16 short films and videos that work well with teenagers

Here are 16 short films and videos I’ve been using for the past few years in my classes and which have worked well with teenagers (at least in my context!) The selection includes different types of video content, but they all provide such unique contexts that any lesson or task we design around them will help to make that skill or specific language area we’re practising a little bit more stimulating and engaging. Their flexibility is another advantage, since we can use the videos both to suit different levels and to adapt them to meet specific learning objectives.

It is difficult to keep up with so many changes around us, and teenagers’ interests and expectations today are different from, say, just five years ago. In our case here, though, I think this is not a bad thing, and actually the older certain short films and videos the better: the students are not likely to be familiar with the material, so that element of surprise or engagement many of them bring will not be missed.

By the way, I first tried categorising them in some way, but finally decided to list them in alphabetical order for easier reference. I hope you find this useful!

1. Alike

This short film on how the system affects our creativity and imagination, the relationship between father and son, and the use of colour as a symbol for change and transformation, is the perfect introduction to a lively discussion or an opinion essay. Stop the film at regular intervals to analyse the characters’ feelings and how these change throughout the film.

2. Are you a robot?
I wrote this activity based on a video by Stevie Martin which explores the different ways in which computers ask us to prove our humanity.

3. BBC Interview
Ah, if only we knew we’d be doing video calls for such long hours from home in a few years’ time! We did find this video hilarious back in 2017, when Professor Robert Kelly’s daughter and son walked into the room as he was explaining South Korean politics live on the BBC. Has anything similar happened to you in the past few months? 😉

Here’s an interesting lesson plan by Luiz Otavio Barros based on this. And make sure you don’t miss the parodies that followed!

4. Choice

A lovely lesson plan from AllatC based on “Choice”, a visual poem which documents the filmmaker’s thoughts and emotions on a four-week holiday travelling around South Africa and Mozambique.

5. Dumb Ways to Die
Back in 2012, this Australian campaign video which promotes railway safety went viral:

The pre-watching speaking task from AllatC will certainly get your students talking!

6. Fresh Prince: Google translated
Google Translate may have got a little better, but meanings are often missed in context and the results are often rather bizarre. You may want to warn your students by watching and discussing this video (and perhaps having them try for themselves with lyrics they’re familiar with!)

7. Going viral

I used this lesson from AllatC a few weeks ago and, yes, the videos have dated a little. Still, the activities in the lesson are great practice.

Students can then agree or disagree with Kevin Allocca’s reasons for videos to go viral, decide if these elements are still true these days, and provide any new ideas:

8. I forgot my phone

The students work on vocabulary and word formation as they analyse this thought-provoking short film about how much mobile phones have taken over our lives.

9. I’m a creep
“Fear lies. Learn to conquer it.” Stop the video after each scene to describe the place, the characters, their feelings, and the students’ personal reactions.

For a writing activity idea based on the video, click here.

10. Just
What would you do if you found a middle-aged man in a suit lying on the pavement? Radiohead’s iconic video clip is a fantastic opportunity to work on pronunciation as the students take turns reading the dialogues and answer questions related to the scene and the people involved. Have students write down what they think the man uttered at the end!

11. Kidnap

When was the last time you got one of those hilarious excuses for being absent or failing to do some homework? This lesson revolves around the theme of school excuses and gets students working on past tenses, reading and listening comprehension, and creative writing.

12. Procrastination
A great lesson on procrastination from LessonStream!

13. Multiple Choice

Three students oversleep and miss a final exam. They phone their teacher telling him they’ve had a terrible car accident. Will they get away with this excuse?

14. The rotating house
Revise vocabulary related to the house with this project: a space-saving, four-room house in which every floor is also a wall and it rotates on command!

15. Tick Tock
What if you were told you only have 5 minutes to live? What would you do? This frenetic short film shot in one take and viewed in reverse shows what a young guy would do in this situation. Apart from having students reconstruct the plot and put it in chronological order, the words we can read throughout the film (cowardice, reputation, greed, indifference, laziness) will certainly help to analyse the meaning of the film.

16. Wallet mystery
A wallet full of money lying on Regent Street? And only one circle around it to prevent it from being stolen?

Which short films and videos you have used would you recommend?

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