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Registration for The Agen Workshop 2019

The Agen Workshop is addictive! People come back year after year. Next year the conference will start on Monday, July 22nd and end on Saturday, July 27th at noon with a banquet as every year. The Early Bird price is 395 euros until March 1st. After that date the full price will be 475 euros. Don’t wait too long to register, because we may have to limit the number of participants. You can pay through Paypal or by bank transfer. Those who live in France can pay by check or cash. The Paypal button follows the registration form. If you wish to pay by bank transfer, contact Judy Dubois : judyldubois@aol.com.

If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to post them in the comment section.

Looking forward to seeing you again!

Registration for the Agen Workshop 2019

 

 




The Mighty – 4th episode – Their first quest

After the exciting fireworks scene in which Max and Kevin first begin to function as a team, the students are looking forward to seeing what will happen next. The next scene in the film shows Kevin going to wake Max up early in the morning, eager to continue their adventures. Max is not at all interested. Basically I do this scene as a Movie Talk, first without sound or subtitles. At the end of the scene, we cannot know what Max will decide, so I ask the students whether they think he will go with Kevin or stay at home.

Then I put on the sound and the subtitles and we watch the scene again. I usually have to explain the Wizard of Oz reference. Again, I ask the students what Max will decide.

The question is answered when we see the two boys crossing the bridge to Cincinnatti. I don’t exploit the song unless the students are interested. I do point out that we see Max smiling for the first time.

They go into a diner and the boys rescue a girl who is being harassed by a man. We read the subtitles, discuss what is happening, make suppositions. I point out that when Kevin says, “Unhand her, knave,” the man does not understand and Max has to translate: “Take your filthy hands off her!” It is interesting to point out the difference in the language the two boys use.

We see the boys crossing the bridge again on their way home, this time accompanied by a group of knights on horseback. At home there is a scene of the boys eating in Kevin’s home. It reveals Gwen’s concern about Kevin eating too fast. I also like to point out that the food that Max finds so delicious is something a mother would toss together in a hurry, wieners with ordinary bread, which is why she laughs when he says, “Gram never cooks like this.”

Then I give my students the Embedded Reading that summarizes the scenes we have seen. Again I have given them a task with the first reading: choose the right word.

Reading I
Freak went to Max’s door/house/school and woke him up. Max told him to take back his five/seven/ten dollars. He said he didn’t have any money/time/friends and he didn’t need any. Freak said not to talk/think /write of it as a friendship, but as a partnership. So, they went into the city/house/barn and rescued a girl who was being harassed by a dragon/man/knight. It was their first mistake/fireworks/quest.

II
Freak went on crutches to Max’s house. He knocked on the bedroom window with his crutch to wake Max up. Max was angry. He said, “You almost got me killed last night.” He told Freak to take back his five bucks. He said he didn’t have any friends and he didn’t need any friends. Freak told him not to think of it as a friendship, but as a partnership. Max needed a brain and Freak needed legs. So the two boys went across the bridge to Cincinnatti. When they were hungry they went into a diner to buy candy bars. A man was harassing a girl, so Freak said, “Unhand her, knave.” The man didn’t understand, so Max told him to take his filthy hands off the girl. The man was frightened and confused. He left the diner and the girl said thank you. Max and Freak had rescued a maiden. It was their first quest.

III
The morning after the fireworks, Freak went on crutches to Max’s house. He knocked on the bedroom window with his crutch to wake Max up. Max opened the window, but he was angry. He said, “You almost got me killed last night.” He told Freak to take back his five bucks. He said he didn’t have any friends and he didn’t need any friends. Freak didn’t take the money. He told Max not to think of it as a friendship, but as a partnership. Max needed a brain and Freak needed legs. So the two boys went across the bridge to Cincinnatti. Freak rode on Max’s shoulders. Freak was happy and he talked to friendly people. Everyone thought Max was kind to carry his friend and no one looked at him like they had just seen his picture on America’s Most Wanted. When the boys were hungry they went into a little diner to buy Babe Ruth candy bars. A man was harassing a girl. He wanted her to give him something and he was hurting her. Freak told Max that a knight proves his worthiness by his deeds. So Max walked over to the man and Freak said, “Unhand her, knave.” The man didn’t understand, so Max told him to take his filthy hands off the girl. The man looked up and he thought he saw a tall knight on a horse. He was frightened and confused. He left the diner and then the girl said thank you. Max and Freak had rescued a maiden. It was their first quest.

