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February 2020 - Year 22 - Issue 1

ISSN 1755-9715

The Effectiveness of Using Film Extracts in Literature Classes

Raluca Sarghie has been teaching English in Mesota National College, a higher secondary school in Brasov, Transylvania, Romania for 13 years. She is also a Cambridge ESOL examiner and a RATE issues external reviewer. She has won several international scholarships such as: IATEFL scholarship in Glasgow 2012, sponsored by University of Cambridge, FULBRIGHT scholarship in the USA, 2013, PESTALOZZI scholarship sponsored by the Council of Europe, Norway 2015. Email:









This article is intended to present a research which tests the efficiency of films in literature courses through a questionnaire delivered to 130 students. The research is based on the study of using films as a supplementary resource to teaching literature and it was carried in a higher secondary school, located in an urban area.


Research questions

The study attempts to answer the following research questions:

  1. What are the students’ perceptions towards using movies in EFL classroom?
  2. Is movie watching as effective as reading novels in studying literature?
  3. Does watching the movies improve language skills?



  1. The main hypothesis is that teaching literature with videos would be more engaging for students and would develop better their communicative skills. Therefore, the research aims to find out how the students perceive the advantages and disadvantages of lessons with videos, as well as the students’ attitudes to such lessons. My expectation is that, on the whole, students consider these lessons as entertaining and it is more likely that they are left with positive experiences. 

However there might be a number of students who may dislike the use of films in teaching literature. It would be interesting to analyse the reasons why they may perceive the use of short films as a negative experience. 

  1.  Watching short segments of movies in the English classes may prove to be effective in the learning process because the films can have a double purpose: both for entertainment and learning. When teaching with films teachers aim to provide a more entertaining alternative to reading the novel and also to develop the students’ language skills and vocabulary growth. 
  2. The hypothesis is that films may serve as a bridge between reading and listening skills due to the fact that students are mainly audio visual learners.


Participants in the study

The research was performed as a case study in Mesota National College, a lower and higher secondary school. The participants in this study were students between the ages of 14-19. The total sample of participants consisted in a number of 130 EFL students who were selected randomly for the sake of obtaining reliable data. Their level of English varies from pre-intermediate to proficiency but the students involved in the research have developed the necessary listening skills in order to be exposed to film adaptations.

It is true that this study did not cover all the students from the high school but as Zoltan Dornyei says: “the group of participants or informants whom the researcher actually examines in his empirical investigation and the population is that group of people whom the study is about”(Zoltan Dornyei, 2007:96) The study took place over a ten -month-period of time. 


The purpose of the research

The objective of this research is to:

  1. Investigate the effectiveness of using movies on the development of the students’ language competence and performance  in an academic setting
  2. Study the strengths and weaknesses of teaching with movies in combination with the reading of the literary text – observe if movies can get students more engaged with the reading activities
  3. Assess the role of movies as a bridge between the reading and the listening skills.
  4. Ascertain the teachers’ reasons in using videos when teaching English literature
  • To stimulate students’ interest in reading literature
  • To improve reading, listening, writing, speaking skills
  • To improve vocabulary
  • To familiarise students with a new cultural background
  • To expose students to authentic language


The questionnaire

The questionnaire for students is designed to investigate students’ attitudes towards film-based teaching and learning. The questionnaire proved to be extremely popular because it reached a large number of respondents in a relatively short period of time and it gathered fast and compact information relevant to the topic. Moreover, students proved to be willing to express their opinions in a questionnaire. Therefore, questionnaires may have a great contribution to the accuracy of the study. Furthermore, the information collected can be easily standardised and analysed.

The questionnaire was written in English because the students’ level of English, to whom the questionnaire was delivered, is above pre-intermediate so I started from the assumption that they would be able to understand the questions and then provide answers. The questionnaires were anonymous in order to keep the received data confidential.

The questions included in the questionnaire are concerned with the students’ attitudes to being exposed to films in English classes. Students are also asked to give their opinions on the improvement of language skills or of the vocabulary. They also need to give their opinions on how effective they think this method is and if they prefer to read the novel or to watch the film. The last questions focused on whether the students had positive or negative experiences regarding the use of films in literature teaching. 

The questionnaire included a combination of close-ended, open-ended and mixed questions. The open-ended questions give extensive information, containing the participants’ personal opinions, feelings and experiences. The close-ended questions are helpful because they enable the researcher to classify the answers and facilitate data analysis. They are easy for the respondents, too because they just have to choose one or more variants. Moreover, the mixed questions are a combination of closed and open questions. Students are supposed to choose an answer and then they have to support it by providing arguments or examples.  


