Using film and video clips

Film and video are very effective ways of both motivating our students and helping them to understand language, but they do need to be used with care and an understanding of some of the dangers and potential involved.

Here are some tips to guide you.

  • Length: No matter how keen students are on the film or subject matter, they can only cope with so much at once. Avoid overwhelming them. Don’t exceed 5 minutes of film.
  • Run through: Try and estimate the time students will take to do each activity and how many times you will need to show the clip again. Run through the whole thing, get your timing right.
  • Set context: If your clip comes from a sequence or part of a story, set the scene before starting. Briefly outline plot, characters or situation if necessary. Show the clip with sound off for a few seconds to elicit where the people are, who they might be, what they are talking about etc.
  • Have an aim: Why are you using the clip ? To look at request forms and practice them ? To give students practice in giving a commentary, telling a story ? To lead to a discussion on an issue ? Give a concrete task for students to complete while viewing so they use the language you want them to use and this helps them concentrate on the clip.
  • Anticipate needs: Look closely at the script and clip. How much new vocabulary might need clarification Do some words need previewing before watching ? Can some words/expressions be guessed from context? Do facial expressions or gestures/action help you explain language? Mark these points on your script and plan to use them, pause tape, involve students’ with questions. Make a vocabulary task for completion whilst viewing, if appropriate.

Useful activities

  • Predict language
  • Getting students to predict the language being used can be useful and motivating.
    o Give students the script with key items removed e.g. expressions/verbs/key words/questions.
    o View with sound off and students use the visual clues to brainstorm the missing items.
    o View with sound to check predictions and complete. View again if needed.
  • Focus on roles
  • Getting the students to roleplay the movie can be fun and motivating
    o Run through once or twice with the whole class to get the gist and understand setting.
    o Assign roles to each student (e.g. if 3 characters in the clip, each student is one of them).
    o Give each character a script corresponding to their part in the clip and a couple of focus questions for viewing their character. View clip again.
    o Put students in groups to practise their roles, using their scripts. Then perform without scripts.
    o Students not keen on role play can be directors/prompters with the whole script.


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