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Using Video Cameras in the Language Classroom

By Joe Essberger
Because it is so close to language reality – containing visual as well as audible cues – video is an excellent medium for use in the language classroom

Because it is so close to language reality – containing visual as well as audible cues – video is an excellent medium for use in the language classroom. It can be used in many different ways and for teaching or revising many different language points. These notes are intended to help you think about how you can use video in your classroom. They are not exhaustive, because ultimately the ways in which you use video are limited only by your own imagination.

Types of Video

Authentic Made for Language Teaching
Bought, or recorded from television.*
  • Feature films (fiction)
  • Cartoons
  • Documentaries
  • News/Weather
  • Interviews
  • Games shows (often based on words)
  • Ads/Commercials
Specifically designed for learning the target language. Produced by all the major publishers or DIY.
  • General courses
  • Listening practice
  • Business English
  • How to (eg presentations)
Strong points
  • realistic
  • interesting
  • up-to-date
  • original
  • inexpensive
Weak points
  • mainly for higher levels
  • no prepared workbook/exercises
Strong points
  • adapted to level
  • practise specific structure/vocabulary
  • come with work books/exercises
  • cued with minutes/seconds
Weak points
  • rather unrealistic
  • can be boring (esp. for teacher)
  • expensive
  • date easily
* be aware of copyright considerations when copying any material

Methods of Exploitation

Playback Language
  • picture with sound
  • picture without sound
  • sound without picture
  • uninterrupted
  • interrupted
  • freeze-frame
  • with subtitles (target/native)
  • without subtitles
  • eg tenses
  • what’s he doing/going to do/just done?
  • retell the sequence
  • eg prepositions
  • where’s his hand?
  • description (scenes/people/objects)
  • general comprehension
  • specific information (names, dates, numbers)
  • discussion (before/during/after: opinion, body language, acting, filming etc)
  • prediction (guess the end/create interest)
  • conceivably
  • summary
  • journalist’s report
  • critic’s review


  • Be fully conversant with the tape (contents, length, order etc).
  • Always check the tape beforehand: quality, format (PAL/SECAM, long-play/short-play etc).
  • Always check the VCR/TV beforehand: power supply, connections, remote control, channel etc.
  • Always try to work with a remote control.
  • Make sure you are familiar with the VCR and its controls (play, pause, rewind, volume, channels etc).
  • Before the lesson: insert the tape, cue it and zero the VCR.
  • Check the volume, tone and angle of view from different parts of the room.
  • Make sure you rewind to the right place. Take your time. Nothing is worse than losing your place.
  • Try creating your own worksheets tailored to an authentic sequence.
  • Give students something to watch or listen for while the tape is playing. This can get increasingly difficult or detailed with each repetition.
  • Don’t play a tape without giving an introduction or setting the context (unless there is a good reason for not doing so).
  • Let the tape do the work. Don’t say yourself what the tape says.
  • Don’t play a tape for too long without stopping.
  • Be sensitive and realistic as to what students can be expected to memorize.
Written by Joe Essberger for Tefl.NET November 2000
Joe Essberger is founder of TEFL.NET and EnglishClub and has taught EFL in Europe and Asia.
© Tefl.NET

One Comment

  • paola vallarino says:

    Thank you!
    Good summary of video potential usage. Thanks. I would add ” filming the students themselves” while acting out, role-plays, etc… to use for reflecting on their performances too and improve/change etc

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