I might be a bit late to the Voscreen party as I discovered this free platform a couple of months ago. I’ve been experimenting with it quite a bit and I’d like to share my 10 ideas about using it with English learners in and out of the classroom.
What is Voscreen?
Voscreen is a free platform (you need to sign up / log in with your Facebook account which takes 5 seconds) offering a variety of very short video clips which come from TV series, movies, songs, you name it. In each short clip, a phrase is said.
As you enter the website, you select your native language, watch the clip, and then choose the accurate translation to the short phrase uttered in the clip. At this point you might choose whether you want to see English subtitles or not. For each correctly selected translation, you get a point and move on to the next clip in the series. You might play the clips as many times as necessary.
There are 5 levels of difficulty to choose from, as well as a number of grammar categories to browse through (Present Simple, Prepositions, Phrasal Verbs, Passive Voice etc.). There are also 3 separate categories with video clips chosen specifically for children.
Using Voscreen with students
I’m not a big fan of translating from English to one’s native language so I never considered using Voscreen as it was initially intended. You might select English as your native language to see paraphrased versions of the original phrase (instead of translations) but I’ve noticed that these are often way more complicated than the phrase uttered in the video. Therefore, I think using it with Beginner or Elementary students would be ineffective. Still, I was so impressed with how many different video clips were offered by Voscreen, I decided not to give up on it and searched for alternative ways of using it with my students.
#1 Paraphrasing (levels intermediate and higher)
Voscreen lends itself perfectly to practice paraphrasing. This is when your FCE and CAE students get a welcome break from these too familiar key word transformation exercises and practice their paraphrasing skills using more engaging material than exam papers.
Choose the level or grammar structure, play the clip, and ask your students to paraphrase what they’ve just heard. Compare their ideas and, finally, check with the two options offered by Voscreen (to do this select English as the native language and don’t select the subtitles/no subtitles option until your students are done).
#2 What happened next? (all levels)
Play a random clip (99% of clips on Voscreen are suitable for this activity!). Ask your students to imagine what happened after/before the scene they see. It’s a great way of revising past tenses or using will for predictions. The more advanced the level, the more complex storylines you might encourage.
#3 Answer the question (all levels)
If you choose the Questions or What category in the VoStructure tab, you will get access to a series of clips featuring different types of questions.
Play a clip, and ask your students to write down answer(s) to the question asked in the video. You can make it about speed (who comes up with a logical answer first) or about imagination (who comes up with the most logical answers in the time given). Either way, your students are bound to have some fun.
#4 Say the opposite (all levels)
The most suitable categories here are present and past tenses, can, imperatives and the verb to be.
Play a clip and ask your students to say / write a sentence with the opposite meaning.
Category: Past Simple Clip: Mars Needs Moms Phrase: Milo. You saved me Students say/write: Milo. You didn’t save me.
You might use it to introduce the language or as a fast-paced grammar revision. It is perfect for lower levels, adults, teens, and kids alike. Isn’t watching even the shortest video more entertaining and engaging than filling in a worksheet?
#5 Where’s the phrasal verb? (levels intermediate and higher)
I simply had to take advantage of a compilation of videos containing phrasal verbs.
Students need to identify the phrasal verb that appears in the video and figure out its meaning. If they can’t, here’s where using Voscreen as it was originally intended actually works for me: I set the native language to English and then show my students two explanations for what was said. They vote which one is correct.
#6 Why? (all levels)
Students watch a clip and then need to continue the phrase starting with because….
Category: Present Simple Clip: City of Angels Phrase: I wanna say goodbye. I don’t wanna see you again.
Students say / write: because I don’t love you / because I’m moving to a different city / because I’m married / because I know you’re married…
The possibilities here are pretty much endless and it’s really fun to listen to your students’ ideas.
#7 Identify the function: modal verbs (intermediate and higher)
I tried this one specifically with the category Modals.
Play the video from the category Modals, ask your students to identify the modal verb, and then identify its function in the sentence (asking for permission / stating something is possible / obligation etc.) More advanced students will definitely benefit from seeing modal verbs used in different contexts and serving different purposes. It might be an interesting experiment in comparing coursebook knowledge with what happens “out there, in the real world”.
#8 Passive to Active: Passive Voice (intermediate and higher)
I tried this one specifically with the category: Passive Verb Forms
Play the clip from this category and ask your students to turn the passive structure they hear in the clip into active voice. I’ve found this one quite demanding so I’d sometimes show my students English subtitles (but I’d set the native language to Chinese before so that the translation they see doesn’t give them any ideas 🙂 ) To make it more dynamic students worked in teams competing against each other and had a limited amount of time to come up with the target sentence.
#9 Sentence stress: pronunciation practice (all levels)
The most suitable categories are the ones containing simple sentences: verb to be in present and past, can, or levels Beginner and Elementary.
I played with Voscreen to practice sentence stress: differentiate between content and structure words and see whether the meaning of the sentence changes once we stress different words. Given the clips already serve as a pronunciation model, my students and I were either trying to recreate what we heard or modify it to convey different meaning (if possible). My students seem to have enjoyed Voscreen clips more than audio clips that accompanied our course and participated in this activity really enthusiastically.
#10 Over to you: using Voscreen at home (all levels)
Voscreen is a wonderful tool to be used by students after class. They might revise what you did in class using the same clips or check their comprehension using the translation option this platform offers.
You might ask your students to write down 5 new words they learned from Voscreen video and present them during the following class / write a story using the clip as their cue / choose a clip they liked, watch the whole movie and write a review.
If you have ever tried using Voscreen with your students, I’d love to hear from you. Please, leave a comment and share your experience!