In Emotional Intelligence in ESL classrooms

The title of this movie based on the novel by Kazuo Ishiguro – one of the Top 10 novels of the 2000s according to TIME Magazine, has produced this blog entry today, when we are using narrative tenses with upper-intermediate level students.


The structure of stories has been carefully analysed over the past weeks and students are able now to identify the four elements: exposition – conflict – climax – resolution.  The art of storytelling will be displayed in today’s class!.


Students aged 16+ previously watched the film by Mark Romanek (glossary in hand) so the session warms up with some general opinions about the story and reading of the synopsis for a lesson framework. Relevant words and expressions are double-checked for accurate comprehension before the show begins.


Amongst the storytelling techniques recently introduced by professor Enrique Sánchez (University of Málaga) during the most brilliant virtual training course on PBL, the Art of Hosting caught my attention very powerfully as an invitation for co-creation. The technique promotes creative development by capturing collective intelligence and applying it to the generation of shared ideas.


Generating new shared ideas


The work dynamics for small groups of four to five students is this narrative adaptation of it:

Students sit around a rather large desk covered with paper tablecloth and scattered with assorted coloured pens and crayons. They are asked to write their pieces directly on the paper tablecloth making sure they include the points below:


  • narrative tenses,
  • adverbs and adverbial phrases,
  • participle clauses,
  • unreal conditionals,
  • future in the past, 
  • and words and expressions from their film glossaries.


How many brilliant ideas were originally born from serviette scribbles!


Students are invited to produce written texts within 5-min time slots. Every five minutes each student will move one seat to their right leaving their text ready for the following writer to take over. The structure of the story must be taken into consideration to continue writing ahead when a new writer approaches the text in front of them. Is the piece waiting to be continued in «exposition» stage or is it «climax» or «conflict«? Perhaps the previous student left their text ready for «resolution«?


Allow some extra time if needed for students to finish their lines before moving one seat forward. And when they arrive at their original seat they must close up their written production in the best possible manner. This activity proves to highly engage collective intelligence in written productions that can result amazingly surprising when the final texts are read out loud before their exhibition.


If you are not short of time, after their writing journey students can still admire their masterpiece for a bit longer and continue with some good discussion of the movie setting, characters, story, music, or related to their own response to the film. It is during these chats that the most interesting insights can take place while Vocabulary and Language Usage can become naturally accurate and when the students are learning from each other’s personal statements.

What is the significance of the movie title?


Students will always appreciate some feedback on their work done, even if it is just a class activity, which is why when I proof-read their stories to double check they meet the requirements (narratives, adverbials, participle clauses, unreal conditionals, future in the past, glossary) I highlight concerning issues following this correction code. Then they are asked to revise their written tasks once again to check the highlighted words or phrases offering alternatives.

GR – Grammar    WW – Wrong Word    WO – Wrong Order    P – Punctuation    SP – Spelling    T – Tense




Following the principles of UDLmultiple means of engagement, multiple means of representation, multiple means of expression, students can complete one final task given these options:


  • a review of the film in writing or video recording
  • an analysis of a key scene using the 5Ss and the 5Cs
  • a presentation of screenshots and links to the film plus written text
  • other





Visit The Gaudi Effect for further tips on writing as a creative act of enjoyment.


[Activity inspired by Film English]

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