Saturday, October 31, 2009

Freedocumentaries - watch, learn and uderstand

The most common belief about teenagers and young adults you come across these days is that they are easily bored, spoilt and not interested in anything.

It is very difficult to make them express opinions and engage in debates as they have, sadly, very little to say. Sounds familiar?

With the communicative approach knocking on the door of every EFL classroom, it has become extremely hard for teachers to come up with intriguing and captivating material that would eventually make students open their minds and mouths.

A few years ago I was working on a summer camp teaching English to adolescents from various backgrounds. Some of them came from broken families, some from very well off ones. Yet they all had something in common – they did not want to speak English and take part in discussion me any my colleagues were laboriously preparing.

The theme of the camp was Travelling broadens the mind and we really wanted the kids to learn something about the world. Unfortunately, interesting (in our opinion) articles about different countries, colourful pictures of fascinating (for us) places, games and group work did not work for them at all.

We spent hours searching the internet but in the end we found what seemed to be perfect. is a website featuring a lot of free and full length documentaries touching upon a great deal of controversial issues. As my students were doing a project about India, we watched ‘Born into Brothels’, a wonderful film about children of prostitutes from Calcutta, whose lives changed after learning how to take photographs. And yes, it worked this time! More than that, it worked like magic!!!

I still have not seen all the documentaries on the website but there are some definitely worth recommending:

·        ‘Born into Brothels’ (take a look at and use it as an extension to the film)
·        ‘Invisible Children’ about children suffering as a result of abduction during the war in Uganda (also see
·        ‘Jesus Camp’ about religious camps for kids in the US
·        ‘Super Size Me’ about an experiment conducted to prove that eating fast food is harmful
·        ‘Ghosts of Rwanda about a civil war in the country
·        India. The Land of Missing Children about kids kidnapped and sold as slaves to carpet factories

Be sure that seeing documentaries from will enliven your classrooms. They are shocking, thought provoking and will stimulate a great deal of productive discussions

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