- Keywords: Writing, past tense
- Learner English level: Beginner and above
- Learner maturity: Junior high 2nd grade and above
- Preparation time: 30 minutes
- Activity time: 1 class/45 minutes
- Materials: Physical comedy video clip (10 minutes maximum), AV equipment, worksheet (see Appendix), whiteboard and marker
This is a fun writing activity that involves students writing up scenes from a video clip of physical comedy. This lesson can be tailored to any grade from J2 and up and to any writing level. It’s a great way for students to develop both their descriptive skills and the use of past tense in writing. Any type of short, non-verbal comedy video such as Mr. Bean clips will do just fine.
Step 1: Choose and prepare a short video clip that involves physical comedy. Clips can be accessed by legal download, online streaming, or on DVD.
Step 2: Make a note of any difficult vocabulary and unfamiliar cultural content that students might not know or recognize when writing about the video.
Step 3: Prepare your writing worksheets (see Appendix).
Step 4: Make sure that your equipment is working well.
Step 1: Explain to students that they will be watching a video today. Tell them to turn their mental English switches “ON,” because for the next 45 minutes, they will be fully immersed in the English world.
Step 2: Tell students that they will need to pay attention to what happens in the video, as they will be writing about it afterwards. Tell them that they should make notes of what they see using key words, as this will help them with their writing assignments.
Step 3: Give out the worksheets, and point out that the boxed sections are for vocabulary and brief notes only, while the lined area is for writing later on.
Step 4: Explain that you will help with some useful vocabulary before you begin, and students should make notes in the “Useful vocabulary” section of the worksheet. Elicit the relevant words (including past tenses of verbs), and write on the board for students to check spelling.
Step 5: Play the video, pausing after each scene.
Step 6: Monitor students’ reactions while the scene is playing. You should pay attention to areas that seem to cause confusion, so you can clarify later, if necessary.
Step 7: Once each scene is finished, get the students to pair up and share the notes they have written about the clip.
Step 8: Review each scene with the students as well as the key verbs and vocabulary encountered, to check that all students understand the clip.
Step 9: Give students the remainder of the lesson to work in pairs and write. Encourage them to discuss each scene with their partners and to collaborate on writing about them. Walk around the classroom to check on the writing and help out. Remind students to focus on past tense forms, as necessary.
Step 10: Collect the papers for correction and feedback.
This activity has always been a favourite of mine. Students who usually dislike or are uninterested in more traditional English class settings are often more engaged in this activity. It helps them to focus on descriptive writing skills and is a great way to refresh the use of past tense verbs. I find that all students try to write about what they have seen. They are not “studying English,” but simply retelling what happened in a physical comedy video clip they have enjoyed.
The appendix is available below.