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7 Activities for Teaching English with Movies, TV Shows, and Online Videos

Teach English with video! Use video to teach any topic to ESL students of all ages. Videos are one of the richest authentic materials because of the context, visuals, sounds, and variety of themes they provide. In this article you will find seven ESL activities and tasks that students can complete before, during, and after watching a video.

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1. Fill in the Blanks

This is one of the most common ESL activities that English teachers use with video and other authentic materials. As a teacher, you can listen to the movie and prepare a part of the script and blank out words for students to listen to and complete. Very often the script can be found online as well.

To make this activity a little more challenging, you can ask the students to guess the word or phrases that have been blanked out using the context around it. And to make it simpler, you can provide the first letter of the word or phrase or just provide options in a box for students to choose from.

2. Spot the Word

Another fun listening ESL activity is to give the students a set of words or phrases that they have to listen for and check them off on a handout. This can be even set up like a bingo card and students can yell ‘Bingo’ when they have them all.

3. Spot the Still Image

Similar to the ESL activity described above. You can provide the students with a set of still images from the movie. As the scene takes place, they must let you know they’ve recognized it. This is ideal for lower-level students and to ensure they pay attention while watching.

4. Match the Dialogue to the Character

Another listening activity would be to give the students a dialogue that has been mixed up. And they have to match the sentences to the characters who say them. An extension to this activity would be to ask the students to pretend to be those characters and read out the dialogue trying to imitate the way the characters speak. This extension can actually be applied to many other activities and it helps develop fluency and intonation.

5. Silent Watching

A fun ESL activity to use with video is to watch a scene without any sound and ask students to guess what is happening and why. More advanced students can be challenged to guess what the characters are actually saying and re-create the dialogue. As an extra challenge, you could ask them to read the lines they created as the movie plays silently. This is a great activity to help develop more speaking fluency through practice.

6. Comprehension

When watching a full movie, or full episode, comprehension questions in short answer form or multiple-choice form can help you check how much the students understood. Even students who are not good at listening skills tend to do better with full movies or TV shows because the context helps them to comprehend more.

7. Write a Summary or a Review

For teaching writing skills, you can ask students to write a summary in order to recommend the movie to their friends. Another fun ESL activity is to write a review pretending to be a critic. Ideally, you could let them read some reviews of other movies so they can understand the style in which to do it and integrate reading skills in the lesson.

Other Creative ESL Activities to Teach English with Video

Depending on the level of the students, they can also interact with the plot by changing or predicting the ending if they haven’t seen it before. They can write interviews with the characters or even add ‘deleted’ scenes that they can even act out as a special project or extension of the activity. There are so many ways to teach English with video!

Possible Drawbacks of Using Video in the ESL Classroom

Younger students, children, and teenagers will definitely welcome this kind of activity and take it as a treat or special event. You must make the most of the students’ engagement, but also be careful that they do not tune out and start doing something else because they consider it an unimportant moment in the class.

Older students could question the validity of such a fun activity. Especially if they have grown up in an educational system that was quite strict and used only direct instruction. Therefore, you must make sure the aim of the lesson is clear at all times. And they know that they are not just watching for fun, but with lesson objectives in mind.

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Related Reading:

Using Authentic Material in TESOL: Task-Based Lesson Using Video

Authentic Material in Beginner Classrooms

Lesson Plan Using TV Show: Friends

Using Movie: Spanglish

Lesson Plan Using Movie: The King’s Speech

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