The Red Balloon: Lesson Plans for ESL Students

The Red Balloon: Lesson Plans for ESL Students
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Almost Silent

An excellent movie to present to English language learners of any level is the almost silent film, The Red Balloon. Lesson plans on this movie can be modified to fit the class.

The Red Balloon is a short fantasy about a little boy who finds a red balloon that he realizes has a life of its own. Few words are spoken in the film, which makes it ideal for teaching ESL, as it allows students to develop the story in their own minds without the need to translate it into English first.

Quick Synopsis

The Red Balloon tells a tale of friendship. The little boy finds the balloon. The balloon follows him around. Some other children are jealous and steal the balloon, eventually breaking it. Balloons from all over the city come to the boy and take him up in the air, away from the cruelty of the other children.

Objectives of Lesson Plan

The objectives for watching The Red Balloon are:

  • to explore language/vocabulary
  • to communicate their understanding of the film
  • to write sentences/paragraph describing the film
  • to present their sentences/paragraph orally to the class

Watching the Red Balloon

Since The Red Balloon is virtually a silent film, it can be shown to any level of English language learners without much preparation before viewing. Informing the class that they will be watching a short movie about a little boy and a balloon is sufficient information to give before watching the film.

  1. After the film, break students up into small groups.
  2. Ask students to list words they already know that would be associated with the film.
  3. Once the list is made, ask them to write sentences using their words to tell the story of the little boy.
  4. Have groups take turns reading their sentences

Alternatives and Modifications

The task above can be the basis for all levels of ESL learning.


  • Instead of dividing students into groups, have whole class brainstorm vocabulary they know. Use the vocabulary words to aid them in building simple sentences by asking for a subject/noun, action word/verb, and descriptor/adjective or adverb phrase. For instance: The boy played with the red balloon.
  • Make vocabulary cards for new words, hanging them on an interactive teaching wall. Ask students to use new words with previous vocabulary to create sentences.


  • Instead of having students create simple sentences, ask each group to write an ending using their vocabulary words that would tell what happens to the little boy after he flies away with the balloons. Where does he go? What does he do?

Advanced (High-Intermediate)

  • Discuss themes with the students. Ask them what themes are contained in this movie. List any new words that come up in the discussion. Have students write a review of the movie based on a theme.


Students will be assessed

  • on their ability to construct proper sentences/paragraphs
  • on their participation in discussion/brainstorming
  • on their understanding of the film and ability to communicate that to others
  • on their pronunciation

Final Thoughts

This film offers ESL teachers the opportunity to use a short film (30 minutes) to encourage language learning. The Red Balloon lesson plans can be the catalyst for developing, practicing and honing English language skills for students at all levels of competency.