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“Simon’s Cat” Videos Are Perfect For English Language Learners

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'simon's cat' photo (c) 2009, frolleinbombus - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nd/2.0/

As regular readers know, I’m a big fan of using short video clips with English Language Learners as a language-development activity (you can read more at The Best Popular Movies/TV Shows For ESL/EFL (& How To Use Them) ).

One of my favorite instructional strategies is called “Back To The Screen,” which I adapted from Zero Prep: Ready To Go Activities For The Language Classroom by Laurel Pollard and Natalie Hess. I pick a clip from a movie (the highway chase scene from one of the Matrix movies, for example. I then divide the class into pairs with one group facing the TV and the other with their back to it. Then, after turning off the sound, I begin playing the movie. The person who can see the screen tells the other person what is happening. Then, after awhile, I switch the groups around. Afterwards, the pairs need to write a chronological sequence of what happened, which we share in class. Finally, everyone watches the clip, with sound, together. Students really enjoy this activity.

I’ve been a longtime fan of “Simon’s Cat” videos but, due to a brain freeze or something like that, I had never thought about how great they would be to use with ELLs — their short, funny, engaging, and don’t require knowing English to enjoy them.

If you’re one of the few people on earth who haven’t seen them :), here’s an example. The video I have embedded is also set to play all of them, if you’re so inclined (you can also go to its YouTube channel):

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Author: Larry Ferlazzo

I'm a high school teacher in Sacramento, CA.

2 Comments

  1. Have two groups watch two different simon’s cat videos ( great for having them use their own devices) and then pair up and describe the videos they saw. After, in their original groups, they work together to compare notes, compile all details about the other group’s video. Then each group presents the others video. The listening group listens for the accuracy of the story. The groups could always also watch the video of the other group to check the accuracy of their recounting. Great for practicing narrative tenses at the b1+ b2 level.

  2. 1) Give several words that describe a Simon’s video and let your students speculate on the plot;
    2) play the sounds of the video, but don’t show the video to your students. They give you their versions of what happened;
    3) give your students screenshots from the video, so that your students could put the pictures in order and describe the story in details;
    4) watch the video and compare

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