The Mighty – Session 3

By the third session with the film the students will have some empathy with the two characters, Max and Kevin. I should explain that from the beginning of the film Max talks about “Freak”, but I always refer to Kevin as his mother would, with his real name. It’s only later that we come to understand why Max calls him Freak.

I begin the third session with the scene in which Kevin offers Max five dollars to take him to see the fireworks. We read the subtitles and briefly discuss the fact that Kevin knows no one else to ask. I point out that the boys are not friends. You don’t pay a friend to go somewhere with you. Max has no friends and Kevin has no friends.

Then we are at the fairgrounds and we continue reading the subtitles and discussing what we learn about Max and Kevin. Kevin’s mother is always worrying about him. Max’s mother is “in heaven”, so it becomes clear that she has died.

Then the boys run into Blade and his gang, and Blade calls them freaks. I explain to my French speaking students that “freak show” is “la foire aux monstres” in French, that it used to be a common circus attraction. I pause so that they can see how Max tries to ignore the gang, showing that he doesn’t want any problems. Then Kevin calls the gang “cretins”. I pause so that they can see how Max, who is supposedly not very bright, quickly manages to get Kevin to safety and why the gang cannot follow. This is a form of Movie Talk. We’re translating the subtitles, but we are also discussing the actions of the characters.

The fireworks scene is a high point of the film. I ask the students why Kevin is frustrated, why he can’t see. And then Max puts him on his shoulders, and the real story starts. Usually the students catch on to Kevin’s calling out the different names of the chemicals that produce the colors of the fireworks, but if they don’t I explain.

Then the boys meet the gang again and there’s an exciting chase scene during which Kevin becomes Max’s brain and Max becomes Kevin’s legs. It’s one of the best scenes in the film. If I’ve taken too much time before the chase begins, I stop when they see the gang and wait for the next class to continue. I want to be able to include the following scene when the police take the boys home and Grim tells Max, “I’m proud of you.” It’s an important scene and I’ve noticed that the word “proud” is often definitely, permanently acquired after viewing it.

When we have finished watching it and discussing it, I give them this Embedded Reading. You will see that the first reading has words in italics and the students are to choose which word fits the scene they saw in the film. (Now I borrowed this idea from someone who posted about it recently, but when I went back I couldn’t find where it came from. If you are the author, please contact me so I can credit you.) This simple exercise of having to choose one of three words gives some variety to the Embedded Reading, and also, I find, takes some of the focus off of the new words in the text. When students are thinking about something else, new vocabulary seems to glide painlessly into their minds. Since the new words are going to come up again in Reading II and III, they will seem familiar when we’ve finished. The third version is written in the first person. If your students are up to it, you could use the original chapter from the book, Freak the Mighty, as a fourth Embedded Reading. The readings I have used are derived from it.

Reading I

After the fireworks, Max carried Kevin on his back/shoulders/head. Kevin was happy. He could see nothing/everything.

Then Kevin saw Blade/his mother/the police. He told Max to go left. There were more Doghouse Boys.

Then something funny happened. Kevin became Max’s stomach/heart/brain and Max became Kevin’s legs/mouth/arms. They ran away.

There was a train. Max ran/walked/jumped across the tracks. The train stopped Blade and his gang.

The fire/police/water stopped Max and Kevin. Blade and his gang were in front of/behind/next to them. Blade had a gun/knife/hamburger. Kevin said, “Go straight. Trust me.”

Max walked into the mud/street/snow. Blade was behind them with his knife. Max had mud up to his stomach/knees/mouth. He was stuck. But Blade could not walk in the mud. He went back.

The police/teacher/dancers came. The Doghouse Boys ran away.

Kevin and Max became like a knight of King Arthur.

Reading II

After the fireworks, Max carried Kevin on his shoulders. They walked through the crowd. Kevin was happy. He was high and he could see everything. “This is better,” he said.

Suddenly Kevin saw Blade and some of the Doghouse Boys. He told Max to go the other way. There were more Doghouse Boys. Kevin told Max to go left, but there were other Doghouse boys on that side.

Then something funny happened. Kevin kicked Max and he went right. Kevin became Max’s brain and Max became Kevin’s legs. They ran away and the Doghouse Boys ran after them.

