The Internet TESL Journal

Using Movie Trailers in an ESL CALL Class

John Gebhardt
jgebhardt [at]
Ritsumeikan University(Shiga, Japan)
Heianjogakuin University (Shiga and Osaka, Japan)
This article provides an example of using movie previews or trailers based on a CALL class. It demonstrates how a lesson can be done using movie trailers, the advantages of this kind of language study, and offers expansion possibilities.


It is always a challenge to provide current, meaningful, and relevant content for students of English as a Second Language or Foreign Language; an excellent source of material is the Internet, specifically movie preview or trailer clips. (Both the words 'previews' and 'trailers' are found on the Internet, though the term 'trailer' will be used in this article because, based on Internet searches, it seems to be more current.) Movie trailers are short segments (usually two to three minutes) of key scenes that provide interesting linguistic input and action accompanying the language; they offer us an innovative way to teach English. They can be viewed by students on an individual basis in a computer lab CALL classroom, using an Internet browser and video viewer such as QuickTime or Windows Media Players, for example. The language in the clips can be used in 'cloze' exercises and the scenes for generating discussion and answering questions.


The class I taught was made up of first year university students. This specific class was held in a computer lab, though the activity could just as well be done with videotape or DVDs, so is applicable to a wider range of teachers. The students taking the CALL class were experienced in listening to other Internet-based ESL/EFL material such as at Randall's ESL Cyber Listening Lab ( However, I felt for a number of reasons (listed below) it would be valuable to incorporate movie trailers into the syllabus. There are several sites on the Internet that have movie trailers, but a site I found satisfactory, in terms of selection and speed, was Apple's QuickTime Movie Trailers page (

Advantages of Movie Trailers

The concepts of linguistic input and using authentic materials with regard to second language acquisition have been with us for many years. Two web sites where these are discussed are Stephen Krashen's web site ( and one written by Kelly, et al. ( Furthermore, video and audiotape materials have been used extensively to teach ESL/EFL classes. What is relatively new is the emergence of digital media (audio and visual) that is widely available and easily accessed from the Internet.

Though, indeed, teachers have started using digital music and aural materials, I believe video content from movies offers significant advantages. These are as follows: Furthermore, the advantages of specifically using digital movie trailers are that they are There are several web sites that teachers can direct their students to, for viewing movie trailers so that schools will not have to worry about problems of copyrighted material.


The procedure was to direct the students to Apple's QuickTime movie trailers web site address, let the students, on their own, watch and listen to the trailer, do a 'cloze' exercise of the dialogue (this was done on a hand-out), show the answers and have students self-check their listening and enter their scores on their weekly score sheets. Then they would work in groups and answer questions related to the movie scenes appearing in the trailer. These questions are answered in a collaborative way with groups trying to agree on answers to such questions as, "Why does so-and-so say "....... " to ..... ?" and "What would YOU say in that same situation?" or "What do you think the outcome will be in the movie?" Multiple answers were acceptable, however. Students would write their answers on the handouts and these would be graded according to the appropriateness of the answers.

Possible Expansion of Activities

The activities allow for expansion on the theme of the particular movie from which the trailer was taken. There is a vast amount of information on the Internet about movies, including movie plots, characters, reviews, written dialogue (sometimes before the movie is actually released), and pictures that could be incorporated into a report, for example. Student projects could have them actually seeing the movie outside of class and writing their own reviews and character sketches, and based on the movie, teachers might prepare True/False question lists, discussion topics, answering fact and opinion questions, and so forth, depending upon the level of the students' English. The possibilities are endless.


Movie trailers offer an exciting and innovative way to study English as a Second or Foreign Language. The movement toward digitalized video and their increasing availability makes them ideally suited for a CALL class with Internet access, though the methodology would work with videotape or DVD material, as well. This activity provides the students with current, meaningful and relevant content, and the combination of both an autonomous learning environment and collaborative, communicative, task-based interaction.

Web Links Mentioned in the Article

The Internet TESL Journal, Vol. X, No. 10, October 2004