I do love a good video-based lesson. Jamie Keddie at lessonstream does them really well. Kieran Donaghy’s lessons on Film English are good for focusing on certain themes. Vocabulary in Chunks and AllatC are two great blogs sharing video lesson ideas – the latter isn’t updated much now though. There are lot more video related content around (like the ISL Collective video quizzes or the listening tasks on TubeQuizard), but there’s always room for more.
Fluentize (formerly known as Veslio) offers ‘modern English language lesson plans based on real-world videos for teachers with teenage or adult students’. Nik Peachey recently endorsed it on his LinkedIn feed so I blagged a promo code off the creators to check it out.
Layout and feel
The layout is very slick – it’s easy to navigate and they’ve kept it simple. It has a very professional feel to it – I like the way that the lesson plans for each lesson have been embedded into a viewer, so you can get a good idea of what’s on offer. Throughout using the site I only came across one tech issue, which was with a YouTube video which wasn’t embedded due to copyright, but this was a one-off.
Fluentize currently has lesson plans based on around 30 videos. The vids are in six different themes, including Sports & Action, Food & Drink and Technology & Innovation. There are three different lesson plans accompanying each video, for pre-int, int and upp-int levels. In practice, there’s a little bit of crossover in the lesson plans across levels, but this is normally with lead-in/discussion based tasks – not language-based ones.
Lesson plans follow the same structure. Each one includes the following content (as mentioned on the site):
Lesson plans are printable. They are very well formatted, light on images but strong on content. I like that – no point in wasting space and there’s certainly value for money in the lesson content.
If you sign up to the site you can view some sample lessons, which do a good job of selling it. I’ve have the chance to check out the rest of the content and I think it covers some really interesting topics.
Choice of videos
Creator Jake Young seems to have an eye for interesting content. About a third of the videos he uses come from a YouTube channel called ‘Great Big Story’ – that alone was worth exploring as it’s a fantastic find. I’d imagine the vids would really get my learners engaged – I’m itching to try some of them out. Most of the videos are high quality – there’s the odd one embedded from YouTube that is less so, but of course still watchable.
My favourite videos: Skiing on sand dunes, ‘Meet the man who beat Pacman’, the wheelchair skating guy, the animated history of Coca-Cola.
Dealing with the taboo
What with all this PARSNIP stuff, you don’t find many sites that are willing to deal with taboo content. This site may rely on subscriptions but that doesn’t mean it sticks with catch-all content. You will find lesson plans based around e-cigarettes, beer, death… actually I found the one on ‘What happens to your social media when you die’ pretty haunting…
There’s even, wait for it, a whole lesson based on an unofficial university in the US that offers courses in ‘Marijuana Studies’. The lesson plan made me chuckle. The lead-in question was ‘What are the pros and cons of smoking marijuana?’ The vocab involved categorising ‘items you use for marijuana based activities’ versus ‘activities/actions done to marijuana’. Sure, this doesn’t suit my context, but the point is you won’t find the same old content here!
Equality, Diversity and Inclusion
Again, this is good content choice. Our school is big on EDI, and there are some videos here that fit the bill. Gender stereotyping, disability, and ageism are topics that feature in videos and that are addressed in the accompanying materials.
Quality lesson content
Not too long ago I wrote my own text and activities about the Impossible Burger (a plant-based burger that looks, and tastes like meat). I was pretty pleased with what I’d produced… then I saw Fluentize’s take on the same thing but based around a video. Blimey. Put me to shame…
In general, the Fluentize lesson plans are very good and certainly substantial. You’re looking at 1-2 hour lessons for each one easily. It’s also refreshing to see that some of the language points dealt with aren’t your typical grammar-based focuses. One lesson looked at useful chunks like ‘by the time…’, while another covered informal contractions like ‘gonna, kinda, cuz’. There could be a bit more chunking in the vocabulary section, but the upper-intermediate resources do feature this more prominently. There’s some nice form work with ‘Parts of Speech’ transformations – that means some of the videos could be useful for supplementing courses like FCE.
Some of the collaborative follow up tasks, especially the roleplay ones, look like a lot of fun – especially for higher levels.
You’ve got to pay for the content, but I’d say its ok value. One credit (i.e. one lesson) is $3, but 25 credits is $50. You could get a good chunk of the current content for that. For a freelancer I’d say what you get would be substantial enough, and certainly good enough quality to consider that. There are other options, like institution subscriptions. The annual subscription allows access to all materials (and any new lessons uploaded throughout the year) for $79, which is probably the best value.
What could be improved?
I’d suggest the creators might consider the following:
- Materials include teacher guidance notes, however these mainly provide answers. I’d say that some procedural information could be provided, especially to help less-experienced teachers with the set-up of the collaborative tasks
- I mentioned an issue with some embedded content. The creators might want to consider licensing certain content – with this being a paid for service I could see this might cause problems down the line (which would have a knock on effect for subscribers)
- The content in the sports section is mainly US focused, chuck something in there for the upcoming World Cup!
Definitely check this site out. Good lesson content, very engaging videos. A majority of content seems more appropriate for adults, although that might change. Best of luck to the creators, I hope the site takes off.
(Here’s my favourite video used on the site!)
UPDATE: Fluentize took the feedback on board – the next content to be uploaded will be a lesson on the World Cup!!!