There was a train coming. Freak said, “Don’t worry.” Max ran across the tracks and the train stopped Blade and his gang.

But the pond stopped Max and Kevin. Blade and his gang were behind them. Blade had a knife. They could hear Blade laugh. Kevin said, “Go straight. Go straight ahead. Trust me.”

Max walked into the mud. There was mud up to his knees. He couldn’t move. Blade was behind them with his knife. Max was stuck. But Blade could not walk in the mud. It was too deep. He went back to the shore.

A police car came. The policemen arrested Blade and his gang. They took Kevin and Max home. Gwen told Gram and Grim that Max had saved Kevin’s life. Grim told Max that he was proud of him.

Kevin and Max became like a knight of King Arthur, walking high, killing dragons and saving maidens.

III

After the fireworks, I carried Freak on my shoulders. We were walking through the crowd. Freak was happy because he was high and he could see everything. “This is better,” he said. “I’m taller than everyone.”

Suddenly he saw Blade and some of the Doghouse Boys. Freak told me to go the other way. But there were other Doghouse Boys on that side. He told me to go left. Then I saw another Doghouse Boy. I didn’t like his grin.

Then something funny happened. Freak’s foot hit my side and I went right. He became my brain and I became his legs. I ran away and the Doghouse Boys ran after us.

There was a train coming, but Freak said, “Don’t worry. We can beat it.” I ran across the tracks and the train stopped Blade and his gang.

But then we were on the edge of the pond. Blade and his gang were behind us. Blade had a knife. I could hear Blade laugh. Freak said, “Go straight. Go straight ahead. Trust me.”

I walked into the mud. There was mud up to my knees. I couldn’t move. I was stuck in the mud. Blade was behind us with his knife. I took another step. Then I took another one. But the mud was too deep for Blade. He went back to the shore.

A police patrol car came along. The policemen arrested Blade and his gang. They took Freak and me home. Gwen told my grandparents that I had saved her boy’s life. My grandfather gave me a cup of coffee and he told me that he was proud of me.

That is how Freak and I became like one of King Arthur’s knights, walking high above the world, slaying dragons and rescuing fair maidens.

Kelly Ferguson

Kelly doesn’t look old enough to have been doing TPRS for twenty years, but she was one of the early enthusiasts and had the wonderful opportunity of being trained by Blaine Ray, Susan Gross and Joe Nielson. She has been to NTPRS fourteen times and has been a coach there almost as long. I remember meeting her in 2009 in Minneapolis. She will be coaching at iFLT for the fourth time this year. She is a National Board Certified teacher and mentors candidates going through certification. She is the author of the embedded readings on the popular Senor Wooly website for Spanish teachers and she has a blog at www.compellinginstruction.com.

Kelly has presented at state, regional and national conferences. In Agen she will be giving two presentations as well as helping with the coaching. She wishes to help teachers give their students Comprehensible Cultural Input in order to develop a better understanding of the culture of native speakers, even at the beginner levels. She will also present on a battery of reading activities at all levels to help students understand and respond to texts. Her sessions are fun and engaging and we are proud to have her with us.

We sincerely hope this will be the first of many visits to Agen.

Adriana Ramirez

Adriana Ramirez works in Canada, in the province of British Columbia as a Spanish teacher. She has been a language teacher for more than 12 years. She is a well-known CI author and presenter. She has published several books with stories (in Spanish and French), to teach through storytelling and comprehensible input. She constantly presents at workshops in both Canada and the US. She trains and coaches teachers on applying CI techniques in the classroom, and welcomes guests to her classroom so they can see the power of TPRS first hand. You can watch a video of Adriana in her classroom on her youtube channel: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCsnrjR8QVCUD56gLPmycrug

Liam Printer

Liam Printer is Irish and possesses 11 years experience teaching Spanish, French and English to both secondary students and adults. He currently teaches Spanish to students aged 11-18 in the International School of Lausanne in in Switzerland. Previously he worked as a consultant for a group of secondary schools in Finland. He has embraced Comprehensible Input methods and has presented at teachers’ conferences in the Netherlands and in Ireland. Currently he is completing work on a doctorate in Education at the University of Bath. His research is focused on the motivational pull of teaching languages through storytelling. He has an interesting blog at https://www.liamprinter.com/blog.

