Teaching Ideas for the ESL Classroom
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Using Video in the ESL Classroom

If used well, video can provide the most useful and most interesting lessons. The best TV shows and movies have natural, funny, dramatic, engaging dialogue, giving students excellent listening practice. TV and movies also touch on a variety of interesting topics, giving teachers a springboard for creating all kinds of discussion and debate.

Many of the techniques used for teaching songs can also be used when using video. However, Teacher Joe has one favorite technique that combines speaking with listening practice. He has used this technique with beginner and advanced students, and with all levels in-between. Try it and see how it helps your students!

First, for speaking practice, put students in pairs. One partner will watch the video and describe it to the other student who will turn away from the screen and only listen. Turn the sound off completely, as well as any subtitles. Play a scene once without stopping, to encourage students to speak quickly. They should learn that they don't have to describe everything, only the main things. When the scene is done, have the partner who was listening ask five yes or no questions to clarify. This is an important conversation skill!

When students have asked their questions, it's time for the teacher to give a test! (This is as much a test of how well the speakers described as it is a test of the listeners.) Start with simple yes or no questions then build up to Wh- questions. If one student isn't quite sure of an answer, ask another student. Even if a student is correct, you can ask "Are you sure?", just to see if they are confident or only guessing. Check to see if other students agree or not. Their partners may have described things differently.

When you are done with the "test", have all students look as you replay the video. Give the students feedback, suggesting better sentences they could have used to describe the scene. It is especially important to emphasize sentences, so that students will try to use better sentences in the future. Sometimes, have the students repeat key sentences aloud to be sure all students "internalize" them.

To complete the speaking section, students should change roles so that the listener becomes the speaker and the speaker becomes the listener.

For listening practice, turn up the sound and have students write down ten words that they hear. After listening two or three times, students can compare their words in small groups. They can ask questions such as "Did you hear ... ?" or "What did the man say about ... ? Then have one person from each group write their ten words on the board and give feedback.

Play the scene one last time so students can see how much more they understand. You can ask after the very first listening how much they understood. Teacher Joe always asks "Who understood 100%?" and then pretends to be surprised when nobody raises their hand! You can ask if anyone understood 75% or more, or if anyone got 50% or more, etc. After the last listening, ask again. Most, if not all. of the students will have improved, giving them renewed confidence in their ability to learn from video.