Short films – Simple lesson activities

Do you incorporate short films into lessons? I love doing it, and try to save any clips, adverts or short films that I think might prove useful for learning.

Since I have worked in schools with unreliable internet connections, I do not rely on YouTube. I use Keep Vid to download videos. Another benefit of downloading video is not having to endure the irritating adverts and pop ups on YouTube.

“Teacher, pleeaase can we watch a film today?”

If your students are anything like mine, they often beg to watch films, but in my experience, watching full length films is generally unsuccessful. Firstly, it is hard to find one that is both suitable for language learners and content appropriate (don’t ask me about East is East. Or do, but buy me a drink. )
East is East: Great film, but not one I recommend using in class!

Another good reason to avoid long films is that students get bored very quickly. It is difficult for the current generation to concentrate for a long time (never mind in L2). Finally, using long films is a waste of precious class time.

On the other hand, short films can be great sources of language input. I have long been a follower of Film English and recommend it, although many of the videos suggested are more suitable for higher level students so require adapting for lower levels.

Recently I have been using ESL Video. Its premise is simple. Anybody can join for free, and create their own quizzes based around short videos (you can use ones from YouTube or Vimeo). Teachers can then invite students to play the quizzes and send their scores.

I have created six quizzes based on short films. Four of them are actually Christmas advertisements, which I love. British companies produce some really great ads at this time of year, which manage to tell a complete story in just a few minutes. These short films have a lot of potential for language learning. They may look childish but I have used these with adult learners and they really liked them.

You can click on any of the links below to try the quizzes.

mog          bear-t
      Mog’s Christmas Calamity                                        Coming Home

justino       oh                                  Christmas Lottery                                                      The Journey

I took the students to the computer lab and provided them with the link and my ‘teacher code’, which they have to enter to send their scores. They had some time to choose the quizzes they wanted to do, watch the videos and answer the questions.

There are hundreds of videos on the site, but they are of varying quality (apart from mine of course!) I generally teach low levels, so all of my videos are aimed at beginner to pre-intermediate level students. That is not to say that higher level students may not enjoy them, but you may wish to skip the focus on the quiz and use the films as prompts for writing or discussion.

Now that most students have smartphones, a computer lab may not even be necessary – although I would recommend the use of headphones or it can be too noisy.

I then set the class homework: their task was to find a film of three minutes or less that they found interesting (I banned music videos) and create their own quiz. They then shared their work, and had to complete at least one classmate’s quiz.

There are many other activities you could do with short films, such as retelling the story, doing role plays or hot seating, writing alternative endings, getting students to create their own short adverts or dramas. But for lessons leading up to the holiday season, when we are all a bit tired, sometimes it is nice to have some ready made activities out there that almost run themselves.

Do you have any favourite short films you use in class?


3 thoughts on “Short films – Simple lesson activities

  1. I love using Christmas ads with classes – I used the Sainsbury’s Christmas ad this year (The Greatest Gift) in contrast with the 2015 ad by Harvey Nichols (Avoid #GiftFace) as a springboard for a discussion on the value of Christmas. Other than YouTube videos for listening comprehension (on a particular topic, e.g. counterculture, fairtrade etc.) I like using short clips from TV shows, though finding relevant extracts can be time-consuming. The Office and The Apprentice have some comical clips which can provide light entertainment in business English classes though.


      1. They’re quite good for discussing the meaning of Christmas since they offer opposing messages, my classes last week found them entertaining 🙂 I loved the Heathrow Airport one you featured, I found it more endearing than the John Lewis one this year!


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