Experiences of an English Language Teacher

The Use of Video in the Classroom

Last Friday, I decided to use a video in the classroom for the first time in a long time.  I have often found the use of videos quite a difficult task in itself.  It is rather difficult trying to use videos for language points or for more focused tasks.  Nonetheless, I decided to show “Love Actually”, a video set during Christmas with a wide range of actors and actresses, and had set some tasks for my Young Adults to complete during the watching of the movie.  The movie itself was quite long, about 2 hours in length with some great scenes which reflected the spirit of Christmas.

The initial task that I set the learners at the beginning of the class was to complete a gapfill exercise.  The first two scenes include a scene at what is assumed Heathrow Airport and then the second scene is in a music studio with Rock & Roll Legend, Billy Mack.  Get the learners to complete the handout below by themselves, before pairing them up to check their answers and finally eliciting the correct answers.

Love Actually – Intro Scenes

The second task that I set for learners was for them to complete a character matching exercise: match the character and their job/occupation.  Before watching the movie, we studied up on various occupations (housekeeper, housemaid, etc) and then I handed out a matching worksheet after the initial activity for learners to complete (which is below).  As there were a number of different characters/names, it was difficult work for students to learn about them and their occupations.  The learners were listening intensively to the dialogue and for any clues.  To check that they were listening with the first activity, I elicited the name of the Rock & Roll Legend (Billy Mack) and then told learners that they had to complete the rest of the matching activity whilst they watched the rest of the movie.

Love Actually – Characters

At one scene in the movie, where Mark and Juliet meet to discuss about a video from a wedding (about the first two minutes of the scene with the YouTube video below), I paused the movie and elicited their names.  I then went on to say that they are going to watch the next scene with Mark and Juliet with no sound and they have to predict/guess what they are saying.  I handed out a blank script and the learners will have to complete the script to the best of their ability.  It was mentioned that it made no difference whether they attempted to complete it and was wrong as it was all good practice.  I played the video and I was acting as a human remote control and learners were telling me: “pause”, “rewind”, “fast forward”, etc.  The scene was played a number of times until learners were happy to complete the activity and then act the scene out.  There was a lot of laughing and the students really got into the scene.

Love Actually – Script Juliet and Mark

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YVAda1ZF-3s]

Next, I played the scene with the sound off and then just the subtitles so that they could see what things were similar or different to their script.  We then played the video with the sound on and the subtitles off.  It was a wonderful activity and were quite responsive.  In the second lesson of the week, we continued with the movie and watched the ending.  I handed out a worksheet for learners to complete and it was a character summarisation.  Learners had to choose one character from the movie and write about him/her.  Luckily, all learners chose someone different and they had a look on Wikipedia or other websites to learn a bit more about their chosen character.  Fortunately, they decided not to plagiarise from Wikipedia and their writing was commendable.

Love Actually – About a Character

As I mentioned earlier in the blog post, it was the first time that I had used a movie in class to any success and the learners were quite responsive to this.  The was an opportunity for creative writing, writing about people, as well as an opportunity to act a scene out (although I have one boy and seven girls: some of the girls were quite happy to go Shakespeare and pretend to be Mark).  Anyhow, have you used videos in class before?  What activities do you include when showing a video in class?  Do you try to focus on the grammatical aspects of English when showing a video?  Do you have any advice for me when I show videos in class in the future?  It would be wonderful to hear from my readers so that I could consider them in the future.


  1. Adam

    Hi Martin. Thanks for sharing your lesson and your materials. I used to show films occasionally and was never particularly satisfied with the result.

    These days I stick to short video clips, either ones which I find on YouTube or ones that I prepare myself. My main purpose is to exemplify concepts contained in a long reading or listening I have to do as part of the syllabus. A three-minute clip followed by discussion works well, followed by another clip that either contradicts the first clip or offers additional info, which can then be used to build up knowledge of a topic. These can then be used to compare the knowledge gained with that presented in the longer syllabus material. Language work tends to evolve out of what has been viewed, so I choose clips that are 'high' on visual input and 'low' on language.

  2. Hi Martin,

    Like Adam, I never used long clips/whole films.

    With business classes found (great) British TV commercials worked by far the best. There's the humour, music, & often lack of actual product. If the product does feature, often only at the end or with a tag line – so stop short and seek predictions for product…and once identified (sound off) work up a punch line.

    Aus & NZ commercials also very good, especially beer, chocolate & cars! Sources v easy – youtube & classic ads via google. My faves = Carling Black Label dam busters, Renault 5 as a transformer, Aussie Mars bars.

    Language generated will work with your DOGME likes – loads of prediction & good ESOL exam prep too – agreeing/disagreeing etc.

    Think anything more than a couple of minutes students zone out/want to watch the movie! Use the movie screening as a payoff to reading the graded reader (eg Love Actually > Penguin) or an intro to the reader?

    Obviously, written follow up = book report or something like you already did with fave characters or something – maybe who would they cast from class as the characters, which music they'd use for each etc?

    NB. Supply popcorn for film night!


  3. Thanks for sharing this Martin. I've bookmarked it as a good lesson for the last week before Christmas when the students are there in body but not in mind!

  4. Adam, thank you for your invaluable comment.

    There are some interesting ideas that you suggest about showing one clip, then following this up with another clip to prompt some form of debate. I have used short clips before from YouTube but for me, it was the first time that I showed a movie for the class. There is the possible assertion that showing a movie is equal to being a 'lazy teacher'. For example, the teacher puts on the DVD and then sits in the corner while the students watch. Granted it is a passive activity, but I tried to make the watching of the movie as active as possible: the matching of names to professions, the Mark & Juliet scene, etc.

    Nevertheless, showing clips that are “'high' on visual input and 'low' on language” are extremely beneficial and I have shown Mr Bean clips which are a great example of this. A good example of this was using Mr Bean to assist the teaching and learning of articles: https://www.eltexperiences.com/2012/06/teaching-articles-to-teenagers-adult.html

  5. Thank you Jim for your reply. I was in a similar mindset with Andy with regards to the showing of whole films but I did try to liven up the learning/active purpose of watching a whole movie. Some wonderful suggestions about screening movies before learners read the graded reader version.

    Ahh, I forgot the popcorn for my students!

  6. Let me know in the near future how the Xmas lesson gets on with the video.

  7. Leo

    Hi Martin
    I use both short (Youtube) clips in class and whole films divided into short segments which we watch over the whole course / semester. I really liked your activities because I've been thinking about using Love Actually with a group of upper-intermediate students. I'd love to incorporate these into my course, with your permission.
    Thank you!

  8. You are more than welcome to use any of my lesson ideas/worksheets. I suppose “Love Actually” is a wonderful film to show at Christmas as well.

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