10 ways to use video in the ESL class

Following on from my last blog, 10 reasons you should use video in class, here is a list of ten activities you can do in class before, during and after watching videos.

Predictions in class… Photo by Pearls of Jannah


I once went to a talk about prediction and it completely changed the way I teach. This is a great technique to use in any class and you can do it with any activity. It’s great for stimulating interest as students pay more attention to what is happening, mainly because they want to get their predictions right.

There are several ways you can predict before watching a video, for example:

  • This video is about food, write down 5 foods that you think will appear.
  • This is the title of the video, predict what it will be about.
  • Write down 5 words that you think might appear in the video.

The list is endless, you just have to use your imagination.

Watching for general gist

This is more like real life. How often do you watch a film with a list of specific questions to answer? Unless you are some sort of freak, probably never. So what I tend to do is just ask students to watch for the first time, and then get them to discuss in pairs what it was about, what they understood, and do some general class feedback.

Specific questions

This is looking at video on a deeper level. Questions might be about vocabulary or grammar, so you can prepare specific questions accordingly. For example, I recently prepared a lesson on cooking and the videos were on Jamie Oliver, so students had to write down the ingredients for each video. You just have to watch the video and prepare three or four questions, where the answers are spread out through the clip.

Reaction to the video

A lot of class time can be taken up after the video. Sometimes the videos I use in class may only be 5 minutes, but you can get a whole year’s worth of activities afterwards. This is much like reaction to the reading texts in the standard course books. You can decide what you want to cover. Here are some ideas.

  • Did you like the video? Why?
  • What did you learn from the video?
  • Have you become inspired in any way from what you saw?
  • Tell you partner about your favourite part and why.

Write up a summary

This can be done in class, or at home. Students write a summary of what they saw in the video. This could be as simple as a list of vocabulary you want to cover, or more extensive like a summary of the story if it is a short film.

Pronunciation based lesson

This might take a bit of planning, but you could focus on specific pronunciation that might help students, or highlight certain accents. Just pick 5 words or phrases and get students to watch again and pay attention to specific pronunciation. They could also group words in certain phonemic groups, like in my song activities.

Act it out

If you are watching a story, or even a scene in a restaurant or at a train station, students could act it out afterwards. Elicit key phrases that were in the video, write them up, and get students to have a go on their own. You can also provide them with the actual script and perform in front of the class. You could demonstrate this before as well with a volunteer from the class.

What happened next

This is a great activity during or after the video. You can just stop the clip, and get students to predict what is going to happen next. You could be watching a short film, or just a scene from a film, and students can then write up the following scene before you watch it, or they could just chat about what is going to happen next. This is especially great with Mr Bean videos when you’re practising will and going to.

Prepare your own version

For this one you’ll need more time, plus organisation. Students can do their own version of the video, and actually record it and show the rest of the class when they have done. They can also prepare their own questions, just to make sure the rest of the class are watching.

Vote for the best

This is great if you have 3 or 4 clips and students vote for the best video. I have an activity I do with higher level classes where we watch their favourite music videos. Before we watch they have to decide on 4 categories on how they are going to vote for the best one, for example, best costumes, best lyrics, best tune. After each video students discuss their opinions and then vote for the best one at the end.

Video is a great way of entertaining students in class, but more importantly they remember the class more, and will hopefully improve their level. It also encourages them to watch more videos at home, once they realise that they can actually do it.

Do you have any decent ideas with videos? Leave a comment below and let me know.

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