Do you teach private English lessons? Are you looking for new ideas or engaging activities for your conversation lessons with adults? I’d like to recommend using a video. Using the right video paired with a good lesson plan can make a big difference for your students. This guide shows you how to use video-based lesson plans in private conversation lessons. The guide is focused around the lesson plans found on, which provides ESL teachers with modern ESL lesson plans based on real-world videos.

(1) Browse the topic

Let your students browse Fluentize’s website for a video topic they find interesting for the next lesson and download it. Currently, Fluentize has 8 categories and 10+ video topics in each category. There are lesson plans for multiple student levels: pre-intermediate, intermediate, and upper intermediate. Sometimes you might want to mix and match some of the activities between levels. For example, I often use an intermediate warm up activity but then a pre-intermediate viewing and vocabulary – something along these lines. It usually depends on your student and how well you know them and their skills. But you might find that it’s best to mix and match.

(2) Introductory Question / Warm-up Activity

In the next lesson, go through the warm up activity together. You can choose to do it exactly as they are pre-structured, or as a rough guide. You can of course skip some parts and just do one or two of the activities, but in any case I recommend to try to generate new / extra discussion from each part. You’ll be surprised to see how long you can spend in the warm up section because of the extra topics and conversation that can come up! This is great because you want your student to speak as much as possible in the warm-up activity.

Although there are spaces for students to write answers, the main focus should be speaking. Often it’s better to just go through it verbally without the student writing anything. It’s up to you if you want to just go through the activities verbally or written. Many times I prefer to just go through it verbally because this makes the student speak from the top of their head, which is great!

Another thing you could do to start the lesson immediately (even before the warm up) is ask your student an open-ended discussion question on the topic, just to get their brain going on it. You can choose one of the questions that Fluentize provides you, or you can come up with your own. One example could be for the Impossible Burger lesson plan is to ask your student “Do you think that eating meat is unethical?” and talk about this question for a few minutes. Then you can go right into the warm up activity. I’ve done this one multiple times and it works great.

(3) Vocabulary Section

Go to the vocabulary section of the lesson plan. You can either give the student two or three minutes to match the vocabulary words with the definition on their own (optional to use a dictionary), or you can go through it verbally with them. If they don’t know a word, give them an example in context and see if they can deduce the definition. If they still can’t get the definition after the context example, you can tell the student the answer. However, after you give the answer, make sure to do your CCQ. Check out this post how to teach vocabulary using video in your ESL lessons.

(4) Discussion Questions

After going through the featured vocabulary terms, you can optionally do the two discussion questions with the student (always above the viewing activity). Ask your students the questions, but don’t forget to share your own opinions, answers, and experiences for the discussion questions with the student! Sharing your own opinion will generate a lot of extra quality conversation. Remember – the goal is to get your student talking more and more. Try to connect each question to their own experiences. As they speak, write down some of their mistakes, and you can take a look at the mistakes with the student after doing the video exercises.

(5) Go through viewing activity instructions

Then ask the student to take one or two minutes and read through the instructions and questions for the viewing activity. If the student doesn’t understand something, try to explain it in a simpler way. But it’s important that the student reads through the instructions and questions for two reasons – (1) They know what kind of information to listen to (2) It primes their brain for the details that they will hear in the video and give them a better imagination on what the video is about.

(6) Watch the Video

Watch the video. Tell the student to ONLY listen, not to write anything down for the viewing activity. This is important because if they write while watching they can easily miss some important information from the video. Play the video without stopping. You want your student to be focused only on listening for a few minutes. If you stop the video and interrupt, this breaks the flow of the video and interrupts their concentration. Let your student know before watching – even if he/she doesn’t understand everything, it’s ok! Tell them you can watch the video and take a closer look at everything again.

(7) Student writes answers. Play video again.

After viewing, you can either tell the student to take a minute and write answers in the viewing activity, or go through the activity verbally. If they don’t know one of the answers, or incorrectly answered something, then you can go find that point in the video and play it again. If they missed more than that you should play the whole video again. I almost always play the video twice anyway, because this way they can catch a lot more and they’ll be more ready to answer the comprehension questions in the viewing activity.

In addition to this, I always try to generate a bit more discussion after doing the viewing activity together. You can just ask some simple questions – for example:

  • What did you think about (this / him / her / etc)?
  • What’s your opinion about this?
  • How do you feel about this?

(8) Vocabulary in Context

Jump to the vocabulary part again and do the fill in the blanks (second part of the vocabulary section). You can do it the same way as the definition matching – either give the student two or three minutes to put the vocabulary words in context on their own by writing, or you can just go through it verbally with them one by one.

One really effective method that you can do after doing this part is to take the paper from them and then read each featured vocabulary term individually. Then, students have to say how the word was used in the context of the video (basically repeating the sentences they just filled in for the activity). This works really great! Don’t go order – try jump around a bit. For each word you can also go through the different parts of speech and write them down on paper for the student.

(9) Grammar Section

For the grammar – one of the best ways to start the grammar activity is to write the featured sentence(s) with the grammar point from the lesson plan on paper. Then ask the student a question about the grammar point – eg.

  • Do you know which tense this is?
  • What’s the difference between can / could?
  • When / why do we use these prepositions…?
  • How do we form the passive tense…?
  • Which word is the gerund

Then use the grammar box below the grammar point as a guide for explanation and take a few minutes to guide and explain the student through the grammar point. You can then go straight to the activity or give the activity for homework.

(10) Cooperation Activity

Cooperation activities are also great for the student to do for homework because they require a lot of creative thinking. But they can also be done during the lesson. In the cooperation activity you can play the role of the partner. If you want to really use the ESA (engage / study / activation) structure you learned in your TEFL course, you can have your student use the featured grammar point or some of the vocabulary words in the cooperation activities. For example, in the Upper-Intermediate, Cooperation activity for the Bitcoin lesson plan, you can try to have them use some of those preposition + gerunds in their public statements for each person, or some of the lesson’s vocabulary words. This is a great way to activate the grammar or vocabulary.


Additional tips:

  • If the student makes a speaking mistake during the lesson, write it down in the notepad on your computer, or with pen and paper. Or if there are new vocabulary words which come up during your discussion, write them down too. At the end of the lesson, send the student the list of the corrected mistakes and new vocabulary terms. You can go through the mistakes together if you have extra time at the end of the lesson, or you can have the student find the mistakes for homework and go through them next time.
  • If the student is speaking and can’t think of a word they want to say, tell them to use a dictionary and show you the translations. There will probably be multiple translations for the right word they want to say for this context. Find the right word they want to say in this context and write it down on paper.
  • Make a Google doc of all these mistakes, corrections, and new vocabulary terms that come up. Send them to the student and review these at the beginning of the next lesson, along with the vocabulary and homework from the video lesson.