Speaking and writing activities based on a video clip

Mike Lidgley, Tokai University

Quick Guide

  • Key words: Information gap, interviews
  • Learner English level: Low intermediate and above
  • Learner maturity level: Junior high school and above
  • Preparation time:20 minutes
  • Activity time: Up to two 90-minute classes
  • Materials: 3-minute video clip of a scene from an old movie, VHS or DVD player


Video recordings have long been recognized as a motivating and entertaining source of material for helping students develop their listening, discussion, and essay writing skills, as well as for teacher training, development, and student assessment (Daniels 2004, Humphries & Takeuchi 2004). In this activity, students will complete an activity that practices all these skills by watching a 3-minute clip from an old movie.



Prepare a transcript of your video clip and white-out key vocabulary.



Step 1:Tell the students they are going to be working in pairs with one as witness of an incident (on video) and the other as detective. The detectives will not see the incident, but will have to produce a detailed written report based on their interviews with the witnesses. It is therefore their responsibility to interrogate the witnesses thoroughly.

Step 2:Elicit a list of six likely questions that the detectives might ask, and write them on the board, such as:

  • Where did it take place?
  • How many people were there?
  • What did they look like?
  • What were they wearing?
  • How old were they?
  • What time was it?
  • What happened exactly?

Step 3:Elicit that while the action is taking place, the witnesses mostly use the present continuous. However, once the action has stopped and the video paused, they must use the past tense.

Step 4:Rearrange the students so that they are sitting in pairs facing each other with the detective’s back to the screen. This arrangement allows the witness to explain what is happening on screen in real time while the detective takes notes.

Step 5:Play the first minute of the clip with the sound down.

Step 6:Switch off the video player and tell students to conduct their interrogations and note taking for several minutes. Move around the room and help out weaker students.

Step 7:Elicit a report of the action so far from the detectives only and write it on the board. Then ask the witnesses to add, change, or confirm the details.

Step 8:Have the witnesses and detectives exchange roles and repeat Steps 5, 6, and 7 with the second minute of the video clip.

Step 9:(optional writing activity): Students brainstorm in pairs or small groups what has happened and is going to happen next, then write the story up as a narrative to be shared and compared with the class (with a class blog, for example).

Step 10:All students now watch the third minute of the video clip.

Step 11:Watch the entire clip again with the sound up and have the students complete the cloze exercise print based on the transcript.



This can be used successfully (with slight modifications) with a wide range of students and levels, including groups of trainee teachers. Old films tend to work best since the students are less likely to have seen them, and because they tend to use longer takes that give the students more time to speak (although the pause button can also be used for this).



Daniels, P. (2004) TLT Wired: Video Bytes II, The Language Teacher, 28(1).

Humphries, S., & Takeuchi, H. (2004) Discussion and presentation based on watching a movie, The Language Teacher, 28(3).