Making Films on Smartphone Cameras: 5 Language Lessons Utilizing Smartphones and Film

Making films with smartphones is easy and fun. Here are five simple ways to exploit this pocket technology in your English classes.

1. Conduct a Simple Interview

You could use this as part of an interview lesson or to practise speaking exams. Dictate or give students a series of interview questions and have them practise with each other until they are happy with their answers. Now put students in groups of three and ask one student to film the other two doing the interview. Keep the interviews short so they are easy to make and watch.

Watch a selection of the videos as a class. You could ask students to comment on the pronunciation, vocabulary used, grammatical accuracy as well as the quality of the answers. Make the most of your feedback positive to motivate students.

2. Teach a Grammar Lesson

Put students into pairs and explain that they are going to make a short video to explain a grammar point. There are lots of teachers who do this already on YouTube and you might like to show one of their films as an introduction.

Allow students to choose one of the following grammar points, depending on their level you might like to choose easier or harder topics.

present simple ‘s’

present simple questions

present simple negatives

past simple irregulars

past simple negatives

past simple questions

‘ed’ and ‘ing’ adjective endings

parts of speech

present continuous

Have students work together and discuss how they would present the grammar point to the rest of the class. Set a time limit for their film, say five minutes. Students don’t have to use a whiteboard to film their explanation; they could angle their smartphone camera and video their hands writing on a piece of paper.

Watch some of the films as a class and have a class vote to choose the best. You might like to upload some of these to the school network or YouTube.

3. Give a Simple Tour

Give students a list of institutions or places around your area; this could you your school or college, a park, a library, a shopping centre, a museum, even a street or a house. Explain that in groups of three, students are going to make a short video tour of this place. Remember to make sure that the students use English as the target language when discussing anything.

Before you allow student the time to go and make the film, make sure you discuss what is expected. Set a time limit for the film, say 5 minutes. Explain that all members of the group should say something on camera. Also, make students note down the following questions, by answering some of these they will have quite a lot to say about their place. If needed, they can use the internet to find out any of the information.

What’s the name?

Who made it?

Why was it made?

When was it made?

What can you do there?

What exciting features does it have?

Why should people visit?

What could make this place better?

Make students plan what they are going to do together before they do any filming. This could be a ten minute session in the classroom before they leave.

Students might need some editing time when they have finished but explain that isn’t really necessary, you’re not looking for a perfect film, just some good English.

You could watch a selection of the films in class after all the students finish or in the next session. Again, you could comment on the linguistic content of the tours or get students to score and choose their favourite.

4. Create an Advertisement

Advertisements are everywhere and student should be familiar with how they work. Explain that students are going to make a short advert for something fairly mundane. Their adverts are only going to be three minutes long and they don’t need to tell a story, just sell their product. In groups of three ask students to choose one of the following, readily available products.

a car / a bicycle

a house / a building

a shop 

a mobile phone

a bag / some clothing

some shoes/trainers

Get students to plan their adverts before they make them and keep them simple and short. Watch some of these back in class and feedback on the content.

5. Make a Video for Homework

There are lots of homework tasks that you can ask students to complete with their cameras, you don’t have to watch all of them, they are good for students to produce and watch back themselves and then they can consider their own use of language in terms of accuracy, content and pronunciations. Tasks could be:


  • A tour of my house
  • A video blog (vlog) of my day/weekend / week
  • An interview with a member of my family
  • A speech from an English film I like

How to Share Videos

If you have an interactive whiteboard or a projector, you could use this to display student films. Use either a USB connection to the phone or a program like YouTube or WhatsApp. A quick way of sharing a video is to get a student to send the video to themselves via Facebook’s messenger service. They can then log onto their own Facebook account on the class computer and play the video from messenger there.

Remember, you’re not teaching students how to make films, these activities are just a springboard to practise more English and do it in a natural and enjoyable way. Encourage students to keep the videos simple and short so they are easy to make and quite quick to watch. They don’t have to be perfect!


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