This summer in Agen he will give a presentation on using storytelling to increase student buy in and participation. His goal is to give teachers tools that “they can take away and immediately try in their classes with little or no preparation.”

Max meets Kevin – part two of The Mighty

In the following scenes Max learns that they have new neighbors and then he sees Kevin for the first time.

If we begin when Max is lying under his bed, I ask the class “Where is he?” At first, if they’re not paying attention, they think he is on the bed. I rewind and let them follow the camera, so that they realize his refuge is under the bed. I’ve never had anyone laugh or scoff at this. They seem to realize how miserable he is, even though his face shows no emotion. We read/decode the subtitles together. I furnish the words they don’t know as soon as they hesitate. Then I go back and replay the scene. (I use the VLC program because it lets me replay as often as I wish, at the speed I want and I can choose the exact second I want to stop at. Other programs that I’ve tried are not as easy to manipulate.)

On the second replay I don’t stop or question or intervene at all. I just let the input, which is now comprehensible, soak in. It won’t all be acquired of course, but it’s a beginning.

Then we hear Gram chatting about going to the market and the price of pot roast. She mentions there are new neighbors. I usually translate this myself for the students because it’s mostly low frequency vocabulary. When she says “Her name is Gwendolyn,” I ask if Gwendolyn is a girl or a boy. This is not obvious to most of my students, so I point out that “her name” means “son nom à elle”. I do this tiny pop-up to help them with the difference between His and Her which gives them a lot of trouble. If I have more advanced students, I might ask what we can understand when she says “She’d be just about your mother’s age.” I do NOT ask the trick question “Is it “She had” or “She would”. I tell them that it means “She would be just about your mother’s age” and I translate “Elle serait un peu près l’age de ta mère.” Then I ask what this tells us about the boy’s mother and help them to realize that the boy’s mother is probably dead. My intention is to help them grasp the meaningful difference between “She is” and “She would be”. Grammar is only relevant when it gives us information about the characters and their situation.

Then we see the boy in his backyard and we see Kevin for the first time. The boy does what most people are tempted to do when they see a person who is handicapped. He stares. Gwen, played by Sharon Stone, appears and talks to her son. We learn immediately that Kevin is very intelligent. We see him fly his “ornithopter”, which his mother says is a big word for a mechanical bird. Kevin explains that he’s trying to take advantage of what looks like ideal flight conditions this evening. The subtitles shrink his statement, so I ask the students if they hear the missing words. We listen again and again, until they do hear that he’s saying more than is written on the screen and are proud when they can hear “this evening”. I use the “what’s missing” technique with students often. It gives them confidence and gets them to really listen to the audio rather than relying completely on the subtitles. Often they are the ones who point out that there are missing words.

Kevin realizes that he is being watched and confronts the boy. “What’s the matter? Have you never seen a robot before?” Sometimes I ask, “where is the robot? Is it the mechanical bird? Or is it Kevin?”

Then we go to the boy’s gym class. We meet his gym teacher and see that he is not above making fun of the boy in order to get a laugh from the other students. It’s rather sad to see that my students are never shocked by his behavior. We skim through the scene, until Blade says that Max threw the ball at Kevin. The students have no trouble understanding what is happening. I ask about Kevin’s feelings and we agree that he is angry.

Then we see the boy on the weekend, helping Grim repair the house and going to LD Reading class. Again, we translate the subtitles to get the idea, but we don’t linger. We do learn the boy’s name when the teacher calls him Max.

The scene between Max and his new tutor, who turns out to be Kevin, sets the tone for much of the film. I like to stop the film when on Kevin’s expression and ask, “What is he thinking? Is he remembering that Max threw a ball at him?” “Why is he so upset? Has he ever been in a special school ‘Where kids can’t even say their own names’?” Kevin is teaching Max to read, and since Max didn’t bring a book, Kevin uses his, King Arthur and his Knights. Kevin explains that “Every word is part of a picture, and every sentence is a picture.” I tell my students that this is true in English too. That when they read a sentence in English, they should be able to see a picture.

We usually end with “Freak was patient. He told me that dinosaurs had brains the size of walnuts. And they ruled the earth for sixty million years.” And we can talk about the name of the chapter: Dinosaur brain.

