How to use Video to Teach ESL to Adults

ESL is my thing. Having taught ESL/EFL in many parts of Asia and the USA, I have seen many interesting approaches to teaching the wonderful English language. I have also learned, from experience and schooling, that teaching adults as opposed to young people is a very different experience. So can video be used effectively to teach ESL to adults? Absolutely. Should it be the only thing you use in the adult ESL classroom? Absolutely not.

First off, video can be used effectively in the adult ESL classroom. Research has shown many times that the use of multi-media helps the students become engaged and stay engaged in the class. The movement, the natural language and the story all combine to provide an enjoyable context for learning. However, this learning requires great preparation from the teachers. A teacher simply should not walk into the ESL/EFL classroom and pop in a video. While there may be some language absorbed, adult learners need to be able to have language aspects and tasks focused on. So here is how I use video.

*I identify, in my lesson plan, a language task that we need to work on.

*I then identify a video that covers this. I like to use Spiderman and Lord of the Rings movies, by the way.

*The first thing I do is show the video clip. This engages the adult learners and also provides a context for the learning. They see the language task we will work on.

*With the students, I dissect the language used in the video.

*Then we learn what we need to and put it all back together. They practice the task with each other, then watch the video again. They feel empowered by suddenly understanding an entire video clip without subtitles.

*Finally we discuss and learn variations on the language we have just learned.

Now, video is a very fine tool in teaching listening and speaking, and sometimes grammar, but we need to remember that English is more than this. There are reading and writing skills to develop as well. There is not usually much reading with a video (no, subtitles do not count because reading an actual text is a different kind of task). Students can write about what they saw, however. So using a video can be a spectacular springboard into English, but we must remember that the teacher will need to have plenty of supplementary material so as to provide her students with a complete language experience.