Fluency First ELT – blog

Activities for Task-Based Learning online

Welcome to our new site! We’re going to use this page to post tasks and supporting activities that can be used on Zoom and similar platforms

1. Feel-good movies for self-isolation


This is the first of a series of tasks we’ll be posting, intended to be used on online platforms such as Zoom. This first task is a “speak, listen and decide” type, suitable for intermediate level and above. 

In the past few days, since the beginning of enforced isolation in many countries, because it has been a sad and disorientating time, there have been some suggestions from streaming services about good movies to watch, generally of the “feel-good” type. As someone who generally doesn’t like this category of movie, I (Neil Mc) started thinking about which movie I would choose. (Neil A’s note: hey, nothing wrong with feel-good movies! Also…see my choice in the recording. I’d say the term is open to interpretation and broader than we perhaps think).

Pre-Task (1): (optional)

For homework, students remind themselves of the names of some “feel-good” movies, including perhaps some that they haven’t seen – or can’t remember well. They prepare to talk about one movie that they are familiar with for about a minute.

  • Why this movie is a suitable recommendation for these days of self-isolation. Does it have a particular message, or is it memorable for some other reason? Is it just escapist fun?
  • Is it suitable for families, or best watched alone?

NB: bulleted instructions like these can be cut and pasted into the chat box of your platform.

Pre-Task (2)

Students listen to the MP3 of Neil A’s movie selection and his reasons (see the attached file). You could set an evaluative question as they listen: “Is this a movie that you’ve seen – or would like to see based on what he/she says here? Get ready to explain your reasons.” Feedback follows in the main meeting window.

Neil’s self-isolation film

Main task:

  • The scenario is that the students have been employed as a focus group by a movie-streaming service such as Netflix. In breakout rooms, each student presents their idea for inclusion in the “recommended for a day of self-isolation” list. (If you have more time available, and students are movie fans or have done the homework, then they can put forward more than one idea*).
  • Respond to the others in your breakout room – ask questions to find out more about the others’ suggestions if these are movies you don’t know.
  • Decide as a group which movie to put forward to the final list. You can only choose one. (*or more – but limit the number). 
  • As a larger group (back in the main meeting) listen to all the pitches and decide whether or not to include these suggestions in the final list.

Language Focus:

(Note that we’ll be posting a separate blog entry with more detailed ideas for language focus, using Zoom as an example. The core principles and practices remain the same as those laid out in our book Activities for Task-Based Learning. Language focus should support and emerge from the task rather than leading it i.e. the task should not be about display of specific pre-selected language). In brief, language can be focused on:

  • while monitoring breakout rooms – make it clear you are available to supply particular phrases to the students at the moment of need, and if it is clear they would benefit from a particular form that can be unobtrusively supplied live, do so;
  • post-task, when you can – through chat, the whiteboard or a shared google doc, have the learners examine examples of language they used during the pre-task and task, correcting, upgrading and sharing valuable language;
  • post-task through text-mining: have learners notice particular phrases and structures in recordings or texts used during the task cycle.)

We believe it’s worth predicting the kind of language learners might come up with during the task phases, as it helps prime you to deal more effectively with this emergent language. Here are some ideas we quickly brainstormed – mostly, in this case, lexical. Free free to suggest others or let us know what came up for you:

Sentence heads / frames for expressing its significance to you / its message

I’ve watched this loads / This movie always makes me feel X / I always come back to this one because… /

I love the way / I love the part where…. / The best bit is where + S + V

The film is all about the power of love / friendship / community

it reminds us of what’s really important in life / that you can overcome the obstacles, begin again / not to take things too seriously / what you can achieve if you put your mind to it,

it doesn’t really say much, it’s more about escapism / entertainment

Lexis related to films  

  • general – soundtrack, acting, cast, plot.  It stars ______, it’s directed by ______, it’s set in…, it’s from (the 90s).
  • genres – a romantic comedy, a sci-fi movie, an action movie, a thriller, it’s based on a true story / a book by…
  • adjectives – (it’s) funny, moving, heartwarming, comforting, unpredictable, (a bit) predictable / sentimental


This can easily be adapted for other media. For example, students could co-operate to make a Spotify playlist of songs for self-isolation. They can pick a particular mood e.g. calming, cheerful or even bleak and futuristic, if that’s the way they want to go. In each case, they should briefly explain the reasons for your choice. 

NB: The language needed for this variation will be more abstract as it’s generally harder to talk about music. 

e.g. This track evokes / makes me think of / reminds me of / has a _______ atmosphere.

Follow-up / Task Repetition:

Have the learners collaborate in pairs or small groups in a breakout room. Using e.g. google docs, they can write up one or more of the pitches. Monitor and offer help with language where needed. The other pair / group can read the pitch and decide if it makes the film seem sufficiently attractive.

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