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4 Creative Ways to Use Silent Video Clips in English Class

October 26, 2022

I stumbled upon a treasure trove of inspiration while writing my last blog post on using video in class.

I hadn’t realized that Ellii has more than 60 silent video clips spanning across categories like Body Language and Holidays & Celebrations. Each clip is about 10 seconds long and shows different gestures and facial expressions as well as holiday-themed traditions, like blowing out birthday candles, attending a wedding reception, and more!

I was immediately bursting with teaching ideas.

Here are four creative and beneficial ways you can use silent video clips with your students to help improve their English fluency.

1. Activate schemata

Whenever I hear the term "activate schemata," it takes me back to my CELTA (Certificate in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages) course. Only teachers would use such an odd-sounding technical term for such a simple concept!

To make things simple, people learn better when they connect prior knowledge to new information.

The process of schema activation is a key element of the English language classroom. It’s an opportunity to make the lesson relatable and get students thinking about what they already know about a topic.

Silent video clips are perfect for this.

Video not playing? Your school might be blocking Vimeo, our video hosting platform. Please ask your administrator to whitelist vimeo.com.

Many of Ellii's silent video clips are related to body language and emotions, including some of their holiday-themed videos. An easy way to start teaching about body language is to choose a clip and ask students to consider how that person feels and a possible reason for this.


You could play the Pleased clip as a lead-in to the Amy Passes Her Test lesson, and then ask students to consider other gestures or responses to someone telling you good news. This could then lead to a role-play activity.

2. Teach emotions

Silent clips are the perfect way to have a bit of fun teaching emotions.

Here are three simple steps on how to teach emotions using silent videos:

  1. Open a selection of videos in different tabs, being careful not to show the text at the bottom of the video.
  2. Play each clip and ask students to think of different emotions it may portray. Encourage students to think of synonyms (e.g., the Happy clip could mean "delighted," "cheerful," "good," or "content").
  3. Take it one step further by facilitating discussions around what makes your students have certain emotions (e.g., "I feel happy when I listen to music" or "I’m delighted when I see my cousins.")

3. Improve intercultural communication

Ellii's silent video clips show various gestures and ways of expressing emotions. Their usage may vary in different cultures and parts of the world. For instance, what may be an innocent thumbs up to mean "good" or "happy" may be insulting in certain countries.

This can be a particularly interesting discussion in a multicultural class. Show students silent video clips and ask them to discuss what each gesture means in countries they know well. In a monocultural class, ask them to search online for information.

You could then ask students to also consider how they may respond to someone from another culture making a seemingly inappropriate gesture. This is a great way to raise awareness of global communication differences and encourage understanding. You could also practice friendly ways of explaining these differences to others.


Teacher: "What does this gesture mean to you?"
Student: "It is rude where I’m from, but maybe it means something different here?"

4. Have fun!

When I first saw these silent video clips, I was amused at just how fun they are. You could have a few clips open and ready to play at different points throughout the class.

Here are a few examples of how to do just that:

  • When a student does something well, play the Happy Dance clip. You could ask other students to add their own sounds to accompany it!
  • You could add a bit of humor to encourage students to do something you really need them to do by using the Pleading clip.
  • If you’d like students to be quiet or you need them to keep certain information secret for an activity, you could show the Secretive clip.
Now it's your turn!

These are just a few of my ideas. I’d really love to know yours. How do you use slient video clips in your English class? Share your ideas in the comments below!

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