Have you ever wondered how to use video in your ESL classes, without just sitting your students down in front of the screen and hitting ‘Play’? Here are five more activities for you to try.
1 Vocabulary in context
Choose a scene (no longer than two or three minutes) with some dialogue rich in vocabulary. Make a worksheet with ten to twenty words that are used in the scene, or that describe the scene in some way. Give the worksheet to each pair of students and have them discuss some possible contexts in which the vocabulary might appear in a movie. (Giving students the context of the movie as a whole can make this task easier). Play your chosen scene once, asking students to listen for the contexts in which the vocabulary is used. Pairs can then compare their information and report back to you.
A big advantage of DVD over video is the subtitles feature. Playing a scene with subtitles in the students’ own language or in English is good for building confidence. Try playing it with the sound down first, letting them read the subtitles, then with the sound up, again reading the subtitles, and finally with the sound up and the subtitles turned off. Keep the extract you use to about two or three minutes.
If you have access to TV news in English, record a news story with plenty of visual footage. Play it with the volume off and have your students discuss in groups what they think the item was about. Then give them a pre-prepared list of vocabulary, containing words essential for understanding the story. Using this list and what they have seen, students reconstruct the story in pairs and report back to the group. Don’t forget to play it with the volume up at the end, so that students can compare their version with the original.
This activity could be used in a conversation class about cultural differences. Find a short extract which shows a typical aspect of British culture, or American culture, or any culture you want to focus on! Have students discuss the differences between what they see and their own culture. Students do not necessarily need to understand the dialogue for this — the visual aspect of the cultural scene is usually enough.
5 Voices in my head
Choose a short scene with some interesting and expressive dialogue between two or more characters. Show the scene normally and check students’ comprehension. Put your students into groups, so that you have one group for each character in the scene. Their task is to imagine what is going on inside the head of their assigned character. Play the scene again, several times if necessary, for students to “get to know” their character, and have them work together to imagine his/her thoughts. Finally, play the scene once more, hitting “Pause” after each character has spoken, at which point the groups say what their character is thinking.
A short video sequence with a cearly focused activity is an effective and motivating way to bring variety to your ESL classes. Your students will go away with more than if you sit them down in front of the screen and hit ‘play’.