Description of the questionnaire

The questionnaire includes questions referring to the students’ attitudes towards the use of films for the study of literature.

  • The first question: ‘Do you like literature?’ is intended to show students’ attitudes towards literature and how they perceive it.
  • The second question: ‘Do you prefer learning by: seeing, hearing, both?’ is intended to reveal students’ learning styles and finding the answer to this question will help to choose the most appropriate materials.
  • The third question: ‘Why do you study literature?’ seeks to find out what reasons students have to read literature. This is an open question which gathers additional information and students’ own points of view.
  • The fourth question of the questionnaire: ‘Do you prefer to read the novel or watch the film based on it? Why?’ asks the students to state their choice and also to provide reasons for their choice. 
  • The fifth question: ‘Do you think watching English movies has a beneficial effect on learning English?’ is intended to underline students’ perceptions towards the advantages of watching movies such as the development of listening, speaking, reading and writing skill. 
  • Question number six: ‘Do you think that film adaptations may facilitate your comprehension of the content of literary texts?’ is designed to reveal if film adaptations have a useful role in literature classes.
  • Question seven: ‘Do you think English subtitles are good in learning English?’ The question is intended to enlarge on the use of subtitles. It is obvious that if subtitles are used students will read them, thus developing their reading skills. Sometimes they claim it is easier to watch a film when the subtitles are on. 
  • Question eight: ‘Are there any expressions or words you learnt from English movies? Can you write down any words and sentences you have learned from the movie?’ This question also gathers some of the most popular phrases or words that students may be familiar with as a result of watching film adaptations.
  • Question nine: ‘Do you think the dialogues in the movie can be used in daily life?’ The question is intended to focus on students’ perception towards the usefulness of film dialogues in every day conversations.
  • Question ten: ‘May videos in English lessons inspire you to read books that you may have previously had little interest in or that you did not know about before?’ The question is designed to check if students may read the literary work as a result of watching the film adaptation.
  • Question eleven: ‘Do you consider that learning English literature through the film adaptation is...?’ and students have to choose between five options: more motivating, more enjoyable, more interesting, easier or they can produce with their own answers. 
  • Question twelve: ‘Do you have any difficulties in studying English literature?’ deals with students’ difficulties when studying literature.



According to the students’ answers films make literature more interesting and language learning more effective and engaging. There are novels they have never heard about but they are familiar with the film version. Films are both engaging and authentic by offering real-life experiences and real use of the language.

The questionnaire contained statements such as: “Films have provided me with topics for discussion” “ I watched the film... and I liked it so much that in the end I decided to read the novel as well.” “films inspire me to read their novel equivalent.” “I have zero interest in reading English novels, I definitely prefer to watch the movie.” “I didn't know about the existence of this novel... before watching the film...”

Question 1

This question aims at knowing how students’ under investigation perceive literature. On the whole, I found that students do like literature and if this is generally true, then it is an exciting fact. A great majority, represented by one hundred (100) students answered positively. The remaining two choices were shared out by thirty students, ten of them (10) answered that they do not like literature while twenty (20) are neutral.  Statistically the answers are presented as follows:

Figure 1.1. Students’ Attitudes towards Literature

The students who do not like literature motivated their answer by saying that they are not prone to reading or they find literature classes uninteresting because of the way in which it is taught.

Question 2

Research in learning styles indicates that most students agree that they prefer learning through both hearing and seeing. The striking majority of respondents are audio-visual learners since 110 students affirm that they prefer learning by both seeing and hearing. In other words, most students are audio-visual learners and benefit most when instruction is delivered through both sound and text with pictures.

Figure 1.2 Learning styles

Question 3

This question investigates the reasons students may have in the literature study.

Fifty-one (51) students answered this question by selecting the first choice: to improve English. According to the answers, thirty-one (31) respondents are motivated to study literature since it helps them to know more about the target culture. There are of course the students who admit that they are interested in literature only to obtain a good mark in a test or exam. They are estimated to twenty-five (25). At last, twenty-three (23) students chose other reasons.

The chart below shows numerically students’ motives in learning literature.   

Figure 1.3 Reasons for studying English literature

Twenty-three (23) students out of 130 claim that they study literature for other reasons. Some of the reasons mentioned are: for fun, because books are interesting, because of the school curriculum.

