While attending this year’s TESOL sessions, I noticed two contrasting themes: the increased use of media and tech in the classroom, and the challenges of teaching students in homes or schools with little to no technological access.
Media is a powerful tool for English teachers as it targets all kinds of language learners. A music video, for example, can stimulate visual learners with its imagery, auditory learners with its sounds, and kinesthetic learners who are free to emulate the movements they see.
Students interact with different kinds of media in their daily lives, making learning with it more relatable and fun. A lesson on ordering food, for instance, becomes far more engaging when you include real menus from a popular restaurant or have students use a food delivery app. In this way, media also lends authenticity to a classroom setting.
The traditional classroom as we once understood it, though, is no more. Modern language teachers are navigating new educational landscapes: in-person teaching, hybrid models, online lessons, and also considering the importance of creating more inclusive and culturally conscious classrooms.
This got me thinking: As we rise to meet these new challenges in education, how do we adapt the use of media for new classrooms? I’ve shared some media activities below that I’ve used with students, and I’ve included suggestions on how they can be modified for online or low-tech teaching.
1. Character Redub
Media used: Video
Language targets: Listening, speaking, writing, vocabulary, pronunciation, intonation, slang, idioms, colloquial language
In this group activity, students choose a scene from a movie (or TV show) to redub. Each group member will play a different character in the scene and must listen to, write down, and learn to say those lines. When each group is ready, the scene is played for the rest of the class and each group voices their respective parts out loud.
Online version: Choose a video clip that is available online or can be downloaded and shared. Students can voice their character live in class while the video is played on a shared screen, or you can have them record the audio in advance either with a cell phone or free online voice recorder.
Low-tech version: If watching a movie in class is not possible, ask students to choose something they’ve already seen and take a guess at the original lines. This free collection of movie scripts might spark some ideas!
2. Mood Board Match
Media used: Photographs
Language targets: Vocabulary, grammar, writing, spelling
In this individual, pair, or group activity, students review new vocabulary by creating a mood board to match a given word or phrase. A mood board is a board covered with images, materials, and pieces of text to convey a particular theme or concept. This works especially well for adjectives and abstract nouns. Once the mood boards are complete, display them in class and have students decide which words or phrases belong to each board.
Online version: Have students take their own photos with a cell phone or camera, or use an online board like Pinterest to curate images from the web.
Low-tech version: Bring in some magazines and newspapers for students to cut up, or have them draw pictures instead.
3. Flashcards up!
Media used: Flashcards
Language targets: Vocabulary, grammar, listening, speaking, reading, spelling
In this group or class activity based on a popular app, students take turns holding up a blind flashcard and guessing which word or phrase it contains based on verbal descriptions given by other students. Students earn a point each time they correctly identify a word in rounds of 30 seconds or more, depending on the level of the class.
Online version: Create your own Flashcard Set, present it to the class on a shared screen, and have students type their name in the chat if they can identify the word. Whoever types their name first has a chance to say the word. If correct, they earn a point; if not, another student tries for the point.
Low-tech version: Print ready-made Flashcards or have students design their own as a prior class activity.
4. What's on the Menu?
Media used: Restaurant or take-out menus
Language targets: Reading, speaking, listening, vocabulary, spelling, grammar
In this pair or group activity, students read menu descriptions of different food and drink items and decide which restaurant or take-out menu they belong to. Teachers hang up the different menus as posters (with select descriptions removed beforehand) and students walk around and decide what matches where.
Online version: Prepare a list of descriptions from popular restaurants or fast-food menus that are available online. Have students use a search engine to try and find which menus each description belongs to.
Low-tech version: Cover the food and drink descriptions on different menus with washi tape, sticky notes, or whiteout before photocopying. Remove and make a second photocopy to use for cutting up the descriptions.
5. Where's Panda?
Media used: Maps
Language targets: Grammar, speaking, listening, reading, vocabulary, pronunciation
In this class activity, students discover the hidden locations of a character named Panda (you can use any popular character or create a class mascot as a prior activity). Students are divided into two groups. Students in Group A take turns reading out directions to students in Group B, who take turns following the directions on a map. After several rounds, the groups swap.
Online version: Create a shareable Google Map and divide students into pairs or small groups. Give each pair or group the same directions and have them save the location they find on the map using a designated color or symbol. Whichever group is closest to the right location wins the round.
Low-tech version: Use a projector to display a map on the board and give students magnets to show locations, or use photocopied maps with tokens from an old board game.
I hope these examples will be useful or inspire your own creativity. With a bit of out-of-the-box thinking, almost any activity can be adapted to suit online or low-tech classrooms. There are also dozens of examples of media that can be used with students—I’ve included a few lists below.
How do you use media in the classroom? How have you adapted the use of media for online or low-tech classrooms? What kinds of media do you wish to see on ESL Library? We’d love to hear your thoughts!