Ideas for using iPads and other tablet devices in ELT classes

ipad pic

Nowadays many language schools have a set of tablet devices, with iPads being one of the most popular choices. They are cheaper than laptops, more convenient than desktops and more tactile than both. They offer students real world practice, access to a plethora of authentic material and an engaging and often collaborative way of practicing the target language.

However despite these benefits, teachers often feel reluctant to use tablets in their classes. Common reasons include a lack of confidence with ICT, no training and no resource books providing ideas as to how to use tablets with students. This is compounded by the fact that iPads, in particular, do not allow classic ELT ICT programs, such as Network English, or run adobe flash rendering many online activities unusable.

In my previous role as ICT coordinator in a teaching centre in Sri Lanka I was tasked with promoting the use of iPads in class. I developed a range of activities and then gave a series of insets demonstrating their use as well as promoting discussion of their pedagogical advantages.

In this blog article I will provide a brief summary of five language practice activities for use with tablets.


  1. Back to back video description

Resource: YouTube or Vimeo

Language practised: present simple and continuous.

Skills: listening and speaking

First the teacher selects a short video clip which has no speaking. Then, they divide the students into pairs and give each pair a tablet.

In pairs one student watches the clip and describes what is happening to his or her partner who cannot see the tablet screen. The person not watching writes down key words. After 45 seconds, they switch. Students continue like this until the end of the clip. After the clip, students watch it together and compare with their notes.

Here are links to a number of useful video clips:

Head over Heels –

Lifted alien animation –

Pigeons –

Bugs Bunny the conductor –

      2. Jigsaw video viewing

Resource: YouTube or Vimeo

Language practised: Present simple, present continuous question forms

Skills: listening and speaking

First the teacher selects two short video clips where the characters do not speak (see above for links). Then, they divide the students into two groups and assign each student a partner from the same group. Next the teacher hands out the tablet devices and has one group watches the first clip and the other watch the second clip.

As students watch, they pause the clip and write comprehension questions (and answers). They should write between 5 and 10 questions for the whole clip. Once they have finished, the teacher puts a pair from one group with a pair from the other. Students give the questions they have written to the other pair. Next, students watch the other group’s video clip and answer their comprehension questions. Finally, they check with the other group that they have answered correctly.


  1. Jigsaw reading

Resource: BBC or British Council’s Learn English Website

Language practice: mixed tenses

Skills: listening, note taking and speaking

First the teacher selects two or three (depending on number of groups) similarly themed articles (graded or authentic depending on level). Then, they divide the students into two or three groups and assign each student a partner from the same group. Next the teacher hands out the tablet devices and has each group read a different article.

As they read, students should think about these questions: Who? What? Why? How? When? Where? The teacher monitors checking students have understood the gist of the article. Next, the teacher tells the students that in a moment they will orally summarise their article to students from another group. They must do this without looking at the article. However, they can write down as many names as they like and ten key words.

Once they have written down their words, the teacher puts them with partners from the other groups. Now they take it in turns to orally summarise their articles, asking each other questions as they see fit.

After the activity, the teacher can discuss the articles and elicit any new vocabulary they have learned.

Here are links to some useful resources: (scroll down for transcript) (click on transcript)


  1. Web quests

Resources: various websites

Language skills: mixed tenses

Skills: Reading

Before the activity the teacher selects an engaging (and if teaching young learners, age appropriate and child friendly) website relating to a topic they are teaching. When choosing the website they should consider whether the level of the language in the website is suitable for their learners. Next the teacher writes comprehension questions (graded to their learners’ level – remember grade the task; not the text) and importantly keeps a note of the answers.

Examples of websites I have used are the San Diego Zoo website for teaching animals, Rick Riordan’s website when I was using a class DVD of Percy Jackson, lightning thief and the couch-surfing website when my elementary students read an article about couch surfing in the 3rd edition of English file.

In class the teacher puts students into pairs and hands out their webquest question sheet (alternatively, they could use survey monkey to have the questions online) and give each pair a tablet. Working together with their partner, students answer the webquest questions.

For higher levels teachers could have students write webquest questions for another pair to answer.

Here are some example questions from a web quest for the Roald Dahl website:

  1. Which two characters is Roald Dahl sitting with on the “About Roald Dahl” page?


  1. In what story is Aunt Sponge a character?


  1. What does BFG stand for? B_____ F______ G______


  1. What is Mr Fox wearing?


  1. When was Roald Dahl born?


  1. Movie review

Resources: and

Language practised: movie vocabulary, mixed tenses

Skills: Reading and writing

Over the years I have found students rarely know the information they need to write a movie review, for example character names, actors, actresses, directors and writers.

This activity is a good pre-task for movie review writing. First, the teacher puts the students into pairs and gives each pair a tablet device. In pairs students think about a movie they have seen and would like to review (they plan the review together but will write it individually).

Next, students watch the trailer of the movie to help them remember key elements of the movie. After watching, students find their movie on IMDB (internet movie database) by typing the film name in the search box. They now make notes regarding directors, actors, time of release and so on. At this stage it is important that teachers make sure students do not copy large chunks of text from the movie summary box.

After the note-taking stage, the teachers take back the tablets and the students plan and then write their movie reviews.


I regularly use all five of these activities in my classes. They are easy to set up, engaging and collaborative. I have used them with students of all ages and found they go down very well in class. I hope you and your students experience similar success.