Question 4

At this stage of investigation, informants were asked to mention whether they prefer to read the novel or watch the film based on it. The answers were very close. However the majority, forty-seven (47) students prefer the film, forty-four (44) students prefer to read the novel and thirty-nine (39) students would like to both read the literary text and watch the movie. 

Some students appear to prefer watching the film rather than reading the novel on which it is based. The main reasons were that films were more interesting, more entertaining, relaxing and much shorter. They can watch a film in two hours but they need much more to actually read the novel. Some other reasons refer to the fact that films are more relaxing, more gripping and more enjoyable. 

The above speech bubbles demonstrates that films have the capacity to bring the viewers from real life and absorb them completely into fiction, enabling them to transform themselves.

Some students express their preference in watching the film and then they suggest that it is a good idea to discuss some scenes from the film in order to analyse it better.

Even if in the present technological environment students display a decreasing interest in reading in the traditional way there still are students who tend to be prone to read the novel. One of the main reasons they mention is that they can imagine the action and the characters in their own way. Many students underline that the book is more complex and detailed. They also claim that through reading the novel they can develop their imagination and they can learn more words in English, thus improving their English.

A few students have also stated that they prefer to watch the movie because of the subtitles. They claim that they have difficulties in understanding an unabridged version of a novel because of the large number of unfamiliar words. Some of them admit that they have tried to read English novels but they gave it up because they find reading in English too daunting and difficult. 

Similarly, there were students who watched the film and also read the novel. Some claim that they do this on a regular basis in order to compare them, to be exposed to different interpretations and to have a bigger and better overview of the literary work studied. They also say that they understand the literary text better after they also watch the film. More often than not, they admit that: “the film was not as good as the book.” The fact is that the written word is more powerful than the visual image provided by the film director.

Question 5

The answer to this question was predictable. All the students agree that watching English movies has a beneficial effect on learning English. They mention that they mainly improve their vocabulary, the pronunciation and the listening skills when watching movies. Some students express their preferences to watch movies with subtitles, motivating that in this way they can learn new words better.

Some of the students even admit that:

Question 6

Most respondents agree with the fact that film adaptations may facilitate their comprehension of the content of literary texts but some of them admit that if they watch the film it is quite unlikely to read the novel afterwards. Moreover, there are students who admit that if they first

watch the movie and find it disappointing they will be reluctant in reading the novel afterwards.

The students who consider that film adaptations do not facilitate their comprehension of the literary text motivate their answer by saying that some films change the original action of the novel. Moreover they claim that the literary text is detailed enough and provides the viewers with all the necessary background to understand the content. Sometimes films are too vague or too short to properly understand the narrative. In some films the plot is cut short, leaving out some important details.

Figure 1.5 Film adaptations facilitate comprehension of the content of literary texts

Question 7

Here, answers varied since they are closely linked to the individual’s personality and learning style. The students with advanced English knowledge do not need any subtitles. However, a great number of students feel more confident when having the subtitles and prefer the use of subtitles in English. There was a small number of students who admitted that they only watched films with Romanian subtitles.

Some comments in favour of subtitles were:

Some opinions against subtitles:

Question 8

Again, answers here varied widely. Students agreed enthusiastically and unanimously that they learn a lot of expressions and words from English movies. Some of them are the following:

  • stop watering dead situations
  • to add insult to injury
  • pull someone's leg
  • it's raining cats and dogs
  • come down to earth
  • tie the knot
  • once in a blue moon
  • face the music
  • count your blessings
  • be in seventh heaven
  • to be the bee's knees

Almost all the students agree that the use of videos in English lessons help them to increase their vocabulary because they can hear the words and this help them to memorise them easier. Some of them claim that it is easier to hear how a word is said than to read it.

Figure 1.7 May film adaptations inspire you to read books?

The majority seventy-seven (77) students admit that they may read the book after watching the movie.

Students seem to realise that it is important to read the novel but some of them admit that they wouldn’t read it (thirty 30) after watching the film.

Some students twenty-three (23) claim that they may or may not read the novel depending on several factors. Some of their answers are included below.

Some of the books they read because they first watched the film were: The Book Thief, Twilight, The Lord of the Rings, The Hunger games, Water for Elephants, The fault in our Stars, Bridget Jones’s Diary.

