Ten Video Prompts for English Class

Here are ten videos which can help students learn English writing skills.

Most videos are about 4 minutes in length. That means the majority of students should be able to complete a rough first draft in a single 50 minute period.

ESL Video Lesson Instructions

Explain the writing objectives.

  1. Choose a video for the lesson.
  2. Briefly review key words such as plot, character and setting.
  3. Watch the video once.
  4. Students write first draft of a summary which is factual a description of the plot, character and setting.
  5. The second part is student input. Depending on the video story, that could mean an interpretation of the message, an opinion about the ending, or discussion about the overall impact of the story.

1. ESL Video Prompt: Room 8 (5:45 minutes)

Room 8 is a wonderful, clever video prompt because it can stimulate interesting and philosophical questions about the meaning of life. In addition it requires students to be able to write their descriptions with considerable care and attention to detail.

The video is about 7 minutes long but actual in-class play time is about 5:45 minutes (the last two minutes or so are credits).

Imagination Series: Room 8 (3 of 5) from Bombay Sapphire on Vimeo.


2. ESL Video Prompt: Blind (4 minutes)

Blind is a Japanese video (with English subtitles) that presents a strong warning to the world, but that’s a message your students will have to figure out. The visual imagery is so compelling, your students will have no problems following the plot.

You may want to preteach some vocabulary before watching this video and then follow it up with a few comprehension check questions before students start drafting. Watch carefully, and you will see pictures of the three monkeys (hear no evil, see no evil, speak no evil). Ask students to explain the meaning of those subtle images.

1.  Vocabulary

  • commute, gas mask, radiation, filter, petition, radiation

2.  Quick Comprehension Check

  • Describe the people’s attitude regarding their circumstances.
  • Why is the young girl looking at the picture?
  • What’s wrong with the girl?
  • Why do they take off their masks?
  • What does the title of the video mean?

blind from YUKIHIRO SHODA on Vimeo.


3. ESL Video Prompt: Howl (6:30 minutes)

Howl is splendid black and white animation that works well with students from the higher grades in elementary school to adults. The video is a little long but over the years it has always prompted excellent written stories and student conversations.

1. Pre-teach Key Vocabulary

  • shadow, crawl, chew, growl, lamp post, moonlight, howl

2.  Quick Comprehension Check

  • What do you think about the mother?
  • Does the story have a message?


Howl from Natalie Bettelheim on Vimeo.


4. ESL Video Prompt: Decade (1:30 minutes)

Decade is a short video with a simple plot and a message that’s relevant to university students and adults. It basically asks us to consider what is the purpose of hard study and work.

Before watching, ask students to make notes about the different stages of life in the video.

a Decade from Treehouse Studio on Vimeo.



5. ESL Video Prompt: Ecirava (1:30 minutes)

Ecirava is short video that presents a simple story with an interesting time travel dimension.


ECIRAVA from Daisuke Kaneko on Vimeo.


Click to Next Page for more video prompts.

Looking for more innovative classroom activities?

Teach writing.

Get the ebook Teach Essential Writing Skills. Transform the quality of EFL student writing by focusing on four essential skills. Click here for details about the ebook that should be part of every writing teacher’s resource library.


Save time. Teach well.

Cut your lesson prep time with this colossal collection of ESL resources that stimulate language learning and critical thinking. Simplify your lesson planning because teaching should be a joy, not a chore.toolbox-front-cover-3d-book-8-8

1 thought on “Ten Video Prompts for English Class”

  1. Dear Rob,

    I love your work and have purchased all three of your e-books. Do you have any new books coming out soon? I am especially interested in more lessons which are based on watching short videos and completing a writing assignment based on those videos. That said, I would love to purchase any new materials that you create.



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