SkypeRead is a global project designed for remote, cross-border teams that use English as a working language.
The team meets in a Skype group video call and does a read-through of a movie script. Each participant plays a number of characters in the movie, and a professional language coach (that’s me!) acts as the moderator.
The aim is to recreate the emotional elements of a real-life read-through – professional actors often report feeling a “first day at school” mixture of excitement and fear – and to use these for improving English-language communication skills and teamwork.
It’s one of the early stages in the process of making a movie. The actors – together with other key personnel such as directors, writers and producers – sit down around a large table and, very simply, read through the script. It’s sometimes called a table read.
Photo from The Official Selena Gomez Twitter Page – @selenagomez
I asked Eddie Jemison, the actor best known for his roles in Ocean’s 11, 12 and 13, about the team-building element of read-throughs. “I think they’re really helpful,” he said. “It makes everyone realize they are all pulling for the same cause. It gives the experience shape and purpose. Without a read-through everyone is just guessing at how all the parts fit together. Plus, it’s fun and every one feels more a part of a team. And teamwork is always better than the sum of the work of individuals.”
How does a read-through help non-native English-speakers?
Movies use the kind of language you find when you go out of the classroom and into the real world, as I explain below.
Also, a Hollywood-style read-through can be a highly effective team-building exercise, as the following article highlights.
- Link: “Cross-border business teams and the entertainment arena”, an article about SkypeRead on Business Review Europe
We’ve achieved some fascinating results! I presented the results of our pilot programme – which involved non-native English-speakers from 18 different countries – at the 2013 Kansai ELT Expo (Konan University CUBE, Japan). Below is a 5-minute version of my presentation “Is doing a read-through of a movie good for non-native English-speakers?” (click here for a transcript).
In 2014, together with Walter Klinger and Martin Stack from the University of Shiga Prefecture (USP), I presented results from a three-month investigation into movie read-throughs at the National Convention of the Association for Teaching English through Movies (Fukuoka Jo Gakuin University, Japan). This cross-border study involved students from USP and three other universities: Kwangwoon University in Korea, Hong Kong Baptist University, and the Universitat Politècnica de València in Spain. (A paper on this study was published in ATEM Journal: Teaching English Through Movies, Volume 20, March 2015.)
SkypeRead uses a number of ideas from neuroELT, a new field that explores the links between neuroscience and English-language teaching. (For info, I’m part of the organising committee for the international neuroELT conferences held in Japan – this year’s event will be held in Kyoto, from 25 to 27 September!)
One of these ideas is emotion drives learning. Emotion is a fundamental part of how the brain processes information (see, for example, Mary Helen Immordino-Yang and Matthias Faeth’s chapter on emotion in Mind, Brain, and Education: Neuroscience Implications for the Classroom (2010)). The pressure and drama of doing a movie read-through creates a unique environment for learning and development.
Another key idea is collaboration boosts levels of cognition. Humans are social animals, and a movie read-through is a highly collaborative, interactive experience. As Sandra Johnson puts it in The Neuroscience of Adult Learning: New Directions for Adult and Continuing Education (2006), “Social cognitive neuroscience affirms that over aeons our brains have developed physical mechanisms that enable us to learn by social interaction.”
- Link: “3 things that happen to your brain when you go to the movies” – from the introduction to a presentation I gave at the at the 6th International Symposium on Digital Technologies in Foreign Language Learning (Ritsumeikan University, Kyoto)
SkypeRead can be particularly helpful for remote teams, because the read-through can be done virtually (in a Skype group call). For groups of people who work remotely, doing team-building virtually isn’t just about saving time and money — it’s about emphasising the fact that remote working can be equally or more effective than face-to-face working.
As Marcus Hildebrandt and his colleagues explained in Closeness at a Distance: Leading Virtual Groups to High Performance (2013), for remote teams it is important to signal that “virtuality is the reality wherein a group will work.”
Want to know more about SkypeRead, movie scripts and read-throughs? We’ve put together a page of links here.