20 WebCam Activities for EFL ESL Students

Back in November 2008 I published Part 1 of a series of articles intended to explore the use of WebCams in education. I have now finally got round to writing Part 2 which is a collection of 20 activities EFL ESL teachers can do with their students.

Here are some links to useful free video communication tools that you could use for these activities.
  • MailVu is a simple to use app which runs in the browser and enables students to record a short message which can be sent by email.
  • EyeJot is another simple video email app which also has a mobile version.
  • Skype is of course the mainstream choice for synchronous communication.
  • Oovoo is a Skype competitor which also enables the recording of video interviews by capturing both interviewer and interviewee.

20 WebCam Activities

1. Chinese - video dictation - whispers
- Use the video email feature to record a short text. Send it to the first of your students. Ask your student to write down the message and then record it themselves and send it to the next student. Each student should rerecord and send the message on to another, until the last student sends it back to you. You will then see how accurately the message matches to your original text.

2. Interactive video learning diary - You could get students to create an interactive learning diary, they could email you their video summary of what they feel they have learned each day and you could then respond. The videos would form a good learning record and students will be able to look back at them later and see how they have improved - quite literally - and also hear the improvements in their speaking ability. This is also a great way to give your students one-to-one-time which can often be a problem in class.

3. Class survey - Action research - You could send a video message to your students with a class survey question that they could respond to. This would be a good way to carry out classroom research, decide on learning goals and make sure that all students had a means to feedback to you in private and on an individual basis.

 They could also create their own questions and send them to each other, then feedback in class.

4. The witness - Show half of your students a video clip or picture, that includes a number of people (scenes from films with bank robberies, where a number of people are involved are quite useful for this). Then ask the students to imagine that they are one of the people in the film or picture and they need to describe what happened. Ask them to record a video statement giving their account of what happened in the first person. You can then ask the other students to imagine they are detectives and watch the clips your students have created and make notes to piece together what happened. Afterwards they can watch the original film clip together in class and you can see how well they did and what they missed.

 Here's an example bank robbery scene
5. Favourite poems or haiku - Students could record themselves reading their favourite poem or haiku, you could then embed the videos into a web page or blog as a class poetry collection.

6. Video twitter - Using the feed feature you could create a kind of video Twitter, with your students video micro-blogging about learning English, their day at school, or any topic they find interesting.

7. Text and video error correction - Using the video email feature, you could record a video of yourself reading a text, then add the text within the email message. You could include some errors in the text and get them to watch the video and correct the errors.

8. Create a collaborative story - Email students a video with the first line of a story and ask them to record your line of the story and add their own, then pass it back, or pass it on to another student. This way you could build up a story between the group over a period of time.

9. Tip of the day - Send you students a learning tip each day by video email. These could be exam tips, study tips, recommended website etc.(The URL for the website would appear in the text part of the message below the video.)

10. Video dictation - Send a video email of yourself dictating a text and ask your students to watch and write the text in the email and send it back to you for correction.

11. Vocabulary record / word of the day - You could ask your students to create a video to record the words and example sentences. You could also do something like this yourself as a kind of 'Word of the Day' channel.

12. News Reports - Ask students to read the news ( in English or their own first language) and then produce a video news report on one of the main stories that they are interested in.
 They could also create their own local or school video news channel for other students to subscribe to.

13. Present continuous (sound on or off) - You can record video clips to demonstrate present continuous sentences. You can do this with sound on or with sound off and the students can guess the sentence

14. Questions for response - You could set up clips with questions and ask your students to respond online. They could also set up a sequence of their own questions for other students to respond to.

15. Guess the object - You or students could record a description of and object and viewers have to listen and guess what the object is. Getting students to create these clips will help them to be concise and really identify the key concepts behind describing objects.

16. Sales pitch - A variation on the idea above is to ask students to produce a video trying to convince users to buy a particular object. Again this helps them to identify key concepts, gives them practice with using language of persuasion and it may well help them to push for faster speaking speeds and better fluency.

17. Moods - You can create video clips of yourself or your students expressing different moods. This can help them to learn the vocabulary of the moods, but you could also use it to get students to predict the cause of the mood ( and practice present perfect; "He's angry because he has just been made redundant." etc.)

18. Live tutoring support - Video conferencing is an ideal tool for supporting distance learners and doing 'face to face' tutorials.

19. Video interviews - You could get in touch with someone for your class to interview. Just have one computer plus camera set up in class, and a visiting expert, friend or colleague on the other end for your students to interview. They could also interview an expert in groups from home with a conference call.
 The interview doesn't have to be done 'live' it could also be done through a series of email video messages sent to the interviewee.You can try it here by watching this video and then clicking reply.

20. Video lesson with conferencing - You could use the conference call to videocast your lesson or presentation to a group of distance learners.

I hope you find these suggestions useful and manage to use some of them with your students. Do drop me a line if you have other recommendations for useful video conferencing tools or activities. You can find more video related activities for EFL ESL here.

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Nik Peachey

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