It’s often said that children are like sponges.
They learn more quickly and efficiently than adults, soaking in new words and vocabulary relatively easily—especially if it’s coming from the TV.
Who says TV can’t teach them anything? Start using it to your advantage!
If you teach children, then you’ve heard their pleas: “Teacher!! Please let us watch! Watch! Watch!”
But turning on the TV doesn’t have to feel like cheating. Videos are actually a great way to engage young learners while improving their English listening, vocabulary and comprehension all at the same time.
Movies and TV programs can captivate the short attention spans of children, allowing them to take in every word or action of the characters. They’re certainly a tried-and-true method for adding color to what can sometimes be pretty gray subject matter.
How to Incorporate Videos in Your ESL Classroom
As long as you have the equipment (a TV, computer, or projector), incorporating videos into your English language class is easy! Here are a few ideas on how to engage your students before, during, and after a video lesson.
- Construct a small list of vocabulary words for your students. Hand them out before the video, and have your students cross them off as soon as they hear them. As children love games and races, see which students can cross them all off first. Afterward, talk about each word and how the word was used in the video.
- For young children, follow up a video or TV show with a drawing activity. Have them draw their favorite character from the video and then explain the character to the class in English using descriptive words such as colors, sizes, and emotions (happy, sad, angry, etc.).
- Have your students watch the video and then describe the plot. Have them describe what they watched. Who is doing what? What objects did they see? What did the characters look like? Was there a problem in the story? What was the problem? How did they solve it?
6 ESL Videos and TV Shows That Will Capture Your Students’ Attention
Without further ado, let’s move on to some great video and TV show resources that are fantastic for children.
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Beep, Beep, Boop. These endearing short videos feature the lovable robot Moby as he teaches children the ins and outs of the English language with his buddy Ben, using beeps and boops. BrainPop is an amazing resource that I’ve used countless times in my elementary ESL classrooms over the years. The site is dedicated to teaching English to young students all over the world through animated movies, study tools, quizzes and fun games. You’re sure to find the resources you need to succeed in the classroom with BrainPop’s grammar tools, follow-up activities, word lists, and overall lesson ideas.
The regular BrainPop site is also very useful and speaks a bit faster than the ESL site. It covers all sorts of subjects such as math, science, social studies, and much more, which is great for ESL immersion learners!
Another fantastic resource is FluentU. This platform has authentic videos (cartoons, ESL clips, kids’ sing-alongs and even “Sesame Street”!) that are perfect for your kiddies.
On FluentU, all the videos are sorted by skill level and are carefully annotated for students. Every word comes with a definition, image, audio and example sentences. Students will be able to add them to their own vocabulary lists, and even see how the words are used in other videos.
For example, if a student taps on the word “brought,” they’ll see this:
Plus, these great videos are all accompanied by interactive features and active learning tools for students, like multimedia flashcards and fun games like “fill in the blank.”
It’s perfect for in-class activities, group projects and solo homework assignments. Not to mention, it’s guaranteed to get your students excited about English.
Use these videos to teach vocabulary, pronunciation and grammar basics while keeping the lesson fun and interactive. As long as a screen is in sight, they’ll be thrilled!
3. Mr. Bean
How can a silent film be good for learning English? Trust me. It just is. Students of all ages (and even adults) love Mr. Bean, the goofy British gentleman trying to muddle his way through life’s everyday problems and tasks. He rarely speaks, and the show relies on physical humor, which, I promise, will make your students laugh out loud on their way to practicing English.
One of the best ways to incorporate Mr. Bean into your ESL classroom is to have your students become the narrators. Have them take turns narrating the show as it plays. “Mr. Bean fell down.” It’s a great way to practice verbs in past and present tense, and to practice descriptions of people and objects.
Showing videos without sound is also great for imagined dialogue. What is Mr. Bean saying to the other characters? And, even more fun for young learners, have them act out the scene, using English dialogue.
This Mr. Bean site is a great resource for classic clips, games, quizzes, and even a new animated series due out this year!
This children’s staple is a classic for many reasons, but, mostly, how can you not like a big, friendly yellow bird and all his pals? Not only is it wonderful for native English-speaking children, but it’s also great for ESL learners.
The show features many great topics for young learners, such as new vocabulary words, counting, and the alphabet, while incorporating fun songs and characters into the lessons. A few great video clips for ESL learners are:
- Grover and Alphabet Soup: A great clip for restaurant vocabulary and the alphabet, all in four minutes.
- Big Bird and the Sesame Street Alphabet: Another great alphabet clip with a fun song.
- Bert and Ernie: It’s a Circle: A short clip about shapes with a fun song.
This Sesame Street website is a fantastic resource for more great video clips, as well as coloring pages, games, activities, podcasts and more.
LeapFrog is an English teacher’s dream come true. I guarantee, if your students didn’t know the alphabet before watching it, they will afterward. LeapFrog offers all ranges of videos featuring the fun little frog siblings Leap, Tad, and Lilly as they learn the alphabet and phonics, how to spell words, how to improve their math skills, how to prepare for school, and much more.
While LeapFrog also has a great array of high-tech products to teach young children how to read, I believe these videos are their best creations. Here are a few examples:
- The Letter Factory. In this 35-minute film, the three siblings Leap, Tad and Lilly head to their father’s letter factory and learn the alphabet with a catch song that you’ll hear your students singing for weeks afterward.
- Talking Words Factory. This 35-minute film takes Leap, Tad, and Lilly further into their alphabet learning and teaches the phonics necessary to start spelling and reading easy words.
- Let’s Go to School. Another 35-minute video that prepares Leap, Tad and Lilly for their first day of school. This is a great video for school vocabulary, as well as a review of the alphabet.
The great thing about Disney is that the whole world appreciates and loves its villains and monsters, princesses and kings, and all its adorable characters. And the ESL classroom is a great place to incorporate these classics in a fun, captivating lesson.
Here are a few clips that are great for young ESL learners.
- Love is an Open Door. Please forgive me, but I must include this “Frozen” clip! This has been the movie of the year for Disney, and every student around the world can sing “Let it Go.” This clip is for another song, “Love is an Open Door”, a great sing-along for ESL learners. Have your students watch and sing along.
- Meet Russell, from the movie “Up”. This is the clip where Russell first meets the elderly widower Carl and tries to offer him his services as a boy scout. It’s a great scene about introductions, and a good lesson for ESL learners. (Plus, who doesn’t love the movie “Up”?)
- “The Little Mermaid”, at the palace. This clip shows where Ariel is at the palace with Eric, and hilariously confuses a fork for a comb. This is a great way to review household vocabulary words.
There you have it! Now that you’ve got some great ESL video resources, try these out in your classroom today. Your students will thank you!
If you liked this post, something tells me that you'll love FluentU, the best way to teach English with real-world videos.