In this article I am going to explore the use of short video clips in the classroom. 

By short videos I am referring to short clips such as news items, short documentaries, music videos and trailers for films etc.

  • Using a clip
  • Advantages of using video clips
  • Possible problems
  • Choosing a clip
  • Exploiting a clip
  • Conclusion

Using a clip

These videos shouldn't last longer than ten minutes, as if they are any longer the class objectives change. First and foremost, in order to use these clips the following requirements are needed:

  • Either you have access to online resources, perhaps in the form of an Interactive White Board, in your classroom,
  • OR a computer room with internet facilities and preferably a projector screen. If you don't have a projector you would need to make sure that everyone can see the screen and adjust the volume accordingly.

If you don't have access to any of these facilities then why not get students to view the video at home? You would just need to supply them with the exact website with clear instructions on how to find that particular video. This could be an exercise in itself within class time.

Advantages of using video clips

  • Students are exposed to authentic English in a natural context. Not only is this by exposing them to "real people", but they view real situations too. Short documentaries, for example, can open up their eyes to different cultures and ways of life.
  • You can really focus on the content, without students losing concentration.
  • The videos are short enough for you to really focus on vocabulary, so you have the chance to pre-teach relevant vocabulary beforehand and then whilst watching the video, students will be able to listen to the new vocabulary in context.
  • Language produced from the video can be exploited further by setting up a debate involving recycling of new vocabulary, and followed up by a piece of writing for homework.
  • As the length of the video is normally stated on the websites, you can plan your class with a timescale in mind.
  • Lesson planning time is shortened. When I first became acquainted with the Interactive White Board (IWB) in the classroom I would spend hours preparing classes specifically. However I have found the use of online videos to be the perfect time saver, in terms of planning IWB based classes, as the short videos provide a perfect way to set off classroom discussion.
  • You will have enough classroom time before or after the showing of the video to exploit the content, which I will be looking at later on in this article.
  • The visual element is stimulating to students. Short videos provide a nice alternative to reading or listening exercises which students are usually exposed to.

Possible problems

  • Technical problems can arise, either with problems of internet connection, or in the case of video on demand, a high demand at a given time for one particular video can affect the server. High amounts of storage and bandwidth are required for a video to be supplied from a video server located within the network, and a high quality is not necessarily guaranteed. If you are not technically acquainted with the equipment you need to have an emergency back-up lesson.
  • When a longer video is used, attention may sway, especially if we are dealing with a difficult script, and students may end up feeling demotivated as they are struggling to keep up with the language. This is particularly applicable to lower level groups.
  • Some videos can be inappropriate, and the content may not be quite what you expect, hence it is crucial that you watch the video beforehand. This leads us onto the point of video selection.

Choosing a clip

There are three key points that I think about when selecting an appropriate video clip.

  • Who will select the video
    Where students are involved in the selection of the video they may be more motivated to watch it as it will reflect their interests. This could even be given as a pre-class task, where students could select an online video clip themselves, and be prepared to talk about it.

    When you, as the Teacher, are selecting a video, note down any new vocabulary you want to pre-teach whilst watching the video.
  • The topic of the video
    This could be a topic which students have requested or something more specific to your students' needs. Perhaps you are teaching Business classes or English for Special purposes (ESP). Topics which coincide with the course book you may be using in class or something related to the customs and traditions of the country where you are teaching, for example, local festivals might well be motivating.
  • Class objectives
    Do you want students to concentrate on the visual aspect to make descriptions? If so you need to look at short stories, or perhaps music videos which will tell a story. Or would you prefer to focus on specific vocabulary on the video? You need to consider your class aims carefully when it comes to selecting the appropriate video.

Exploiting a clip

These are the stages that I consider when I'm thinking about how to exploit the clip in my classroom.

  • During the class
    Pre-teach the vocabulary if you are watching a news item or short documentary. This can be done by asking a few key questions using the new vocabulary, and getting students into pairs or small groups to discuss. Once class feedback is gathered and the new vocabulary has been put on the board, we can then show the video.

    If you are watching a film trailer or a music video, you may be more focused on the visual aspect, so make sure your students know that they will be expected to produce some descriptive writing based on what they have seen. In this case the video can be shown more than once.
  • After viewing
    If you have viewed something topical, set a discussion going by gathering student opinions on the video. From my experience with talkative classes, they will carry a discussion through, once you have given them a few prompt questions.

    Where the class are hesitant to talk, give them some preparation time for a discussion by putting them into two groups where one group will argue advantages, the other disadvantages. This way they will have had some time to prepare arguments for the class debate which follows. This can be followed up with a piece of writing on the topic for homework, again giving a chance for students to recycle the new vocabulary.

If you want to focus more on a grammar point, for example narrative tenses, then you could get students to write down their own interpretation of events once they have seen the video.


What better way is there to keep up with modern trends in the classroom and adapting to changing times than by making your lessons more up to date, fun and visual? I have found that it gives an edge to my classes, and students really look forward to watching the clips, and recycling the language learned afterwards. It certainly works across levels, and with all ages.

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Delina Moobin, British Council, Spain

This article was first published in 2008


Submitted by Leesajohnson on Wed, 04/18/2018 - 10:17

Thank you for this post. When teachers follow technology in the classroom, then students learn early compare to other ways. Videos are the best way to explain things, so play short study clips for kids.

Submitted by nahla_shaw on Fri, 02/17/2012 - 20:01

Dear Delina,

Thank you for the article, I really liked it because I love using technology in the classroom. I think that when watching a movie, students should be presented with tasks so that they consider it as a learning experience as well.


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