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The Silent Film Challenge

August 25, 2021

People learn new languages in order to share ideas and opinions. However, communicating effectively in another language can be challenging for low-level students who don't yet have confidence in their ability to express their thoughts. But why not turn that challenge into a game?

One of my favorite lower-level activities is something I like to call the "Silent Film Challenge." This is a great activity for practicing both speaking and listening skills. Here's how it works:


Choose two short videos or films that contain little or no dialogue. The videos should be no longer than five minutes. (YouTube is a treasure trove for short clips.) Make sure you don't choose something well known that the students will already be familiar with or the activity will be too easy. The activity works best if the two videos are completely unrelated to each other.

The Activity

  1. Divide the class into pairs (Student A and Student B). Have all the Student Bs step into the hallway. Make sure they can't see or hear what's happening in the classroom.
  2. Play the first video for the remaining students in the classroom. Students can request to watch the clip again, if needed, but they should not take notes. The idea is to rely entirely on their memories as well as their speaking skills.
  3. Bring the Student Bs back into the classroom and tell them to find their partner. Now, it is each Student A's job to explain the video clip to their partner. Give them a few minutes to do this.
  4. After the Student As have described the video to the Student Bs, choose a Student B at random to describe the clip, which they haven't seen themselves, based on their partner's description. After they've explained a small chunk of the clip, point to a different Student B and have them continue the explanation until all the Student Bs have had a chance to add to it.
  5. Play the video again with all the students present. (Student Bs tend to particularly enjoy this part since they can compare their understanding with what actually happens in the video.)
  6. Have partners switch roles. Repeat the activity using the second video, but this time, have the Student Bs stay in the classroom while the Student As wait outside.

I like to end this activity with a little self-assessment. Ask your students which parts of the videos they found easy to explain or describe. Which parts were difficult? Ideally, you can repeat the activity several times throughout the term and ask students if they see any improvement in their own skills.

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Comments (4)

Keke M.(Teacher)

This is a great idea for an activity! Thank you for sharing this Lara.

Reply to Comment

Lei Kayanuma(Author)

Hello, Keke! Thanks for your comment. I'll be sure to pass on your feedback to Lara!

Rob H.(Teacher)

Great idea. Sounds like fun, and like a great learning experience.

Reply to Comment

Lei Kayanuma(Author)

Thanks for your comment, Rob!

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