They Won’t Be Able to Look Away: 5 Surefire Video Activities to Keep Students Engaged

They Won’t Be Able to Look Away: 5 Surefire Video Activities to Keep Students Engaged

Language is all around us.

Newspapers, television, the Internet…they are all great sources of real life language just waiting to be used in the ESL classroom. And authentic language sources serve double in the classroom. Your students will most certainly learn from just about any authentic language material you work into your lesson plans. On top of that, they are great fun! One of my favorite resources is using videos in class. You can use them in so many different ways and highlight just about every aspect of language learning and practice. Here are some of the ways you can teach language through videos in class.

Try These 5 Surefire Video Activities to Keep Students Engaged

  1. 1

    Predicting the Future

    One of the easiest exercises you can do with a video is ask students to predict what comes next. You can do this with movies, skits, or how to videos. Play a portion of the video for your students. It might be a few steps in a how to process or it might be a scene or two of a movie either from the beginning or the middle. When you are ready to talk, hit pause. Have students discuss what they think will happen next in the video. Ideally, you would have groups of two or three students talk together to make predictions and then share their ideas with the entire class afterwards. This will get everyone talking. After the discussion, press play and let students see what really happens. Stop it again and have groups go back and say what was right and what was wrong with their predictions. And don’t worry if your students have already seen the movie you choose to use. They will still get their speaking practice in even if they already know the answers.

  2. 2

    This Is How You Do It

    How to videos are a great listening challenge for your ESL students. Since they discuss a process which is broken down into steps, you can play them for your students while your students write down the steps in the process. Have students listen carefully to an instructional video and note each step in the speaker explains. Their notes do not have to contain a lot of detail – just enough that they remember what that step is in general terms. Students should number their steps as they write them down. Play the video a second time and let students write down more details for each step. After twice through, have two students compare their notes and ask questions of each other and you if they are confused. They can use the information the other person wrote down to give more detail to their own notes. Finish the activity by having students write out the instructions for the process in essay form. As they write, they should pay particular attention to the transitions they use between steps. A note to the teacher: make sure you preview the video before you show it to your students. Their first time doing an exercise like this, keep the video simple as it will be quite a challenge for your class. But as they gain experience with the activity, you can use more and more complicated videos and processes.

  3. 3

    Describe What You See

    You can use a video as a source of inspiration for your students or simply to practice using adjectives and descriptive writing. Choose a short clip, preferably one that doesn’t have a lot of action but does have an interesting setting. You might try the beginning of a film where the camera is moving from a broad view of an area to a closer view of the main characters or a clip where characters are exploring a new area and aren’t saying a whole lot to each other. Give students a chance to watch the clip once or twice, and tell them to pay particular attention to the setting. Then have them write a description of the place. They can do this individually or with a partner. If you just want to practice descriptive writing, you can end the activity there. If you want to take it a step further, have your students use this setting in a short piece of their own fiction writing. Compile the stories into a class book or post them on a bulletin board so the rest of the class can see how their classmates used the same location for a very different story.

  4. 4

    Spark a Debate

    It is said that everyone has an opinion, and you can use people’s willingness to share theirs to help your students learn the English language. Start by choosing two videos that show opposing views on one issue. News reports are a great source for this, or you can use fictional or factual court scenes in which the witnesses give differing views of the same event. As you show the videos, have your students write down the arguments each side uses to support its opinion. After they have those written down, let students discuss the issue and their notes in groups of three or four. As they discuss, each person should decide which opinion they think is correct. Each person should also write down any other arguments that come up for both sides of the issue. You can end the activity there, or you can continue it by holding a class debate on the issue.

  5. 5

    Listen Closely

    Videos are great for teaching students to listen for specific information. Choose a video and write a few comprehension questions on its content. Give the questions to your students before they watch the video. Have them predict what type of information they will be listening for, and then give the video a go. See if students can hear the answers to the questions the first time through the video. You can also do the activity in the opposite order. Have students watch the video and listen for the information they think is important. Afterward, give them a simple, blank outline of the main points in the video and see if they can complete the outline. Show the video one more time and let them check their answers.

If you are ready to try some of these activities in class but aren’t sure where to get the videos, try checking out some TED talks.

If you don’t already know, they are very short videos in which the speakers talk about all manner of things. Whatever topic or opinion you want to show in class, their video bank is a great place to start your search. They are free, too, which makes them great resources for teachers. Other great options are movies, television shows which are often free on the channel’s website, or YouTube videos.

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