“My students are not very keen on writing. They love watching videos, however. How can I combine video and writing tasks so that my students find writing a little more enjoyable?” *
There are tasks and activities students enjoy more. There are tasks and activities they enjoy less. And writing in particular is usually a big chore. Let’s face it. Writing is hard work! But you can make writing less of a chore and more of a pleasure with some of these video tasks.
Try these 7 Writing Tasks with the Use of Video
ESL students are very familiar with subtitles, after all, they often watch movies and TV shows with English subtitles. But let’s make things more interesting, shall we? Play a short video for your class, perhaps a snippet or one scene from a movie or program. Play it once with no audio so students can get the gist from the action onscreen. Now tell students they will write the subtitles for the video, i.e. the conversation they imagine the characters are having. Students may work individually or in groups/pairs. Play the video again and pause to give them a chance to write their subtitles. Walk around and assist as needed. When they’re all finished, play the video with the audio so they can compare their scripts to the real one.
Tip: Choose a scene that is easy to caption, for example, a customer asking for/returning something in a store or someone asking for directions. For higher levels, play videos that pose a greater challenge, for example, of two people who seem to be having an argument.
Play a short video with no audio and have students later write a description of what they saw. This is a great way to practice prepositions of place or vocabulary used to describe people.
Tip: Choose videos that are full of interesting details, like a messy or cluttered room/office, or a family gathering.
A Difficult Dilemma
Play a video, then pause it at a strategic moment. Before you play the rest of the video students must write about how they would proceed - a great way to practice conditionals. Once they are done writing, play the rest of the video so students can see what happens next.
Tip: Choose videos where the protagonist must face a decision, for example, a man finds a wallet on the floor, or someone witnesses a burglary. Pause the video right after the person sees the robbery. Students must write about how they would proceed: would they try to stop the burglar or call the police? Why?
Quite often we use creative writing prompts to get students to write. But sometimes an image, or in this case, a scene, can say a thousand words. Play a very brief snippet of a scene, just a few seconds, and have students use that to write a story.
Tip: Show a scene where there is someone who clearly looks worried about something. Students must write what is going on in this person’s mind. Another great option is to have them place themselves in this person’s shoes and write a journal/diary entry.
Play a video of a business presentation. Students watch the video as they take notes. Next, they write a summary of the presentation in their own words.
Tip: Choose a presentation that covers a topic you’ve discussed in class or something your students are familiar with. See for example, this video on marketing. After watching this video, students should be able to summarize the concepts set forth in the presentation.
Script it, Then Act it out!
Divide students into pairs and have each pair write out a dialogue for a common everyday situation, like ordering a meal at a restaurant. Then, students study their lines and a third student records them acting it out on video. The process of writing out their lines is particularly useful in lower levels where students may not have the confidence to act out a role play with no previous preparation.
Tip: Use a cell phone to record the role play. If it’s very short (up to 15 seconds) students can upload it and share it on Instagram for the whole class to see.
Write a Review
YouTube is filled with videos your class may write a review for. Have them see a commercial for a product and write a review for it, based on their impressions. You may also show them one episode of a popular series, a comedy sketch or a musical number and have your students review the performances.
Tip: Lots of people post videos on YouTube of themselves playing a musical instrument, dancing or singing a cover of a popular song. Are they any good? Have your class give their honest opinions and write a complete review.
We no longer rely on TV sets and VCRs to show videos to our classes. We can show videos on laptops, tablets or cell phones. Video lessons used to be this big thing that needed lots of careful planning, because we needed big equipment. But with the newest technologies on our side, we can easily share or show short videos or snippets, and engage students in all kinds of activities. So put a spin on your writing practice and combine it with videos that will engage and entertain your class.
* This question was sent in from a real ESL teacher, just like you! If you need any advice on a particular topic, share your question in the comments below. Or tweet your question to @busyteacher_org with the hashtag #ESLTeachersAsk. Your question might get picked and featured in an article!