Teaching With Video

By Renaud Davies

In an age of immense visual stimulation, language education has remained remarkably text-bound and can appear dull to students compared to their world outside the classroom. Video, in particular, is an invaluable educational tool that teachers often neglect to use or misuse. It is not uncommon for teachers to simply play a movie in class without challenging students or getting them involved. So, the question that concerns us today is, “How do we get our students actively involved when using video in the classroom?”

To begin, the most important thing is that you make your video lessons meaningful, fun, and interesting for your students. If possible, your lessons should integrate listening, speaking, reading and writing. I would also like to add culture as a fifth skill. Making your own videos about your country, family or friends is a good way to introduce your students to authentic English and your culture.

So, what are the benefits of using video?

  1. Video helps to raise a learner’s pragmatic awareness, that is, the importance of context in deciding the speaker’s intention. Pragmatics also includes gestures, facial expressions and other non-verbal forms of communication that are culturally bound.
  2. Users prefer material that is visually aesthetic. Such material is especially beneficial for visual learners.
  3. The use of video with text is particularly efficient in enhancing levels of comprehension and, consequently, supersedes the power of text alone. Furthermore, Stephen Krashen postulates that language learning is directly related to the amount of “comprehensible input” that learners receive. Video can increase input through arousing student interest in English.
  4. Images may help aid understanding and learning of concepts that are difficult to explain verbally. This is especially true for lower level learners.

Now, let’s take a look at the following three-step guide to creating a video lesson.

Step One: Pre-viewing Tasks

  • Reading (summary, article about the video etc)
  • Class discussion (brainstorming)
  • Vocabulary and dictionary consultation (learn necessary vocabulary)
  • Silent previewing of video
  • Previewing questions

Step Two: While-viewing Tasks

  • Chart completion
  • Note-taking
  • True/False questions
  • Fill in the blanks
  • Guessing what will happen next

Step Three: Post-viewing Tasks

  • Writing a summary
  • Discussing
  • Debating
  • Reviewing unknown vocabulary, grammar and expressions
  • Quiz
In this video lesson, for example, students were given a worksheet to fill out along with a list of important vocabulary to assist them with the activity. The goal of this lesson was to introduce students to other language teachers in their local area.

For those not interested in the arduous task of home movie making, there are countless videos at your fingertips if you have access to the internet. For example, YouTube is a video sharing phenomenon that has taken the world by storm. For the language teacher, this is a resource gold mine. Personally, I like to use short films. A quick search on YouTube for award-winning short films will bring up an array of choices. It is also possible to edit such videos to be used in the classroom. See Spin as an example of a short film that I have adapted for ESL.

Now let’s take a look at some typical video tasks.

Video Dictogloss
This is great for applying the task-based approach. Students watch a video without sound, and in groups they create the dialog for the characters. The teacher can facilitate and then have students perform or read their script as the video clip plays. Students are then given the actual script and listen to the video with sound. Finally, review grammar and vocabulary blocks that students met during the task.

Watch And Observe
An excellent way to use video with lower-level students. Students watch a video with little to no dialogue and use previously practiced vocabulary to describe what is happening. This is great if you want to focus on certain verbs or grammar. Mr Bean is highly recommended for this.

Observe And Guess
This is one of my favorite tasks. The teacher pauses the video and students must guess what they think will happen next or what will be said next based on the current context.

Split Viewing
This is great for advanced students. Some students only listen to the video. Other students watch without the audio. The two groups then get together and write a summary of what the video clip was about. Finally, students watch the video with sound together and compare it to their summary.

Jigsaw Video
This activity involves splitting a video up into different parts and assigning a group of students to each part. Each group of students will watch a different part of the video and then all will work together to piece the entire video story together.

I hope you found this article on using video in the classroom useful. If you have any questions or would like to see more examples of how I use technology for teaching, please do not hesitate to contact me.

Written by Renaud Davies for TEFL.net September 2012
Renaud Davies is currently working in Akita, Japan, for the Akita Board of Education at the Prefectural Education Centre where he organizes several conferences and seminars for English language teachers working in public schools across Akita Prefecture. He is also a Prefectural Advisor for Assistant Language Teachers working under the Japan Exchange and Teaching (JET) Programme, and regularly teaches English at several high schools and special needs schools.


  • SANA says:

    Thanks, it was important and useful

  • Thu says:


  • hossein almasi says:

    Hi Sir.I’d like to ask you some questions about the way of managing of film-based classes. How should I start it? This is my first time and I am completely confused. Thank you for helping me.

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