Question 11

Answers varied, but most students agreed that learning English literature through the film adaptations is more enjoyable than only reading the novel.

Figure 1.8 Learning English literature through the film adaptation is...

Some of the other reasons mentioned were:

Question 12

This question inquires the difficulties students encounter while dealing with literary texts. Ninety-five students (95) admitted that they find difficulties in studying literature, while the remainder constituted of thirty-five (35) declared that they have no problems whatsoever. Regarding the majority, the questionnaire revealed that they face a number of difficulties.

The main difficulties mentioned are mainly related to vocabulary. Some students claim that they have the tendency to look up every single unknown word and this is extremely time-consuming. In the end they admit that they stop reading the book. Some other students admit that they try to guess the meaning of new words from context but sometimes it does not work.

Some students bring into discussion another difficulty they encounter when reading. They are able to understand the meaning of individual words but cannot comprehend phrases or the entire context.

One student mentioned that she tried to read Shakespeare but it was too difficult because of many archaic words that she wasn’t able to find in any dictionary.  

These results are presented in the following figure:



1      What are the students’ perceptions towards using movies in EFL classroom?

Generally speaking, students are really pleased when films are played in classes. Most of the students claim that they enjoy watching the film version of a novel instead of reading the novel. They claim that they are more motivated to deal with activities related to a film than to focus on the activities provided by the textbook. They also consider that films provide them with a relaxed atmosphere and that they learn a lot of vocabulary by watching films. They consider that films expose them to real life conversation. 

2      Is movie watching more effective in studying literature than reading novels?

The study shows that movie watching is more engaging and students have the tendency to better focus on the task. As a result, they can learn more effectively by focusing more on the language they use than on the grammatical form. Moreover, the students themselves feel more comfortable and they are more cooperative and interactive in a classroom based on films. 

3      Does watching the movies improve language skills?

The answer is a positive one as long as the movies are appropriate to the students’ level and interests. Similarly, the approach of watching the films actively through pre-, while- and post- viewing activities is beneficial to improve language skills. In the EFL classes students are exposed to many vocabulary and grammar rules and films can help students understand how to use all this knowledge in daily life. 

Most of the students who answered the questionnaire find the use of films in EFL classes as a new and very pleasant experience. They claim that they enjoy more to watch a short segment of a film adaptation rather than only focus on the reading text. Some of the students mention that movies provide them with real-life situations and are a useful resource to improve their vocabulary and to practise their English. Most of the students claim that they have improved their vocabulary to a great extent by watching films mainly because they are exposed to those words or expressions several times.

The questionnaires also showed that the respondents are audio-visual learners and they consider that film adaptations make learning more interesting and facilitate their understanding.

From the students’ questionnaire the following conclusions can be drawn:

  • Students believe that the movie adaptation of a literary novel has a beneficial effect on learning English and especially on vocabulary growth. They claim that they have learned many words by watching movies. Unlike the ordinary classes in which the words and expressions are studied in isolation from their meaningful context, through the help of movies students can perceive the word accompanied by visual and textual information.
  • Most of the students agree that the video adaptation helps them understand better the story line of the novel. They claim that films are extremely helpful to clarify confusing parts from the novel.
  • Films engage them and they are easily absorbed into the plot line.
  • They are more focused on tasks that involve the movie and there is more interaction between them.
  • Students’ responses also indicate that their listening and speaking skills are improved with the help of movies.
  • Students prefer to watch comedies or action movies
  • Films provide them with the visual effect
  • Film adaptations turn students’ interests to the books that picture the basis for the worlds they love
  • Some students watch films to compare them to their literary adaptation
  • Students who watch the film and read the novel are of the opinion that: “The book is better.”



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Denton, Carolyn,A; Ciancio, Dennis, J; Fletcher, Jack, M: Validity, reliability, and utility of the Observation Survey of Early Literacy Achievement;

Dornyei, Zoltan (2007): Research Methods in Applied Linguistics. Quantitative, qualitative and mixed methodologies. Oxford University Press;

Dr. Bada, Steve Olusegun (2015): Constructivism Learning Theory: A Paradigm for Teaching and Learning. IOSR Journal of Research & Method in Education (IOSR-JRME) e-ISSN: 2320–7388,p-ISSN: 2320–737X Volume 5, Issue 6 Ver. I (Nov. - Dec. 2015), PP 66-70

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  • The Effectiveness of Using Film Extracts in Literature Classes
    Raluca Sarghie, Romania