Do you remember how exciting it was when the teacher wheeled the big TV into class? It felt like the school holidays had come early! Sure, you usually ended up watching a stuffy old documentary but it was better than yet another hour of book work.
Video has been inspiring excitement and motivation in students for decades. If you’re not using video in your English language classroom, you’re missing out on a wealth of learning opportunity.
Why Videos in the ESL Classroom?
Extensive research shows that video is a really effective tool for learning, particularly for English language learners. No matter the age of your students, it’s highly likely they will respond well to the combination of visual and audio stimuli.
Here are just some of the benefits of using video:
- It’s fun and can help make a lesson more memorable
- It’s great for visual learners, or students who have not yet learned to read and write well
- It provides context to the language and brings the subject to life
- The language used is often more natural, so students can hear the natural stress, intonation, pronunciation and rhythm
- It’s excellent for practicing a wide range of language skills, beyond speaking and listening
- They’re ideal for a quick warm-up activity
- Students can listen for specific instances of English usage. For example, times.
Types of Video
You can use almost any type of video content in your lessons. From TV shows, films and trailers to documentaries, adverts, news clips, weather forecasts (more ideas: ESL Weather Lesson Activities), sports events and funny animal videos – the list goes on.
Of course, the material you use will depend on the aim of your lesson and the age and ability of your students. You may also need to take into account school rules and restrictions. In particular, I love to use videos for the ESL shopping unit.
Great content can be found on YouTube, Vimeo, English Central and the British Council website. You could also pick from your own collection of DVDs. For a more comprehensive list of video resources, check out this article.
Five Fun Video Activities
Using video in the classroom is only truly effective when the students engage with it. It’s not enough to just sit back and watch the screen, they need to be active! Here are five fun video based activities you can use in your EFL classroom.
It works best if you include some sort of warm-up activity or lead-in to the video. Give students a hint about what they’re going to see.
Next, you’ll want to have some sort of listening task for the students to complete. Give them a reason to pay close attention to the video.
After that, you’ll want to do some follow-up, based on what the students have seen. Check out these five activities you can try out related to using video in the ESL or EFL classroom.
How to Use Video #1: Dubbing
Students watch a video clip of a conversation with the sound off and in groups create the dialogue for the characters. You can then have the students perform their script as the video plays. To finish, you can watch the clip with the sound on and compare the original to the students’ versions.
This is always popular with students. It’s a lot of fun and a great way to improve confidence in both themselves and the language.
How to Use Video #2: Order the Events
After watching a clip, students are given a set of event cards. Each card contains one or two sentences describing events from the video. Students are then asked to rearrange the event cards into the correct order.
This reading-based activity is excellent for memory building and improving recall power.
How to Use Video#3: Buzz In
Put the students into teams. Before starting the clip, ask a question such as, “What object is [character] holding?” or “What is the colour of [character’s] hair?”. When a student knows the answer they ‘buzz in’. If the student is correct, move onto the next question, if they’re wrong replay the clip.
This activity tests the students’ power of observation, and encourages them to think fast.
How to Use Video #4: True or False
Students watch a video clip and write three sentences about what they see. Encourage the students to write a mix of true and false statements. Every few minutes, pause the viewing and ask a student to read a sentence; the rest of the class must decide whether it’s true or false.
This is a great multi-skills activity, ideal for advanced students. It tests their observation, writing, reading, speaking and listening skills, whilst encouraging creativity.
How to Use Video 5: What Happens Next?
This is another activity that tests students’ power of observation, reasoning and creativity. A very simple task: just pause the video and ask the students to guess (based on context) what will happen next.
What’s the Best Sources for Video for ESL Students?
If you’re looking for videos for ESL learners, it can be a little bit tricky to find ones that are appropriate for them. Here are a few of my go-to sources.
If you’re looking for an ESL Conversation video, or any sort of video for ESL students, YouTube is the obvious first place to start. It has millions of videos on just about any topic and for any level.
My quick tip to cut down on the amount of time you spend searching is to search for your topic + ESL. For example, “Jobs ESL.” Or, use a topic + vocabulary. For example, “Animals ESL Vocabulary. You could also search for a specific grammar point. For example, “present perfect ESL,“ or “compound words” to find some nice English grammar lessons that you could show your students instead of lecturing them on it!
Here’s one example of a jobs vocabulary video:
There are a ton of excellent ESL learning videos on English Central. It has the obvious advantage over YouTube in that you don’t have to wade through a ton of stuff to find something that’ll work for English learners. They’re all designed specifically for this purpose.
While English Central does have a paid section, I’ve found the freebies to be helpful enough and to work for me. The students generally like the videos too! You can find out more about this valuable resource right here: English Central.
With the Textbook
Many of the general, 4-skills ESL textbooks have accompanying video for each unit. They can range from quite well done, to totally and completely cheesy.
However, they have the obvious advantage to them of having the exact same vocabulary and grammar that you’ve been teaching. Don’t underestimate the value of this, and this should be one of the first places you take a look for videos.
Where Can I Find an ESL Video Lesson?
If you want to find some complete lessons that centre around a video for your English learners, then you’ll want to check out the following resources:
Or, here are some funny ESL videos that you can find on YouTube. Please watch them first before showing them to your students because some of them are inappropriate!
Try Out Videos in your Classroom Today
We hope this article will encourage you to use video in your classroom and if you want even more information on the best ways to use video in your lessons, have a look here. As you can see it’s engaging and fun, both for student and teacher!
Have your Say about Videos in the ESL Classroom?
Do you like to use ESL teaching videos? Any tips or tricks for making them as useful as possible? Have you tried any of the ideas on this list? Leave a comment below and let us know what you think. We’d love to hear from you.
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