If you want to help your students improve their listening comprehension, nothing works better than videos.
But this begs the question: which movies/TV shows should we show them in class? Clearly this is not a case of “anything goes”, particularly with young learners who often lack enough vocabulary to understand a full-length feature film in English. So, to eliminate the guesswork on your part, here is a list of the best videos to show your young learners - movies and shows that will not only entertain them, they will also help them hone those listening skills!
Try These Shows & Movies for Your Next Children's ESL Video Lesson
The American children’s TV series has produced solid, educational content for over 40 years. The series features short segments, videos, and songs targeted to very young children, content that is highly appropriate for young English learners of ages 3-5. The best part about the Sesame Street videos is that teachers can access them in multiple ways. SesameStreet.org has a Video page where you can access very short video segments that help children polish their counting skills, for example, or say the alphabet in English, among many others. Most of the videos are less than a minute long and are great fillers or ways to complete an activity.
Dr. Seuss’ books and silly rhymes have entertained children for decades. His work is also available on video, and though most of it is fantastical and features characters that are out of this world, the rhymes are great for pronunciation practice. Also, most stories have an important message you can discuss with you class; with this movie review worksheet , you can watch The Lorax with your class and discuss the effects of pollution and the importance of preserving our trees. Or watch this short excerpt about the Sneetches: it presents a very relevant discussion point regarding prejudice and discrimination.
Charlie Brown is a boy that most children can easily relate to. He has a group of friends he likes to play baseball with, and has a dog – a very special one. Snoopy is not your typical canine buddy, but we would love to have a dog like him. This is why the Peanuts cartoons have fascinated children of all ages for decades. Several movies and TV specials have been made based on the Peanuts gang, the most popular and the best ones to watch with your ESL class being the holiday specials like It’s the Easter Beagle, Charlie Brown, It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown, or A Charlie Brown Christmas.
YouTube has come a long way from being simply the video sharing site where we could watch people’s home videos, jokes and silly gags. Thousands of videos with educational content are uploaded on a daily basis by ESL teachers and schools. A quick search should give you dozens of options to watch with your class. One noteworthy YouTube channel is DJCKidsMedia. The children’s book and DVD publisher has a YouTube channel filled with short, engaging videos that can teach your young learners to tell time, count to 10, or phonics for the letters of the alphabet. Be sure to check out this YouTube channel and others, but before you show your class any video on YouTube, make sure you see it first to check for any inappropriate content.
Animated Classics and Feature Films
As far as animated or feature-length children’s films go, the sky’s the limit. There is a large variety to choose from, but for the purposes of your ESL class, please remember the following. It’s essential that you choose a movie, not only for the entertainment value, but one that is a good fit for your student’s ages and levels. As these movies are longer, you may opt to show just one scene or a few, and not the entire film. If you choose any of the classics you may have the added advantage that your students will probably have already seen them in their native language, thus giving them better chances of following the plot and dialogue.
Some of the classics we recommend are:
Charlie and the Chocolate Factory – BusyTeacher.org has this great worksheet for you to use.
Always have a lesson plan for a video lesson, or make sure the video fits into one. Never show a video “just because”; even if it is a 2-minute filler, it should still serve a purpose within your lesson goal, like review something they’ve been practicing, like the alphabet, for example. If you want to take an entire class hour for a video lesson, that’s fine, just makes sure you allow plenty of time for your students to complete a warm up (previewing activities), as well as viewing and post viewing activities. For more information on how to plan top-notch, highly-educational video lessons, read our article English Video Lessons: Winning Strategies for the ESL Classroom.
Always remember: this is not about you simply showing a video to your class. This is about maximizing their learning opportunities and helping them hone their listening skills. If you manage to give them a special treat with a fun movie at the same time – so much the better!
If you need more ideas for videos to watch with your class, or simply don’t have time to plan a video lesson, we’ve got you covered! Just head to our Movie + Video + Cartoons Section and you’ll find over 200 worksheets you can use.
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