More ESL Video Prompts

Short videos are great prompts in the ESL conversation and writing classes. Here are three fine videos to add your collection of classroom resources.


How to Use Video in the ESL Class

I use short videos in different ways.

In the conversation class.

In the ESL conversation class, I use them as part of a pair work speaking activity. That means I need two short videos. Here is the lesson flow.

  1. Get two videos ready to show. I prefer videos in the 2-5 minute range in order to complete the activity in one period.
  2. Put students in pairs; each student is A or B.
  3. For short videos (like 1-2 minutes) ask one student to turn around and not watch the video. The other partner watches the clip.
  4. For longer videos, I ask A students to go out of the classroom and return 5 minutes later.
  5. Student A watches the video and makes notes. Their objective is to make a nice detailed summary of the video story. That includes character, plot and setting. Occasionally, I will give students specific questions to answer like, “What is the message of the story?”
  6. Student B returns and sits with a partner. Students makes a summary. Student B asks questions.
  7. Show video again.
  8. Next, ask A students to leave and show different video to Student B. Repeat process.


In the writing class.

The objective of the writing assignment varies with the class level.

In lower level classes, I ask students to write a summary of the video. The structure is simple and organized. It might be one paragraph each for characters, setting and plot. If the students are up for a small challenge, I ask them to say if they liked the video with reasons.

For higher levels, or brighter students, I expect a little more. I move up the cognitive demand ladder and ask them to be a little more interpretative.

In addition, to a basic summary, I ask them to:

  • identify and discuss analogies in the video
  • describe and evaluate the story’s message
  • describe personal reactions


Video for the ESL Class

Here are three new videos that I have discovered recently.

The Employment

An interesting story, though not a happy one. The Employment has a long intro, so start the video around 0:43. It ends around 5:40. There is no dialogue in the story.

The video is filled with humans performing certain functions, so there is a lot of vocabulary to absorb if you want to focus on that. The story is rich in metaphors, so be sure to preteach that word.

El Empleo / The Employment from opusBou on Vimeo.


A Single Life

An interesting story with some word play in the title. Be sure to ask students how the meaning of the title evolves through the story. No dialogue in the story.

It’s a good video for ESL students because they have to explain connections between two different things over time. Maybe ask students if there is a message in the story and mention this idiom: “Time to wake up and smell the roses.”


A Single Life from Job, Joris & Marieke on Vimeo.


 Table 7

There’s lots of dialogue in this short video set inside a Chinese restaurant, but that’s just a distraction. The real story is what takes place in the basement.

Table 7 – short film from Marko Slavnic on Vimeo.


More Resources

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