I have just become an uncle! My new nephew Tomás is three weeks old today. 

Video recorders in the classroom - speaking article - guest writers

Mummy and daddy live in Barcelona but his maternal grandparents and great granddad live in Scotland. As you can probably imagine then, Tomás is currently getting used to the mobile phones, Flip camcorders and other video recording devices that are being habitually pointed at his little baby head – all of this so that his UK family can see him sleeping, feeding, having his nappy changed and sometimes just lying in wonder at it all.

Welcome (Tomás) to the age of video sharing, where the rise of accessible and relatively inexpensive video tools are, increasingly, becoming a part of the baby’s everyday life. These tools include seemingly ubiquitous video recording devices, faster Internet connections, user-friendly video editing applications, and video-sharing sites such as YouTube.

For teachers and students, the new culture of video sharing means new potential, new opportunities and new motivation for creating and learning. In this article, we are going to explore a few of the possibilities.

Capturing a student performance
The presence of the video camera may provide motivation to rehearse and polish a spoken performance. Potential for student-generated content includes:

  • Stories and anecdotes
  • Role plays and drama productions
  • Interviews
  • Fictitious television, news reports, adverts
  • Songs
  • Speaking games
  • Presentations
  • Project work (e.g. students have to create a video report on a local subject)

Watch a couple of examples:



The captured 'end product' of a student performance can be shared with all those who participated in it. The easiest way to do this is by using a site such as http://www.youtube.com/ or http://vimeo.com/. Importantly, videos can be uploaded so that they are private (only specific users can view them) or unlisted (only people with the links can view them).

Of course, if you want to film students, it is necessary to obtain permission from the relevant parties first (parents, head teachers, students themselves, etc). But this is well worth doing when you consider the benefits:

  • The knowledge that a performance or activity is going to be filmed may potentially excite and motivate students.
  • Students may be able to monitor their own progress (e.g. improvement of aspects of spoken English)
  • If students are happy with the outcomes, they might revisit their clips from time to time and in doing so, inadvertently revisit language that was recorded in conjunction with them.
  • A teacher can refer back to the video at later dates to revise language or demonstrate an activity.
  • A teacher can refer back to a recording of a speaking activity for error correction. This solves the interrupting-to-correct problem.
  • Students will retain a record of their classroom activities. The children in the choir are singing from the heart (see above clip). Imagine them being able to watch themselves do so for the rest of their lives. What a beautiful gift from their teacher.

Texts from the teacher
The teacher’s voice is one of the most important instruments in the language classroom. Just consider the diverse range of situations in which we make use of it: giving instructions; motivating students; doing dictation; giving explanations; telling stories; drilling sounds and structures, etc. Importantly for learners, it will usually be the primary source of spoken language input.

There will most likely be a number of video recording devices in your classroom in the guise of mobile phones or digital cameras. If you feel brave enough, and if you trust your students, you can create a classroom culture in which your students are granted permission, upon request, to capture a spoken text from you whenever they want. Here are two examples from my own class:



We can also organize things so that we can plan activities around such video clips. A recording of a teacher-led story or anecdote, for example, allows the spoken text to be captured and subsequently used for a whole range of language-study activities.

One Friday afternoon, I decided to play a trick on a group of students – a fantastic class of Swiss teenagers that had come to the UK to do an exam preparation course. In the previous lesson, the class had met the expression 'to pull someone’s leg' (i.e. to tell someone that something is not true as a way of teasing or joking with him or her). I hid a Flip video camera in the corner of the classroom and was very careful to make sure that I was the only one that would be in the picture. Here is the result:


In a normal situation, the words of my fake anecdote would have been lost forever. With a video recording device, they can be captured and kept. The text can then be used for a wide range of language study activities. Here are three ideas:

  1. Transcribe the text or excerpts from it. Use it to create a gap fill for any useful words, expressions, narrative tenses, etc, that you would like your students to learn or revise. Allow them to correct their answers by playing them back the clip in class.
  2. Use the story for a dictogloss activity. This involves students reconstructing the text concisely in their own words. In order to compare aspects of the language that they have used with the original language that you used, refer them back to the video.
  3. Use a transcript or transcribed excerpts to study aspects of spoken language (false starts, self interruptions, hesitations, vague language, etc.).

Teacher cams
Potentially, one of the greatest beneficiaries of a video camera in the classroom will be you - the teacher. No one likes to listen to recordings of their voice or watch the clumsy movements or gestures that we may seem to make around the classroom. But once you get used to doing so, the possibility for learning by watching videos of yourself at work are enormous. You may become aware of situations for consideration or room for improvement – negative body language or moments in which you could have interacted better with a student, for example. Alternatively, you might notice something positive that you did that you had never really thought about before.

Possibilities can be expanded even further if we are brave enough to share our footage from the classroom on sites like YouTube. In this case, the beneficiaries will be other teachers who may learn from your successes or mistakes.

Video is the best medium for recording or documenting the organic nature of the classroom. The articles, lesson plans and blog posts that we read will tell us about activities and techniques we can make use of as teachers. Video, on the other hand, goes one step further - it shows us. We are only just beginning to explore the potential.