Finally I give them a summary of the beginning of the film. I use Comic sans MS to print the documents I give to students because it is said to be easier to read for dyslexic students. You may notice that in the readings I repeatedly contrast “tell” with “say”. My francophone students have problems with these words because they are both translated as dire.
The summary is presented as an Embedded Reading, but I sometimes tell weaker students to read only the first version, or the first and second version. Of course, they usually return and let me know that they read all three versions. And I give them my “cat who got in the cream” smile.

Reading 1
Max Kane lives with his grandparents, Gram and Grim. He is in the seventh grade but he is thirteen years old because he is not a good student.

The Doghouse Boys are Blade’s gang. They make fun of Max because he looks like Godzilla. They sing “Killer Kane, Killer Kane, had a son who got no brain.” Blade wants to be friends with Max, because he could use his muscles. Max has no friends.

Kevin Dillon lives next to Max. He is handicapped and he looks like a robot. His mother’s name is Gwen. Kevin is very intelligent. He built a mechanical bird. Max watched Kevin with his bird, but Kevin saw Max. He asked, “Have you never seen a robot before?” Max ran away.

In gym class Blade threw a basketball at Kevin. He fell down. Blade told the teacher it was Max. He said, “It was Kane, sir.” The teacher told Max to help Kevin up. Kevin was angry and refused Max’s help.

On Saturdays Max went to Reading Class. Kevin was his new tutor. Kevin told Max to close his eyes and listen to the story. He said, “Every sentence is a picture.” He told Max to read “King Arthur and his knights”. Max told Kevin that he didn’t throw the ball at him. He said, “It was Blade, not me.”

Kevin asked, “What’s the matter with you?” Max said, “I don’t like to cause trouble.”

Reading 2
There is a boy named Max Kane. He lives with his grandparents that he calls Gram and Grim. He is in the seventh grade but he is thirteen years old because he failed the seventh grade.

The Doghouse Boys are Blade’s gang. They make fun of Max because he doesn’t get good grades in school and he looks like Godzilla. They laugh and sing “Killer Kane, Killer Kane, had a son who got no brain.” Blade tells Max he wants to be friends with him, because he could use his muscles. Max doesn’t answer. Max doesn’t talk to anyone at school.

Kevin Dillon is a new boy in the neighborhood. He lives next to Max. He is handicapped and he needs crutches to walk. He looks like a robot. His mother’s name is Gwen. She is proud of Kevin because he is very intelligent. He built a mechanical bird. Max watched Kevin with his bird, but Kevin saw Max. “What’s the matter?” he asked. “Have you never seen a robot before?” Max ran away.

In gym class Blade saw Kevin and threw a basketball at him. Kevin fell down. The teacher asked who was responsible and Blade told the teacher it was Max. He said, “It was Kane, sir.” The teacher told Max to help Kevin up. Kevin was angry and refused Max’s help.

On Saturdays Max went to Learning Disabled Reading Class. Kevin was his new tutor. Kevin told Max to close his eyes and listen to the story. He said, “Every sentence is a picture.” He told Max to read chapter one of “King Arthur and his knights”. Max told Kevin that he didn’t throw the ball at him. He said, “It was Blade, not me.” Kevin didn’t understand why Max didn’t say anything in gym class. He asked, “What’s the matter with you?”

Reading 3
There was a boy named Max Kane. He lived with his grandparents that he called Gram and Grim. Although he was thirteen years old, he was in the seventh grade because he had failed the seventh grade.

Blade was a punk who had been in Juvenile Hall for three months. The Doghouse Boys were his gang. They made fun of Max because he was learning disabled and he looked like Godzilla. They laughed and sang “Killer Kane, Killer Kane, had a son who got no brain.” Blade told Max he wanted to be friends with him, because he could use his muscles. Max didn’t answer. Max didn’t talk to anyone at school because he didn’t have any friends.

Kevin Dillon was a new boy in the neighborhood. He and his mother Gwen lived next to Max. He was handicapped and he needed crutches to walk. He looked like a robot. Gwen was proud of Kevin because he was very intelligent. He built a mechanical bird. Max watched Kevin fly his bird, but Kevin saw Max. “What’s the matter?” he asked. “Have you never seen a robot before?” Max ran away.

In gym class Blade saw Kevin and threw a basketball at him. Kevin fell down and the Doghouse Boys laughed. The teacher asked who was responsible and Blade told the teacher it was Max. He said, “It was Kane, sir.” The teacher told Max to help Kevin up. Max said nothing and went to help Kevin get up, but Kevin was angry and refused Max’s help.

