A video is a tool which we have been using in our classrooms for quite a while. Short clips and stories are now integrated with almost all coursebooks. Even if not — thank goodness, we have YouTube and Vimeo.
This article will tell about just one kind of films – short films or shorts. As one can guess, they are movies which are usually not longer than 30 minutes. Some of them might be even 2-3 minutes long. This is enough to grab viewers’ attention and deliver the message. And this is just perfect to watch with your teenage students.
- Teenagers have a shorter attention span than adults. It might be hard for them to focus on a long movie, especially if it is in a foreign language which they’ve just started learning. Short films don’t have lengthy intros and have a good chance of grabbing teens’ attention straight away. So, their concentration will be much higher. Also, you can re-watch the video several times with a different focus or activity in mind and don’t spend the whole lesson on that.
- Many short films have limited dialogues. Your lower-level teens will benefit from that as they won’t have to struggle with every third word. As a result, they will enjoy a sense of achievement because of watching and understanding a full video in English. With higher levels, it offers room for creativity: they can extend the dialogues, write their own ones, or think of a spin-off.
- Short films are original. Probably, your students will not be familiar with a short film you’ve chosen, unlike classical movies such as Harry Potter or Hunger Games. This originality can lead to more genuine interest and stronger responses from students. Not least, short stories quite often have an open ending which makes them a great springboard for speaking and writing activities.
With short films, a choice of activities is just endless. You can always use them to teach new vocabulary or grammar, but that’s not all. Below you will find more ideas of how to incorporate a short video into your lesson.
- Use it as a lead-in. Play a short film which introduces the topic of the lesson in the first few minutes of the class. Ask students to share how they feel about the video in pairs or make up a couple of comprehension questions. It’s a good way for teens to tune in to the lesson and switch to English.
- Play a film without sound. Ask students to guess what the characters are saying judging by the setting, body language and facial expressions. They can even write their own scripts in pairs and act them out. When all the versions are presented, watch the video again with the sound on. The script closest to the original version wins. This way of watching activates creative thinking and gives another chance to practise speaking and writing skills.
- Act vice versa: switch the screen off and turn the whole thing into a listening activity first. First, students listen and think about the visual part. They can do it individually. Help them with a little handout with questions:
- Who are the characters?
- What’s their relationship?
- What do they look like?
- What’s the setting?
- What country are they in?
Then, they discuss what they have in pairs or small groups. Before actually watching the video, let them exchange their handouts with each other and tick every bit of information that matches with the film story.
- As a possible follow-up activity, ask teens to write a review or, even better, record it and post in social networks.
Where to find?
The web is full of clips and movies of all lengths and genres. Some of them come accompanied by lesson plans, others go as they are. Below you will find links to some collections. A little piece of advice: always watch a film you’ve selected until the very end before the class. It will save you from quite possible uncomfortable moments from inappropriate events or language in the lesson.
http://film-english.com/ – a website of Kieran Donaghy, teacher and teacher trainer, which offers a great selection of short films to use in language teaching.
https://www.shortoftheweek.com/ – short films of all genres, length and genre specified.
https://www.filmsshort.com/ – one more collection of best shorts. You can instantly see the country of origin, genre and if the film has any dialogues or is silent.
https://viralelt.wordpress.com/ – viral videos in language teaching and how to use them.
http://learnenglishteens.britishcouncil.org/uk-now/film-uk/ – a British Council website which gives students the opportunity to watch short films made by young people, and do a variety of activities based on the films.
All in all, short films are a valuable, authentic addition to the lesson which appeals to visual learners and can get students to talk. Well worth trying out, isn’t it?