Razzle Dazzle Your Students with These 5 ESL Video Activities

Could you imagine eating mashed potatoes every day for the rest of your life?

Sounds unpleasant, right?

I mean, potatoes are great, but nobody wants to be fed the same thing every single day.

So, why do so many teachers feed their students the same generic curriculum? Students want more than mashed potatoes; they want to be stimulated with fun, relevant curriculum that places them in the center of the learning experience.

And one of the best ways to give them that is through interactive, video-based lessons.

Razzle Dazzle Your Students with These 5 ESL Video Activities

Nowadays, smartphones have become an integral part of people’s lives. Everyone is glued to their phones, streaming videos from their favorite social media platforms. It only makes sense to incorporate videos into the classroom.

Well, using video in the classroom is hardly a new idea. But it’s safe to say that videos are more important now than they’ve ever been. And if you don’t incorporate videos into your classroom material, you run the risk of losing your students’ attention—especially if they belong to the generation that didn’t experience life before the internet.

But just how effective is teaching with videos? Personally, I’ve gotten the most bang for my buck by integrating them in my ESL classes. I’ve actually tried doing one lesson without video and then the same lesson using videos to another class, and the students who participated in video activities were far more engaged.

Ready to learn more?

Check out just how effective videos are by adding one or more of these activities into your next class.

1. Easy Conversation Practice by Mark Kulek

Suggested Level: Beginner

Skills Practiced: Listening, Reading, Speaking and Writing

Easy Conversation Practice is a YouTube channel filled with videos teaching short conversations which consist of two or three exchanges. Here, you’ll find a wealth of videos to use to teach beginners vocabulary and basic conversational English.

Here’s how you can turn videos from this channel into an engaging lesson:

  • Warm-up: Give students one minute to write down all of the verbs they can think of. Then, have them compare their results with a partner, making a list of all the different verbs they came up with.
  • Activity: Play a quick conversational video from the YouTube channel, asking students to mimic the actions depicted in the clip. Then, play it again and have them repeat the dialogue with their partner.
  • Follow-up: Students should write dialogues of their own, like basic greetings and introductions. (What’s your name? Where are you from? How old are you? etc.) Then, have learners work in pairs to act out their short scripts.

2. “The Grammar Gameshow”

Suggested Level: Pre-intermediate

Skills: Listening, Reading and Speaking 

This collection of educational videos is produced by BBC Learning and are presented in gameshow format. They’re a great way to teach grammar in a fun, hands-on way that engages your students. As such, you can teach a number of different grammatical concepts to learners using this resource. Have a look at this sample activity for an example of how you can turn “The Grammar Gameshow” into a full-blown grammar lesson.

  • Warm-up: Have students list their daily activities, describing their various routines throughout the day.
  • Activity: Play “The Grammar Gameshow” lesson on present simple and present continuous verbs for your students. Be sure to address questions and expand on examples if needed. If your students need further practice, then have them watch the video again while reading the transcript.
  • Follow-up: After the video, there is a self-assessment quiz. Your students can navigate through each question on their own, or you can guide them through it if they’re struggling to answer questions correctly.

3. “TED Talks: The 30-day Challenge”

Suggested Level: Intermediate

Skills Practiced: Listening, Reading, Speaking and Writing

What would video lessons be without a TED Talks? This particular TED Talks video does more than test your learners’ vocabulary and listening skills, it also gives them the opportunity to experience the same feelings as the speaker they’re listening to. Plus, you can use it as a springboard to a great project idea.

  • Warm-up: Talk about habits with your students. What are good habits? What are bad habits? What habits would they like to break? Students can work in pairs to answer these questions, then report to the class what their partner has said.
  • Activity: Give the students a list of vocabulary words from the video they aren’t familiar with; five to six words is enough for such a short video. Students then should work in pairs, looking up the meaning of each word using a dictionary. As they watch the video, have your students raise their hands when they hear the words from the list.
  • Follow-up: Have students vote on their favorite challenge presented by the speaker. Then, have the class work in groups of three or four, deciding on a challenge they would like to try. Once each group has made their decision, they need to deliver a presentation to the class explaining why they chose this challenge and what they hope to gain from it.
  • Bonus Activity: Let your students pick their own challenge to carry out for 30 days. They can keep a daily journal to track their progress and describe their experiences. This can then be either part of a video project, or an even larger writing project. You can follow this rubric to help you with assessing your students.

4. American Accent Training by Lisa Mojsin

Suggested Level: Upper-intermediate

Skills: Listening and Speaking

Let’s face it, pronunciation practice isn’t a favorite activity for most students. As the teacher, it’s your job to come up with fresh new activities that make learning pronunciation fun—and with the help of the YouTube channel, American Accent Training, you can. This video series will help you model your lessons after the standard American accent, and will give you a bunch of video resources you can seamlessly incorporate into your pronunciation activities. Also, students can use these clips for self-study and practice in their spare time.

  • Warm-up: In pairs, have students discuss the various difficulties they have with understanding native speakers. Your students should be encouraged to share ways they can better understand native speakers, as well as pinpointing any problems they face when listening to natural conversations.
  • Activity: Choose a video from the American Accent Channel to play for your students. I like having mine watch this video, encouraging them to repeat as they listen to the speaker. Make sure to help your students identify any links between words, as well as intonation, rhythm and anything else that influences pronunciation.

  • Follow-up: Get your students to record themselves while reading scripts from the video you included in the lesson. Once finished, students can then compare their own recordings to the model presented in this video.

5. “TED Talks: Beware Conflict of Interest”

Suggested Level: Advanced

Skills Practiced: Listening and Speaking

This is another excellent TED Talks video that’s suitable for more advanced learners. Because the focus of the video is on reaching goals, it’s particularly useful for motivating students preparing for upcoming exams like the TOEFL or IELTS

  • Warm-up: Explain a story where you experienced a conflict of interest. Then, using contextual clues, have students try and define what a conflict of interest means.
  • Activity: Students will watch the TED Talks video and decide if the examples provided in the video represent conflicts of interest. Have them answer why or why not, then ask the students to draw up a list of arguments for and against each side of the topic.
  • Follow-up: After the activity is done, host an in-class debate over the following topic: Should doctors provide experimental medical treatment to patients? One side will be in favor of this argument and the other side will be against. If possible, appoint one student to moderate the debate.

Bringing Everything Together

Perhaps one of the best things about videos is their versatility; they can be used to supplement any lesson, including vocabulary, pronunciation and discussion-based activities.

What’s more, when videos are presented in a way that makes the learning experience more interactive, you’ll find that most students are more engaged and have a better time participating in classroom activities.

So, go crazy with videos! The only limit is your imagination!

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