On Saturdays Max went to Learning Disabled Reading Class. Kevin was his new tutor. Kevin told Max to close his eyes and listen to the story. He said, “Every sentence is a picture.” He told Max to read “King Arthur and his knights”. Max said he couldn’t.

Kevin told Max that if he didn’t learn to read he would go to a special school. Max told Kevin that he didn’t throw the ball at him. He said, “It was Blade, not me.” Kevin didn’t understand why Max didn’t say anything in gym class. He asked, “What’s the matter?”

Max said he didn’t like to cause trouble. “So you’re a pacifist,” said Kevin.

The Mighty

“Don’t think of it as a friendship. Think of it as a partnership. You need a brain and I need legs.”


I want to share with you the documents that I use to exploit the film The Mighty. But before I begin I want to tell you the story of the boy who introduced me to the film. I don’t know where he is today or what he has become, but I think of him often, with gratitude. I think he was not very happy when I knew him, but he gave me a precious gift, and I suspect that for him coming to English class was a bright spot in a lot of grey days.

Over ten years ago I was in the process of discovering TPRS, mostly by long distance, reading posts on the moretprs list and the Green Bible. At the time I was teaching in a French lycée with a Première class of very good students. They were sixteen years old and taking the Science track which is considered responsible for France’s worldwide lead in mathematics. It’s a selective track; only the best students are allowed to take it. The students are usually bright, competitive over-achievers. And the only student that I clearly remember from the class was an under-achiever.

He was certainly bright, but not very competitive. He just didn’t seem to care about grades. I learned that his parents lived in Africa, so he was a boarder at the international lycée, the only local school that accepted boarders on weekends and during the holidays. I saw some of his misery, being away from his family for so long, with kids that he had very little in common with. My own children had known similar boarding schools.

On the day I tried my first TPRS story, we created a purple chimpanzee and the boy volunteered to be the chimpanzee. When I asked what the chimpanzee’s name was, someone said “Darwin” and we had a good laugh. The story didn’t really go too well since I was trying to work in too much low frequency vocabulary. But the kids played along, humoring me, and we muddled through. Being an American teacher in France has the advantage that the kids expected me to be a bit strange.

From then on, the boy signed all his papers “Darwin”. The story had given him a new identity in the class. He began hanging around at the end of class to talk to me. We were doing Shawshank Redemption and he liked the fact that we weren’t following the textbook. One day he asked me if I had seen the film The Mighty. I said no and he told me that it was the best film ever made. The next day he brought in a DVD so that I could see it.

I saw that it starred Sharon Stone and doubted that it was something I could use in school. But during the holidays I took time to watch it, so that I could honestly tell him I had looked at it.

Big surprise. It was a wonderful, very moving film that left me in tears. Sharon Stone had a relatively minor role and I’m convinced that the only reason she is in the film is because she believed in the story. Sting did the music, much for the same reason, I’m sure. The real stars are two young boys who should have won a joint Oscar for their acting in the film. Especially Eldon Henson who was always spot on. I ordered the book, Freak the Mighty by Rodman Philbrick. It was even better than the film, but written with too many colloquial expressions to be easily comprehensible for my students. I learned that the story was inspired by a boy, a neighbor of Philbrick’s, who had Morquio Syndrome.

You can get a taste of the film by watching this video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aL54-EZtv9Q

I began using the film and soon realized it was a sure fire thing. Who could help but identify with the two boys who “had no friends, had nobody”? The greatest fear of all teenagers, even the most popular ones in the class, is that of having no friends. I realized why “Darwin,” an intelligent misfit, considered it the best film ever made, There are scenes that could have been left out, the knights on horseback fail to capture the wonder of a boy’s imagination. They are just a bunch of men dressed up as knights. But the story comes across, we know that Max and Kevin are seeing real knights, and the magic works every time. It has become an indispensable tool in my teacher’s kit. I use it with groups and individual students, with all ages, including my classes of retired adults, and it always moves and touches them. When a class or group is not used to working with films, I like to use it as a starter. It seems accessible to all levels,

Over the years I’ve developed quite a few documents in order to exploit it as efficiently as possible. Today I want to share them with you.

