Site icon ELA Brave and True by Marilyn Yung

How to Reignite Your Passion for ELA (Part 4 of 5)

Transcribe a movie

Note: This is the fourth of five daily posts on how to spark, reignite, and maintain your passion for ELA. Click here for yesterday’s post: Reignite Your Passion for ELA Part 3 of 5: Learn Something New.

Other than my first year of teaching, the 2021-2022 school year was my most challenging. Out of eleven years of teaching both middle school and high school, students were more disengaged and more disinterested in literature, writing, and school in general, than ever before. It was tough.

There’s nothing worse than trying to get a discussion going when students won’t talk… not even to each other, let alone in a whole-class conversation.

This happened so many times last year, it was disheartening.

But guess what?

I still had to keep teaching.

To do that, I had to be excited about each and every day’s lesson. Fortunately, I love my content area. It’s amazingly cool to be able to work full-time sharing awesome literature with students and helping them express themselves through writing.

Photo by Olya Kobruseva on

But when you’re in the trenches of mid-October or, worse yet, mid-January, I know how hard it can be to stay excited, positive, and optimistic in the classroom so your students can benefit from that joy.

So just for you, I’m posting a few tried-and-true ways that help me stay passionate and excited about my content. I’ve been sharing these ideas over this week as the beginning of school approaches. And yes, I think you’ll find some of them a little unusual (like this one!), but they work for me and keep me interested in learning more about my content.

So, without further ado, here’s my fourth way to reignite your passion for ELA:

Transcribe a movie!

A few years ago I transcribed an entire movie to learn more about screenwriting. It was an experience that has stayed with me ever since.

One evening, my husband and I watched the action-packed suspense thriller 1993 Harrison Ford flick, The Fugitive. It’s the thoroughly nail-biter of a story about a renowned physician wrongly accused of his wife’s murder. At the time, I was trying to learn plot and thought that copying down the script word for word might help me see patterns in the storytelling and the action of the movie.

Sure, I could have looked up the script online somewhere, but actually transcribing the movie myself onto paper caused me to better notice each and every word.

The Fugitive starring Harrison Ford taught me a lot about screenwriting.

To transcribe the movie, I had to do quite a bit of “short hand” and I’m sure I missed a line here or there, but I wrote the entire script, and here’s what I learned: EVERY SINGLE LINE OR SPOKEN WORD IN THE MOVIE IS TOTALLY NECESSARY TO THE VIEWER. Screenwriters obviously know this, but transcribing the movie really brought this truth to light for me. Every line of the script serves a purpose. And I suppose the converse is true, too. If a line can be omitted from the script, then it’s unnecessary to the action.

Transcribing The Fugitive taught me a lot about being concise when writing. When I and my students write, we need to make sure that every word counts or performs a function. If it’s not working hard to fulfill a purpose, it probably needs to be removed.

Another benefit: transcribing The Fugitive word-for-word taught me a lot about storytelling for the screen, and it’s also made me more passionate and appreciative of screenwriting and the skill it takes to do it.

This is how my students look at me a lot. They can’t believe I do some of the nerdy things I do for literature. Photo by Sincerely Media on Unsplash

Sure, it might get crazy as you transcribe, pausing to catch every word, but just do your best. If you miss a few lines, that’s okay. As long as you notice how necessary every word is to the storyline, you’ll get the point of this admittedly unusual activity.

It’s also helpful to share with students what I learned about writing concision with my students after I transcribe a movie. Plus, when students learn that I actually transcribed an entire movie, they witness my enthusiasm for my content again (and stare at me in disbelief!). I short, they’re flabbergasted by my nerdiness.

The bottom line: transcribing an entire movie could be one way you reignite your excitement for your ELA content. Delving deep into a story — in this case, one for the screen — may awaken some latent screenwriting dreams or at least make more evident the connection between the texts we read in class and the texts we watch on the screen.

Cultivate your passion this weekend… transcribe a movie!

Marilyn Yung

Thanks for reading! Subscribe for free below (and receive a cool poetry handout!) for tomorrow’s final last way to reignite your passion for ELA. With school starting soon, it’s important to remember why we teach. When we cultivate our passion, we’ll be better teachers.

Also coming up on the blog: A New Bell-Ringer Activity: Poetry Transcription! Stay tuned for that.

I’ve had a handful of teachers contact me this week requesting help with classroom routines and specific literature units. Please feel free to contact me by leaving a comment on any post, or by leaving a message on my Contact Page. I’m more than happy to reply ASAP to offer help or just encouragement as you get into your planning for fall. Cheers!

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