This is the first of two posts about video. The first is looking at the exercise types we write for existing videos and the second will look at writing video scripts.

Once we have either chosen the video we want to work with (perhaps something on YouTube) or a video which we’ve been given to work with (from a publisher, for example), it’s time to start writing exercises. When it comes to using video, we tend to write two types of exercise: ones that exploit the visual aspects of the video and ones that exploit the language in the video.

Exercises about visuals

When students first watch a video, it makes sense that the visuals are the starting point. They provide less of a barrier to comprehension, and they often stimulate prediction and discussion – two useful ways to engage students’ interest at the beginning of a lesson. If it’s a video with interesting characters, your opening exercise might be to look at images of the main characters and ask:

What sort of people do you think they are? Think of five adjectives to describe them.

Alternatively, if the video has a strong narrative, then you can show five or six stills from  different stages of the video and ask:

What do you think happens in the video? Predict the correct order of these pictures.

To introduce language and key vocabulary, you can give a list of sentences and students put them in the correct order when they watch. So, an exercise might look like this:

Number these actions in the order you see them from 1 to 5. a. The woman cycles away. b. They go over the bridge. c. Someone follows on a scooter. d. He gives her the dropped bag. e. She is scared and screams.

Alternatively, you can add three extra actions to the above exercise and students tick the five actions they see out of eight.

Exercises about language

Normally, we ask students to watch the video again and, for the second viewing, we can ask them to focus on the language in the video. These often resemble the type of exercises you see written for listening materials. But listening to video and listening to audio is not the same because with one you are also watching a screen, with the other you can focus on the exercise on the page. So, if you do write traditional comprehension questions to check understanding, you might need to additional extra stages, such as:

1. Read the questions and then watch the video. 2. After the video, answer the questions in pairs. 3. Watch the video again to check your answers.

In other words, allow for the fact that it’s very hard to watch, listen and write at the same time. Be clear about making the watching process separate from trying to write answers. Alternatively, if you do decide to have students ‘watch and answer’, then maybe have fewer questions than you normally find a comprehension exercise.

Exercises to create videos

After students have completed our exercises for watching the visuals and listening for language, we typically give them follow-on tasks like ‘Write a summary of what you saw’ or ‘Discuss the topic of the video’. However, asking students to create their own video is a realistic option these days. Many students can use their own phones to make videos and a lot of students are already making video content for social media, so it makes sense to integrate this into a lesson. In addition, take advantage of the language practice that can occur before filming with planning stage discussion questions like this:

Work in groups. Plan and discuss the following: How many actors will you need?Where will you film it?How long will it be?Who will write the script?Who will edit it? etc.

You can also suggest the groups write their plans and notes in two columns like this while discussing. It helps them to think about the visuals and the language at each stage of the video, and it means they have something written down in English:

TimingWhat do we see?What do we hear?

If you have experience of writing exercises for lessons with video, why not share them below? And look out for a future A-Z Post about writing scripts for videos.


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