Using silent film for teaching

teaching language
Using short silent films for teaching
There are a wealth of short silent films on Youtube and they're great to use with learners. Here's an example idea focusing on the language of routine that can be adapted to any level and will make your learners think!

Video transcript

Are you bored with teaching ‘daily routines’ and the present simple in a predictable, rather pedestrian way? What do you do at 7am etc? Here’s a great activity to engage your learners and make them think.

I’m Jo Gakonga from and I’m going to show you a great lesson for routines based on a short YouTube film called Days.

If you search YouTube for ‘short films silent’ there are a whole range of them – and they can be great for language development even though ironically they don’t contain any. Here are a couple of examples that I like….

The beauty of using something like this in class is that they’re short, complete stories, engaging and interesting and you can develop language work from them at any level from elementary to advanced.

The one I’m going to use is only one and a half minutes long and it’s a simple but powerful concept. You can find the video here.

The film shows a young man waking up, going through his morning routine, going to work and then doing the same thing again and again. This part is all in black and white. Towards the end, we start to see him dipping into a jar of coloured sweets labelled ‘DAYS’ and the film finishes with this aphorism:

How you spend your days is how you spend your life.

Start by asking your class about their daily routines – elicit and teach language that supports this. This might be the present simple at lower levels

Every day I get up at 7am and I have a shower

Or at higher levels you might want to introduce chunks of language that will help them to sound natural:

·         I start the day off by +ing

·         I spend most of my morning +ing

·         I go through +noun

·         Once I’ve done XX, I can start doing YY

Show the film and ask them to write down what the man does using the language you’ve taught them. As you are showing them the film, stop after each action so that they have time to write.

Get them to check what they’ve written with a partner and say whether they liked the film or not and get some class feedback.

Then play the whole film again without stopping so that they get the full impact of it.

There are all sorts of activities you could get them to do as a follow up here but I think that this would be a great discussion about how we all spend our days and our lives.

At lower levels, your discussion questions could be along the lines of:

·         How could he change his life?

·         Describe a better day for him.

·         Do you have a similar life to the man?

·         Describe an ideal day for you.

At higher levels these can be more complex and include:

·         Do you agree that how we spend our days is how we spend our lives?

·         What are the benefits and challenges of a routine?

·         This man might say he is ‘in a rut’. What can you do to avoid this?

·         Describe your ideal day.


I hope that your learners (and you!) enjoy this and that it prompts you to explore other short films on YouTube – they’re a great resource, whether they contain language or not.

Thanks for watching.

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