Cartoons in the classroom!

If you popped by room 236 this week, you may have caught some cartoons!  While it might seem a little silly to play an animated movie for a group of high school students, using digital animated shorts has been a fun and useful activity in my Spanish 2 and Italian 3 classes!

The digital shorts that I’ve been showing (links are below) are typically between 3-7 minutes long, and none of them contain spoken dialogue.  Instead, the characters act out the scenes, allowing the students to focus on the actions instead of the dialogue.  Then, we use the animated videos as creative prompts to write in the target language.  Because the videos are fun and engaging, the writing samples I’ve received from students based on the videos have been phenomenal.  The students often discover that they can say more than they think possible by using the video as a jumping-off point.  I love that they are engaged and having fun while writing in the target language (a difficult, sometimes daunting task).

This week we watched the movie “Pigeon Impossible” – a hilarious tale of a Washington D.C. secret agent whose day goes terribly awry when a pigeon interferes in secret government business!  We used this film to narrate in the past using the preterite and imperfect tenses.  You can view it here.


Here are some ways we’ve used animated shorts in previous classes to spark our target language writing skills:

Spanish 2: preterite or Italian 3: passato prossimo (past tenses)
One major use of the preterite tense is to narrate series of past completed actions or events.  For this reason, the video “French Roast” works really well.  The story shows what happens in a French cafe throughout the course of a day – there is a homeless man begging for change, a nun, a business man, a police chief and a waiter, and one is a bank robber!  It’s packed with action and surprise, and the students love it!  Students write from the perspective of a police investigator, narrating the past actions of the crime in the preterite or passato prossimo tense.  I’ve seen it dozens of times and still get caught up in it every year!  You can watch it here.

french roast

Spanish 2 and Italian 3: reflexive verbs
This video is a great way to have students practice using reflexive verbs.  In the short film (“Qui e Ora”), the character repeats the same morning routine several times, with a bizarre and thought-provoking twist!  Because it covers morning “getting ready” actions, it’s a perfect fit for the concept of reflexive verbs.  And, because it repeats multiple times, it provides students with an opportunity to practice.  You can watch it here.

Qui e Ora

Spanish 2 and Italian 3: review of present tense
The animation “Oktapodi” is one of the shortest films I show, and I typically use it at the beginning of the school year to review the present tense with students.  It’s fast-paced and action packed, including two squid, a fish salesman and a very unique love story.  The surprise ending always gets a great reaction from the students.  To have students practice the present tense, I usually have them write a play-by-play narration of the actions in the film (as if it’s a sporting event).  You can watch it here.

oktapodiUsing these animated short films has been such a fun way to engage students and get them thinking, writing and speaking in the target language.  Do you have any short animated films you enjoy?  Please feel free to share them in the comments.  I’d love to incorporate them into class!  🙂


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