First class: I show the class/student a picture of the painting, American Gothic. We describe the scene and the people in it. I give them the vocabulary they may need, such a pitchfork, and I tell them the painter’s name if they are interested. I explain that it’s in a museum in Chicago, that I’ve seen it and that it is very well-known. And I ask them if the people in the painting look happy.

When we have nothing more to say about the painting, I show them a few parodies of the painting. If you Google American Gothic parodies, you will find loads of them. Choose three or four that will make your students laugh, remembering that they may not share all your cultural references. There’s one that shows Donald Trump standing in front of the White House, holding a rather surprised Hilary Clinton on a pitchfork.

I don’t explain why I wanted them to look at the pictures. We then start watching the film with no other introduction. The opening scenes show the Ohio River, its bridges and the city of Cincinnatti. We simply talk about the images. At this point there’s no dialog, so I use Movie Talk techniques. I ask how many bridges there are, and most people say two and then I point out a third one in the background. These scenes simply set the when and where of the film. I ask my students if the river is bigger than the Garonne, and show them on a map where the Ohio River is.
Then a boy’s voice begins narrating the story. I point out that no mother would name her child Freak, that it is a nickname and not a very kind nickname. I tell them that it means “monster”. I pause all the time as we decode the subtitles and discuss the scene. Then we come to the first sight of Max’s grandparents and the students recognize the allusion to the American Gothic painting. And I ask them, “Do they look like they are happy?”

Soon we see Max in the school hallways and he’s saying “When you’re in the seventh grade and you look like Godzilla…” I explain that seventh grade corresponds to Cinquième in France and I ask them if they know who Godzilla is. In this way we continue watching the film, discussing the scenes, decoding the subtitles. I usually stop when Max is under his bed, talking about the place in his head where he goes sometimes, where he is nothing, nobody. Then I give the students an Embedded Reading* which is the summary of what we have seen. The first two versions are written in the third person and the last version is written in the first person, like the film narration.

How I use the Embedded Readings depends on the time I have and the level of the students. I may simply ask them to read them, or I may read the texts with the students, or read the first two together and ask them to read the last one at home on their own. Or, after having read the first couple of reading together, I ask them to read the last one silently and to ask if there are words that need explaining.

Here are the Embedded Readings which I use. Your comments and suggestions are welcome.
I
The speaker is a boy. Freak told him about King Arthur. Freak told him everything. He lives with his grandparents. He calls them Gram and Grim. They do not look like they are happy.
He is in the 7th grade. He looks like Godzilla. He gets the looks. He gets the whispers. People look like they have seen him on the TV program, “America’s Most Wanted Criminals.”
Blade is the leader of a gang. They like to make trouble. Blade was in juvenile hall for three months.

II

The speaker is a boy. Freak told him about King Arthur and his knights. Freak told him everything. He lives with his grandparents in a poor neighborhood of Cincinnatti, Ohio. He calls his mother’s parents Gram and Grim. They do not look happy. He lives in the basement of their house.
He is in the 7th grade. He looks like Godzilla. He is very big. He gets the looks. He gets the whispers. People look like they have seen him on the TV program, “America’s Most Wanted Criminals.” He wears headphones and he doesn’t talk to anyone.
Blade is the leader of a gang. They like to make trouble. Blade was in juvenile hall for three months. Blade sits next to the boy. He says he wants to be friends because they could use his muscle. Blade’s gang makes fun of the boy. They sing, “Killer Kane, Killer Kane, had a son who got no brain.” They think the boy is stupid.

III
I am a boy. Freak told me about King Arthur and his knights. Freak told me everything. I live with my grandparents in a poor neighborhood of Cincinnatti, Ohio. They are my mother’s people. I call them Gram and Grim. They do not look happy because they are stuck with me. I live in the basement of their house.
I am in the 7th grade. I look like Godzilla. I am very big and ugly. I get the looks. I get the whispers. People look at me like they have seen me on the TV program, “America’s Most Wanted Criminals.” I always wear headphones and I don’t talk to anyone. People look at me and laugh, or they run the other way.
Blade is the leader of a gang, the Doghouse Boys. They like to make trouble. Blade was in juvenile hall for three months. Blade sat next to me on the bus. He said he and his gang wanted to be friends because they could use my muscle. Blade’s gang made fun of me. They sang, “Killer Kane, Killer Kane, had a son who got no brain.” Killer Kane is my dad. I am the son who has no brain.