The Internet TESL Journal

Ideas on Using Videos

Donna Tatsuki, Nishinomiya, Japan
tatsuki [at]

Don't Believe Everything You Hear: Agatha Christie Gives Notetaking a New Twist

Materials: Agatha Christie Murder Mystery Games; "The Scoop" or "Behind the Screen".
Goals: Encourages notetaking of facts, hunches and other information conveyed linguistically, paralinguistically and non-linguistically.
Level: Intermediate to Advanced
To Play: Listen to testimony, interviews, and private conversations to collect evidence in a murder case. The video is divided into short segments. At the end of each segment is a decision point where the truth of the preceeding information is determined by the flip of a coin. After all the evidence has been heard, players can formulate their hypotheses (in writing) regarding guilt and innocence.
Hint: Provide the learners with a grid to fill in information for each interaction. eg.

Facts (W5)

TV News
murder of stewardess
knife, drugs
no prints
pro hitman

phone call from
new evidence


After players have written their one or two page explanation accounting for all the evidence, compare them with the official version provided. There are sixteen different solutions based on the true/false decision points.

I purchased this game at a TOYS 'R' US in Canada for Cdn$49.99 ( about \6000 at that time). If you can not find it here or don't have a kind relative do some overseas shopping for you, write to:

Parker Brothers
P.O. Box 1012,
Beverly, MA
USA 01915

Using Video to Activate Schema: Giving Instructions and Sharing Recipes

LEVEL: Beginners, Adults
MATERIALS: Movie "Tanpopo" by Juzo Itami or any scene that shows how to make something, blank chart
TIME: 20 minutes
This activity is designed to activate learners' knowledge of giving instructions by providing a visual context. The scene from "Tanpopo" is suggested because it contains no dialogue; the whole scene is accomplished to the sound of ragtime music. It is quite funny.

  1. Find the scene in the movie where the tramp demonstrates how to make omlette rice and show it to the class.
  2. Ask the students to tell you what they saw. Together (or in groups) fill out the chart. Begin by remembering the ingredients in the order they appeared. Link the ingredients to the verbs used.
  3. Using the vocabulary generated in the chart, ask the students to write out instructions in paragraph form.
  4. Encourage students to use the chart device to plan another assignment "How to make_____" (recipe of their choice).


saute/stir fry
pour, mix
beat,fry, toss, cut

first, second,
then,next,after that,

Hollywood Newsreels: A Real Challenge

Materials: Eyewitness VCR Newsreel Challenge by Parker Brothers, Hollywood newsreels or news broadcasts.
  1. Divide the class into teams of 4-5 people.
  2. View the segment concentrating on images only.
  3. Make up two questions based upon what was seen. nb. The team must know the answers for the questions they make up.
  4. View the video again this time concentrating on the narrative.
  5. Create two questions based on what was heard.
  6. In the first round, each team will ask one of their prepared questions. Any team may answer an receive a point for a correct answer. If no team can answer, the asking team gets the point.
  7. In round two, another of the prepared questions is asked. If in the first round a team asked one of their visually-based questions, then they must used an audio- based question in this round and vice versa. Scoring is as before.
  8. If for some reason a team disagrees with the asking team's answer, they can challenge it. To judge which answer is correct, everyone views the clip again. Which ever team is right (asking or challenging team) gets two points.
I have found that setting time limits for constructing questions and negotiating answers helps to keep things moving. In some clips the narrative is very fast so the teams may need to hear them twice.


  1. watch and check off objects seen, expressions heard form a list.
  2. count the number of times word X is said, object X appears, character performs X action, etc.
  3. watch for its news informational value. Summarize the topic or main points of the clip eg. names,

A Film For All Seasons: Cultural Capsules in Cinema

Video is the next best thing to being there. Maybe it's better. It's certainly cheaper to bring the world to learners than to bring learners out into the world, even on a short excursion. These are just a few movie titles that provide a "taste" of fixed holidays like Christmas and moveable festivities like Birthdays.


Easter: Steel Magnolias, Easter Parade, It's the Easter Beagle, Charlie Brown


July Fourth: Gung Ho, Born on the Fourth of July Fairs: Big, Sleeping With The Enemy, Mask


Thanksgiving: About Last Night, Hannah and Her Sisters, Parenthood, A Charlie BrownThanksgiving


E.T., It's the Great Pumpkin Charlie Brown


Christmas: Silent Partner, Gremlins, Die Hard I & II, Stella, Mame, White Christmas, Scrooged, Kramer vs. Kramer, One Magic Christmas, Miracle on 34th Street, Falling in Love, It's a Wonderful Life, Home Alone, National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation, A Charlie Brown Christmas

New Year's:

About Last Night, When Harry Met Sally, Ghostbusters II



Sixteen Candles, Stella, Parenthood

Weddings & Anniversaries:

Father of the Bride, Steel Magnolias, Godfather I&II, Cousins, Heartburn, She's Having a Baby, The Money Pit, Romantic Comedy, Bachelor Party, Kiss Me Goodbye, A Wedding, Deer Hunter


The Thornbirds, Silence of the Lambs, Godfather I&II, Family Business, A Torchlight Trilogy,

The Internet TESL Journal, Vol. II, No. 2, February 1996