How to Create ESL Film Activities: Part 2, The Social Network

The second film in my ESL lesson plan series is The Social Network. While I wouldn’t call it a favorite movie of mine, it’s about Facebook, which I have found really engages adolescent students. And, it can lead to great discussions about social networking, use of Facebook, and communication. In Spain, the students loved that they could compare Facebook to their preferred social network, Tuenti. Social networking really has become a global phenomenon, so there is great potential for cultural comparisons, and for highlighting vocabulary about technology and communication. Also, it brings the these topics (which often appear as dry and boring in textbooks) to a level familiar and interesting to the students.

ESL Activity Step 1: The Trailer

To begin the lesson, I showed the trailer of The Social Network in class. Here is the original version for those who haven´t seen the movie, who want to modify this lesson, or who teach more advanced students.

However, I found a great website with an ESL adapted version of the trailer! Teacher Frank has a huge selection of movies for ESL, with scripted videos and prepared ESL comprehension exercises on YouTube, as well as his own ESL website. Check them both out below!


Below is Teacher Frank's adapted ESL video of the Social Network trailer. I love this version, and have used it successfully because:

  1. It breaks down the lesson plan in the video
  2. He highlights difficult or colloquial vocabulary, working on ESL listening comprehension.
  3. It reviews part of the trailer before showing the full trailer
  4. And, it includes subtitles for some of the trailer.

It handles much of the work for you!

ESL Film: The Social Network

Drawbacks of this ESL Film Version

It is, however, very slow at the beginning, during which it can be hard to hold students' attention. Once the video gets to the full version of the trailer, which is quite fast-paced, they usually realize why we took so long reviewing vocabulary, and I still have to play the trailer a couple of times for them to understand it. Also, some of the vocabulary that isn’t discussed at the beginning has confused my students in the past. I had to pause the video to explain a few of the phrases. For example, the internet being “written in ink” is literally easy to understand, but my younger students couldn't quite grasp its metaphorical concept of being permanent.

This part of the ESL movie lesson plan (reviewing vocabulary during the first part of the video, and playing the second part of the video at least twice) usually has taken me about 20 to 30 minutes with beginner/intermediate students.

Optional ESL Activity Idea: Facebook History

After playing the video, question the students to see how much they understood about the plot of the movie. You may want to ask who has actually seen the entire move, and what they thought about it.

From here, I transition into talking about Facebook and social networking in general. If there is time, I play an interesting YouTube video about Mark Zuckerberg that helps to spur discussion about the company. It's a news segment about Facebook before the release of The Social Network, when it was still primarily a site for American college students.

Goal: Listening and Speaking Strategies

The goal in watching this video is to compliment the information in the trailer. I like to see if my students can make broad comparisons about the origin of Facebook to where it is today. However, this may be a task for higher level students for which lower level students may not have sufficient language skills.

Part 3: Social networking discussion

Depending on how you run your classes, this segment can be discussion as a class, in groups, in pairs, or you could even make it a written response section.

Questions (feel free to add or adapt):

  1. Do you use Facebook? How often? For what? For how long have you had Facebook?
  2. Do you like Facebook?
  3. Would you do anything to improve Facebook?
  4. What other social networking sites do you use?
  5. Which one do you use most?
  6. Before social networking, how did you communicate?
  7. Do you think social networking is a positive influence?
  8. Can you think of any negative aspects of social networking sites?
  9. How was social networking changed your community? the world?
  10. How do you think social networking will change in the future?
  11. Would you ever want to work for a social networking company?

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