Remember movie day in class when you were a student?
It used to make me dance at my desk.
For most students, it’s exciting to see that TV rolled in or that projection screen pulled down. It means there’ll be something creative, surprising or just plain different about class that day.
Now that you’re an educator, you can harness this movie day excitement for your classroom.
One of the best ways that you can revitalize your classroom and create an exciting learning environment is to incorporate ESL videos into your lessons. Not only will your students find them entertaining, but it’ll also give them a chance to unwind and learn simultaneously.
Of course, not just any old video will do, and you’ll need some killer ESL video activities to make them effective learning tools.
Ready to learn how to use ESL videos the right way and find some awesome new clips for your class?
Let’s press play!
How to Use ESL Videos Properly
One school I taught at in South Korea wasn’t initially thrilled about me regularly adding ESL videos to my lessons.
They thought it was a lazy way of teaching that didn’t challenge or engage the students. And in some cases, this can be true—one of the teachers that I replaced would spend five to ten minutes a day playing video clips from cartoons, but wouldn’t actually develop material to go with the videos.
But there’s a difference between simply playing videos and actually teaching with videos.
Ultimately, I was able to win over the trust of my school. I showed my head teacher detailed lesson plans that explained the purpose of each video, as well as what kind of activities I’d use to test the students’ knowledge after the clip was completed.
It didn’t take long for my colleagues to see how properly using an ESL video gets incredible results.
Here are some of steps you can take to similarly get the most out of ESL videos in the classroom:
1. Choose Videos Carefully
Remember, the primary purpose of your ESL video is to educate, not entertain. When choosing a video to add to your lesson, you always want to think about the theme you’re teaching and how it can fit in. Don’t just add a video clip from “Mr. Bean” because the students think it’s funny; consider how you can tie it into something you’ve been covering in class.
Before you choose a video to put in your lesson, ask yourself the following questions:
- Is it informative and can my students benefit from it?
- Does it relate to something we’ve gone over?
- What activities can the students do after the video?
- Is it appropriate for the students?
I can’t stress enough how important it is to make sure that your videos are suitable to your classroom setting, not just for the skill level and age groups, but also to be respectful toward the culture of students you’re teaching. Remember, if you’re unsure whether your material is appropriate or not, ask your head teacher.
2. Consider Timing
It’s not just what video you choose, but when you play it.
If you’re showing relatively short video clips, think about using them to break long activities up into segments. For example, if your students have spent 15 minutes doing grammar exercises, play a two- or three-minute video clip before moving on to a reading activity.
You might consider longer videos to either introduce or wrap up a unit. Alternatively, you can show excerpts from a long video across several class sessions; this is often preferable to one long viewing session, which can tempt students to space out or nod off.
The benefit of working with ESL videos is that you get to be creative and decide how you want to incorporate the clips into your lesson. This can revitalize your students by bringing their attention back to you, especially if they’re getting tired.
3. Make Sure to Use Follow-up Exercises
Once you’ve found the right video to introduce to your class, it’s time to think about how you’re going to get students thinking critically about the material and assess what they’ve learned. After all, successfully using an ESL video in your lesson requires more than pressing play. Have a look at these follow-up ideas:
- Ask your students a series of questions about the video they just watched. These questions can be oral or written.
- Divide the class into groups and have them come up with their own scripts for an educational video clip on the same topic as the video you watched.
- Put students into groups and get them to talk in-depth about what they liked and didn’t like about the ESL video.
- Print the script and blank out certain words to have students fill in the gaps.
7 Interesting ESL Video Resources for All Learning Levels
Integrating an ESL video into your lesson is a lot different than simply showing a clip, so finding the right types of videos for class can take some time. Here are some excellent ESL video resources to help you get started.
Great for: young and adolescent beginners.
When choosing videos for elementary English learners, you want to stay away from clips that are difficult to understand. Videos of people speaking too fast or using lots of slang and idioms will confuse your students, so it’s best to pick an ESL video that’s designed for beginners.
The Elemental English YouTube channel is filled with beginner-friendly ESL videos that can easily be incorporated into your average classroom lesson. There are a number of useful clips covering connected speech, American pronunciation and the basic grammar that’s taught in beginner English classes.
The videos are narrated with clear, slow speech in a standard American accent. There are simple explanations supported by helpful, colorful animations.
Great for: beginners of all ages.
Because this site was designed specifically to help Vietnamese students learn English, many teachers may skip over it when looking for good videos to add to their lessons. However, the channel has a number of great English stories and fairy tales that can help students improve their English skills.
The stories are slowly narrated in a standard British or American accent and have English subtitles, making them easy for lower level students to follow.
Ucan.Vn also has a number of other lessons covering grammar and conversational topics. Unlike the story videos, these clips are usually mixed with English and Vietnamese, making them better suited for instructors teaching Vietnamese students.
Great for: beginner to advanced students of all ages.
Looking to bring authentic English videos to your classroom… but want to make sure your students actually learn from them? FluentU is the right tool for you.
FluentU transforms native English videos such as movie trailers, news clips, music videos and more into engaging language learning experiences. There are interactive captions to help students learn new vocabulary in-context; simply clicking a word will bring up definitions and example sentences, and students can also discover how words are used in other videos to broaden their understanding of context and multiple meanings.
FluentU’s quiz mode also provides activities to encourage and assess learning. Educators will appreciate that they can track student progress, assign homework and design curricula entirely from the FluentU platform.
Because FluentU videos are organized by learning level, it’s a highly customizable teaching tool that can work for any ESL classroom.
Great for: intermediate students of all ages.
If you’re teaching students about challenging grammar concepts like perfect tenses, basic conversational English or how to use context clues to build their vocabularies, this site is perfect for you.
Connect with English follows the life of a fictitious American character as she travels across the country to pursue her dream of becoming a musician. Each story comes with a question set focused on a particular verb tense, allowing students to boost their grammar knowledge while getting exposure to realistic English conversations.
The videos also all come with dictation exercises, quizzes and more, making this series great for either in-class assignments or homework.
Great for: intermediate teenage and adult students.
ESLbasics is a YouTube channel that’s great for short classroom assignments. Each clip provides a brief introduction to or explanation of an English-related topic geared toward intermediate learners.
It’s home to a number of informative videos covering everything from idioms to phrasal verbs, and the tongue twisters are fun, attention-grabbing activities that’ll get your class laughing in no time.
Moreover, if you’re teaching students who are learning English for immigration purposes, this channel also covers questions regarding the U.S. citizenship test.
Great for: advanced teenage and adult students.
With TED-Ed, finding engaging educational videos is a piece of cake.
The website is filled with a number of educational videos arranged by subject, making it easier for you to find the most relevant video to your curriculum. Even though your advanced learners should have enough English knowledge to understand native English speakers relatively easily, the subtitles that come with most of the videos make it easier for less proficient students to follow along.
One great feature to keep in mind as you’re lesson planning is that you can filter videos by subject as well as video length in the top menu bar.
Great for: advanced adult students.
If you’re teaching students who’re learning English for business or academic purposes, Steve Ford’s YouTube channel is filled with helpful clips.
Browse through a number of helpful English videos aimed at preparing students for job interviews, TOEFL and IELTS tests and immigration exams. There are even pronunciation guides designed to help specific populations, like Brazilian, Chinese or Korean students, among many others.
ESL videos are just one example of the many tools that you can use to liven up the classroom and get your students excited about learning English!
If you liked this post, something tells me that you'll love FluentU, the best way to teach English with real-world videos.