It would be great to get some feedback on this article. Please do share your ideas and experience regarding any of the following:

  • What type of hardware (video recording devices) do you recommend?
  • Are you aware of any technical or practical problems with recording in the classroom?
  • How easy/difficult has it been for you to obtain permission to film students?
  • How happy or unhappy are your students to be filmed? How do they feel?
  • How happy or unhappy are you to be filmed? How do you feel?
  • Most importantly, it would be fantastic if you would share any videos from your own classroom.

Thanks for reading.



I would love to video record at a summer school I work at - the creative possibilities are endless!
Unfortunately, the words 'teenager' and 'video' apparently now bring to mind many other factors. At pre-session training to discuss questions such as, 'is it appropriate to be alone in the classroom with a student?' and 'can you take photographs/videos of your students, with their permission?' I was unable to convince colleagues that it is perhaps not the case that:
Parental permission is 'too complicated', and
Even with permission, any pedagogical benefits are well outweighed by the possibility of a lawsuit.
Sad times.
Still, really appreciate your use of video for recording yourself and your classes - I've learnt a lot!
I'm thinking about recording my adult one-to-ones as a way for them to see their own progress. Hopefully will start in the near future!

Thanks Jamie for the videos. They're not only great ideas for using video with our students but also inspiring examples of great classroom practice. But will be very wary of you in the future in case you pull my leg... Cheers, Ann

Hello Ann
Good to see you here! Yes - that is the problem with activities like the supermarket story. Students can become wary of their teacher. Is he telling the truth or not? It has to be used sparingly!

Hello Danieth This is really sad to hear. And this is why I love the clip of the PS22 choir. I wonder how difficult it was for the choir master to get permission. Look at the number of young learners that appear - often close up - in the video. It has been viewed over a quarter of a million times. And PS22 refers to the post code of the school. Just what exactly are we afraid of here?Perhaps the best thing to do is keep trying to persuade those who make the decisions to seek the permission. Good luck with your adult one-to-ones. I would be really interested to see the results!

Hi! I just became an aunt too. I used Smilebox to create albums, and the proud parents were thrilled. I highly recommend it. I bought my first mini cam this September and have had great results. It is a wonderful way to highlight, throughout the year, a variety of students. Besides, it's great fun for them. I wouldn't upload to YouTube anymore though. It is not private and can have the potential for cyber bullying. Try school tube, vimeo as you said, or kinkast. Here's an example on YT: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7g_LNjd4Fz4

Hello Auntie Aisha!Thanks very much for Dinner of Smells. Great job from you and your students! A really enjoyable clip :)I am interested in what you say about cyberbullying. Have your students ever been the victims of bullying in any way as a result of a clip of a class project or play on YouTube? This is definititeley something that we should consider and for that reason, it would be great to hear about your experiences.Jamie

Hi! The clip was impromptu. They really wanted to do a retake after some practice but of course the gafs are what's priceless. I will have them do it again but after we've worked on theatrical skills. Then we'll have two very different aspects of the genre, extemporaneous and rehearsed.No problems with cyberbullying on our 7th grade blog. In fact they all still have the same password. Cyberbullying was discussed and evaluated after the first lab hour. There was no doubt left in anyone's mind that it is a crime and that there would be serious repercussions- loss of all lab privileges, and me in "Medea Mode". Kidding aside, the list of repercussions that I matter of fact gave, completely killed any potential thrilling thought they could ever have. On YouTube though, people are anonymous and what ever comment is written, stays. I guess one could report it. Not sure. The teacher would be responsible in that case. Perhaps it could be closed to comments. Probably. I have to check. FB is where kids are "dissing" each other. FB with kids I would avoid. I use Creative Vado HD mini cam 3 G. I did a real good scan of consumers comments and compared clips on the web and am very happy with my choice. The usb extension, amazing sound, great color, and easy upload made me want to sing Hallaluyah.


Hello Aisha
Very interesting to read your comment. The one thing you say that fascinates me is that the kids wanted to record the video again! There must have been a strong aspect of rehearsal/performance to the activity. This would be much weaker with the absence of a video recorder. So much about language learning is about repetition and what a great motivating potential a video recorder can have for giving learners the desire to repeat! I hear teachers worried about putting videos on YouTube (with respect to bullying). But bear in mind that:

  • You can turn off the facility for users to leave comments
  • The videos can be made private or 'unlisted'. I tend to go with the latter. If it is unlisted, you can only watch the video if you have the URL (which is a long code and therefor acts as a sort of key). If you don't know the URL you won't be able to find it on YouTube using the search facility. If we use privacy settings, I don't think it would make any difference if we use YouTube or a site like Vimeo.
  • So much of video cyberbullying involves kids doing the filming themselves in and out of the classroom and uploading the clips themselves. (Of course, teachers can be on the receiving too and that is why, in the article, I stressed that you should only allow 'responsible' students to film you in class!)

Thanks again Aisha

Jamie :)

Congratulations on becoming an uncle!!And thank you for a wonderful article I'll be sure to try out your suggestion :)Love,Gülsüm ŞIVGINEnglish Teacher

congratulations for new uncle I hope you enjoy your nephew a lot.
Thank you so much for that great article you showed us. I'll try out your suggestion
I want to wish you Merry Christmas and Happy New Year 2011!
Best Wishes
Edlira Peza
English Teacher Albania


Add new comment

Log in or register to post comments