Short and Sweet - Kieran Donaghy

Short and Sweet - Kieran Donaghy 
The Image Conference, Brasilia 25th October 2013

This was Kieran's first conference presentation in Brasil. Here on a flying visit (the lack of sleep didn't show!), Kieran spoken about how best to use short films in the ELT classroom, presenting ideas that he has made popular through his ELTon award winning website, Film English.

Kieran thinks that today's Internet culture, has led to more short films these days, and especially the rise in use of mobile deviceshas seen a renaissance in watching short films. For these reasons, the time is ripe to take advantage of this in the classroom.

Why use short films? 

The main reason is that they are short! This means  you can show them several times and do different activities with each viewing. You can also show learners a complete narrative, which means it can be more fulfilling for students than showing excerpts of films. The form is also usually innovative and so it is often easy to grab the students attention.

Many short films these days are silent. One reason for this is because people are watching them on the move. Another reason is one of audience - they can be enjoyed by an International audience because there is no need to translate dialogue.

After his introduction, Kieran got our creative juices working by asking us to think of as many uses of a paper clip that we could think of. This is a test which is connected to creative, lateral thinking. Tests show that as we get older, the number of responses people come up with diminish, which Ken Robinson believes that schools kill creativity

After this, Kieran's First activity related to a video (the adventures of a card board box) showing different uses of a cardboard box as thought of by a young child.

Continuing the same theme, the second short film Kieran showed us was 29 Ways to be creative. A good question to ask students after watching this short film is how they are going to be creative in their language learning. Kieran asks students to write an answer to this for homework.

Sharing Jim Jarmusch's manifesto, Kieran then showed us a film called Manifesto, the Holstee Manifesto Lifecycle video, and told the story behind this. Kieran uses this as a promote to get students to write their own life manifesto, sharing examples written by some of his students.

Where would you go if you could visit 11 countries in 44 days? The film, Move shows a person who did this, followed by the vídeos Eat and Learn, produced by the same person. Kieran also uses these films as prompts for writing.

Secrets was the next activity, watching a film called Your Secret. He asks students to follow the instructions given in the film .Kieran follows this with a visit to the website Post Secret, asking the students to choose a Secret that resonates with them. He asks them to write about the chosen Secret from the pov of that person. With teenagers, he gives them a selection to choose from as their are inappropriate ones on the website.

Kieran finished by sharing sourced of short films, such as Future Shorts, Vimeo, Short of the week, and of course Kieran's own website,


  1. Could not attend as had been planning to. So frustrated! Now, can have a peek. Thanks so much for Sharing, with links included and all!

  2. Hi, thanks for featuring Kieran! I love Film English. I use the films a lot in my classes. The films that he features are inspirational. Kudos to this great interview.

  3. Graham,

    Delightful to meet and speak (and enjoy good times) with both you and Kieran. Loved the creative inspiration provided by Kieran and while taking it in - kept thinking how he might be a name sake of Kieran Egan who did so much formative work in this area.


  4. Thanks Inez, Patty and David. David, it was great to meet you in person too - nice observation about Kieran Egan


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