It’s getting close to the end of the year, when it starts getting difficult for our students to maintain their motivation for English and when teachers are busier with testing and reports and the like.  My students have been clamouring for a video lesson for weeks now, but I always feel as though I would be short changing them with a feature length film – so my concession to their desperate desire is the cartoon.

I have in the past used this lesson framework with Tom & Jerry  cartoons – they tend to be around the ten minute mark and as there’s no dialogue they work well for lower level classes and especially well with young learner classes.  That said, some of the content is quite dated and is what you might call “a product of it’s time” – in short you might want to review them to make sure they fit your context before using them in class.

shaun-charactersMore recently I prefer using Shaun the Sheep episodes – it helps that I have a wide range of these DVDs at home!  But you can also find them on You Tube (as below).

The framework is quite simple and doesn’t involve much in the way of language input, the focus here is more on giving learners a springboard for language production instead – and engagement and fun!

(1) Show learners pictures of the principal characters and ask if they recognise them.  Give learners a copy of the images (or given them one character image per pair).  Learners write a brief biography of each character – either based on knowledge or imagination.  This could include where they live, what they like eating, what they like to do etc.  (@10 minutes)

(2) Play the first two (or three) minutes of the episode, but with SOUND ONLY.  Learners then write down what they think happened.  You can feed in additional language as required, and reformulate their ideas into a mind map / spidergram on the board. (@5 minutes)

(3)  Play the first two (or three) minutes again, this time with video and audio.  Ask for content feedback on what they saw, whose ideas (from stage 2) was it closest to?  Have they seen the episode before?  What do they think happens next?

Now clean the board and divide it into three sections – divide the class into three groups and allocate each group a section.  This can be done as two groups if you have a small class or four groups if you have a large one!  Each group has to come up with a list of actions they think will occur in the second half of the video.  With stronger groups, you can make the list longer (e.g. 10 items), with weaker groups it can be shorter.  (@10 minutes)

(4)  Watch the remainder of the video as a board race – whenever a group sees something they wrote on the board, they shout “STOP” and run up to the board to tick it off, sit down again and shout “PLAY!”  This does make this section very stop-start, so I’d recommend watching it again afterwards without interruption, which can also let the groups check for anything they missed.

Feedback on the ideas. (@15 minutes)

(5) Scripting.  Split the class into group A and group B.  Allocate group A to the first half of the episode and group B to the second half.  Tell the groups they’re going to write dialogue for the characters and they’ll act it out (i.e. do a voiceover).  Let them watch the episode again to take notes (these can be in their own language for lower levels).

The groups then script some dialogue for their half of the video.  Supply necessary language as appropriate.  (@20 minutes)

Play the animation again, but with the sound off – the groups perform their dialogues.  Feedback on performances.  (@10 minutes)

The timings are approximate, but I think this is probably between 60 and 75 minutes, depending on the level and size of the class.

Have fun!