Interpersonal intelligence: Interpersonal intelligence is the intelligence that allows the learner to work well as a team. This intelligence relates to a persons emotional ability to understand and recognize another's' motives and intentions, while displaying a positive level of empathy. Inter- and Intra- personal intelligences are considered the only two (2) "personal" intelligences.

VII. Intrapersonal intelligence: Intrapersonal intelligence involves one's ability to understand and recognize one's own motivations, emotions, anxieties and fears and to use these feelings to direct one's own life.

Gardner went on to suggest that no intelligence functions simultaneously; that they are all used to balance each other to allow people to solve problems or develop new abilities. Such is true in both teaching and learning English as a second language. The use of movie-making in the classroom provides motivation of all of the intelligences purposed by Dr. Gardner to work together. Through movie-making in the ESL classroom, student of varying intelligences work as a team to achieve their goals, using the framework of intelligences from Dr. Gardner's theory.

Linguistic intelligence is imperative for movie-making in the ESL classroom. This intelligence will consist of learners who play the role of the screenwriters, editors, directors and the actors; those whose task requires the use of language. Logical-mathematical intelligence works in movie-making for the ESL classroom in a similar manner. Screenplay writers need to use logic to develop a realistic storyline. Actors will also need to use critical thinking in order to memorize their lines and to say their lines properly and with accurate emphasis. Musical intelligence, also like linguistic intelligence, is important if there is to be music involved in the movie-making. The Bodily-kinesthetic intelligence is one of the intelligences which will be used by the actors when playing their roles, along with spatial intelligence, which is also important for the learners who are creating the set of the movie. Everyone involved in the movie-making process will need to make use of the two (2) 'personal' Motivations (Interpersonal and intrapersonal). Therefore, Dr. Gardner's original multiple intelligence theory is, indeed, quite precise, regarding movie-making for teaching and learning English as a second language. Dr. Gardner's Theory of Multiple Intelligences teaches the teacher that "Seven kinds of intelligence would allow seven ways to teach, rather than one."


Though it is often difficult and sometimes impossible to accommodate all learning styles and intelligences found within one classroom, movie making can accommodates the vast majority if not all variations.

Linguistic intelligence is accommodated by writing the script, the dialogues, the monologues, explaining ideas and concepts to the other students, and by using an assortment of language registers.

Logical-mathematical intelligence is promoted by having to think of and plan space, the order of scenes, actions and movement of the characters and their suggestions, use of and planning of props and for the design and implementation of lighting, along with several other activities.

Musical intelligence can be challenged by the need for determining the best music or sound effects and of being conscious of one's voice tone, pitch and stress.

Intrapersonal intelligence can be confronted by the need to act in response to an assortment of experiences and classmate motivations in the manner of advice, criticism and managing one's own ways of thinking and emotions in relation to an event, a scene or a character.

Interpersonal intelligence emerges out of the need for one's awareness and reaction to diverse situations in terms of feelings, atmosphere, moods, expressions, movement, body language within the group and teams, and also within the movie itself.

Bodily-kinesthetic intelligence is tested in many diverse ways, such as through movement, timing, fitting gestures and proper posture, poise, style and order.

Spatial intelligence is required for the creation of groups, teams, set designs, costumes, color of the set, and the greatest effects in lighting.

The Educational Theory of Lev Vygotsky

Vygotsky (1978) places emphasis on interaction with others for better learning. Primarily, Vygotsky theorized that learning and cognition are initiated by both social and cultural issues, rather than that of an individual experience. Vygotsky looked at the relations among thought and language, academic and everyday thought development, and several other key theories involving interaction with others in educational systems. Vygotsky's theory highlights the importance of cultural and social interactions as key to academics and knowledge. For example in The United States, education is neither a priority of the culture, nor is it encouraged for financial or academic gain. Contrary to The western educational system, the eastern educational system, particularly the Asian educational system is viewed as a crucial part of the family system and the culture and is therefore encouraged, appropriately. Interaction and group (social) or society (culture) development of knowledge is essential to academic movie-making and as a result, it is generally acknowledged that movie-making would be more beneficial in the eastern culture than that of the western culture.

Stephen Krashen's Monitor Theory

Stephen Krashen's book entitled "Second Language Acquisition and Second Language Learning" (1981) explains the Monitor Theory of adult second language acquisition. This Theory theorizes that adults have two (2) self-directed systems for increasing their ability in learning second languages. The two systems are described as "conscious language acquisition and subconscious language learning". He further theorizes that the two systems are interconnected in a distinct way and that the subconscious acquisitions appear to be much more critical. Krashen suggests that a challenge for students guides the way to more advanced learning. In an ESL (English as a second language) class the challenge for students is in through scriptwriting and rewriting, selection of the cast and crew, determination of the setting and scenes, creation of the props and costumes, practice and preparation such as rehearsals, editing, giving and receiving advice and criticism and to end with filming the movie all present the most advantageous challenges for students of second language learning, at all intellectual levels. Conscious language learning is said to help the student through correction of mistakes (in pronunciation, grammar and the like) and through detailed and precise explanations of appropriate rules from the instructor to the students. (Krashen and Seliger, 1975). Language acquisition does not necessarily require a conscious level of grammatical rules, but rather the acquisition builds up slowly over a period of time as a subconscious level of learning. The skill for speaking is developed much faster than the skill for listening, therefore, the best learning method is through correction and comprehensible explanations of the rules of grammar for the second language.

The Monitor Theory

Krashen theorized that the language that student has subconsciously obtained "initiates our utterances in a second language and is responsible for our fluency," whereas the language that the student has consciously learned will behave as the "editor" in circumstances where the student has adequate time to monitor their grammar and speech, and understands the rule. This conscious editing is the monitor.

In conclusion, while students face differing needs and are motivated in varying ways, each student may have individual intelligences that are encouraged through individual methods. And while there are several theories regarding such motivations and needs, learning is a unique process for each individual. There is no right way to teach, since students do not all learn in the same way. But through academic movie-making, the instructor and classmates can help the student to find and understand the best learning method for them. Movie-making encourages several key aspects of intelligences and provides both a rewarding experience and a pleasurable one, both being an accomplishment in and of themselves. Movie making is also beneficial to students because their learning can increase when the instructor offers appropriate guidance and explanations and with the students being engaged in elaborate and challenging tasks (Alan & Stoller, 2005); the teacher is therefore a director or a guide in the students' invention of developing the film of which they will be intrinsically motivated as they please their audience, their peers and themselves. Through movie-making in the classroom, students will learn from one another and they develop an understanding of cooperation and understanding for their fellow students. They can motivate each other through making decisions, sharing ideas, communicating and cooperating with each other. There are numerous further positive linguistic aspects of movie making that include collaborative writing, practice and developing pronunciation and fluency, the provision and practice of authentic listening activities, and a platform for vocabulary expansion and grammar improvement.

Movie-making is also intrinsically (teaching of any course is rarely appreciated but instructors are often intrinsically motivated through the pleasures of being involved and responsible for teaching the second language) and extrinsically (through their earned income) rewarding for the instructor of an English as a second language class, as they watch their students grow and develop and become fluent speakers of the English language.

Every person has different growth needs, but all have the same basic needs for survival. Once the basic needs are met, then motivations can come in to play and fulfill the growth needs. Once the needs are met, or at least satisfied the best that they possibly can be at the moment, then the individual intelligences will begin to emerge. And as stated by Gardner, if there are several ways of learning, then there must be several ways of teaching, too. Movie-making in the English as a second language allows all levels of intelligences to work together and as a whole develop a movie in which the setting is more realistic and natural to an English speaker.