Exactly five years ago this month, the video-sharing site YouTube was officially launched to the public. Since then, the site and others like it have been affecting the world in diverse and unpredictable ways.

Video for the English classroom - speaking article - guest writers

For the language teacher, YouTube may be nothing less than one of the best sources of material the classroom has ever seen. In this article, I would like to share 12 clips that I have used in my own classroom. I hope that each clip will be representative of a type of video that may be of particular interest to language teachers.


Note: In this article, we will be examining a number of clips that are hosted on the video-sharing site YouTube. Unfortunately, the site is blocked in a number of countries and in such cases the clips will not be accessible. We hope, however, that many of the principles that we examine throughout the month will apply to video in general and will be of interest to you regardless of the specific video sites that you use.


1. Video-enhanced texts

Some poems are best appreciated when they are heard rather than read. In the case of this poem by Billy Collins, the underlying ideas and imagery are communicated even further by the ingenious animation that accompanies it. For me, this video encapsulates a harmonious marriage between old and new media.

For language teachers, a visual element increases the possibilities for using any text in the classroom. In other words, there are more things that you can do with words and pictures than with words alone.

2. Space-time texts

This is an example of ‘kinetic typography’ – the technical name for a moving text. This genre is currently very fashionable in advertising and has peaked in popularity as a result of online video culture.

Note how the text bombards the eyes in a range of orientations, sizes, font- types, colour and movement. All this is accompanied by fast-moving images and graphics and, in some cases, sound effects. All of these factors can contribute to increased learner engagement with the text and comprehension of it.

Kinetic typography requires ‘space-time reading’ on the part of the viewer. Compare this with the more regular ‘space reading’ which is what we are used to in the case of non-moving texts. It won’t be long before some clever person creates an application which allows us to make and share our own kinetic typography texts.

3. Adverts

Unlike the adverts that we are subjected to on television, new adverts that are uploaded onto sites such as YouTube generally have to be interesting in some way or another. There is a very good reason for this: if they are not worth watching, no one will pay any attention to them.

As a result, forward-thinking advertisers are working closely with teams of highly creative individuals to produce video content that the audience will like.

Any educator should consider the ethics that underlie the question of whether or not we should use adverts in the classroom. But it is obvious that if we do it responsibly and if we confront the issues, there are some highly engaging
adverts out there that may be used.

4. New issues

With a new advertising medium comes a whole new range of issues for the educator to confront. In the above video, there are two questions that come up time and time again in the modern era of video sharing:

  • Is it real?
  • What purpose does it serve?

The Kobe Bryant Aston Martin jump is not real. Surely the basketball player, who is worth millions of dollars to the Los Angeles Lakers, would have a clause in his contract to prevent such dangerous stunts. The more plausible explanation is that the video is a stealth advert. It exists for no other reason to sell Nike shoes and perhaps Aston Martin cars (and, of course, the Kobe Bryant brand). But how obvious was that?

5. Social campaign videos

If advertisers are using video in increasingly imaginative ways, the same can be said for the creators of social awareness campaign videos. The above clip was created for World Water Day 2008 by California-based media platform www.GOOD.is. The videos, which are regularly uploaded onto YouTube, deal with a range of environmental issues and global social problems. They are invaluable for any English teacher and educator.

6. Television

Many of the content creators for traditional television use video-sharing sites to promote their programmes. The clip above comes from a BBC series called ‘Walk on the Wild Side’ in which actors and comedians lend their voices to animals in footage taken from wildlife documentaries. Promotional clips like this are valuable to language teachers. I particularly like the monkey dentist in the above clip.

7. New accessibility

We may associate the explosion in online video with all that is new and at the cutting edge of creativity. But, of course, the rise of video sharing has allowed for an accessibility to video content from yesteryear. In the above piece of news footage from 1930, we meet Helen Keller - the American author, political activist and lecturer - and her instructor and lifelong companion, Anne Sullivan, showing us the way that Helen learned to talk.

8. Multicultural content

While teaching in Spain, I used this music video to bring celebrities into the classroom. The clip features a number of well-known Spanish actors and musicians. For me, it was interesting to be educated by my Spanish students about:

  • Who the people are
  • What films/bands they have been in
  • What type of roles they play/music they create
  • Their private lives
  • How they are perceived in the public eye
  • Whether or not they deserve their reputations

The Internet is generally not defined by boundaries. Language teachers can make use of material from their learners’ own backgrounds for speaking and writing activities and learn from the students in the process.

9. Remix

In a TED presentation which can be seen here, activist Larry Lessig defines remixing as “taking and recreating, using other people’s content, using digital technologies, to say things differently.”

Robert Ryang, the young creator of the remixed trailer (see above) does exactly this. He ingeniously used video and audio from Stanley Kubrik’s classic horror film, The Shining, to portray it as a light-hearted comedy about a father and son bonding. He was able to do this with standard editing tools and share it using online video sites.

Although remixing is not a new thing, it has now been democratised. In other words, anyone with a modern computer is now able to take sounds and images from the culture around us and use it them say things differently. In the presentation mentioned above, Larry Lessig speaks of this as a “literacy for this generation.”

10. Material for CLIL teachers

We all know that helium makes the voice go higher. But not a lot of people know that sulfur hexafluoride has the opposite effect. For CLIL teachers, YouTube is a repository of material that can complement virtually any curricular subject: Sports drills, instructional videos, natural history clips, historical footage, and, of course, experiments that cannot be recreated in the classroom. 

11. Stories

To many people, the term ‘video’ used to be synonymous with videocassettes and full-length feature films. Online video, on the other hand, is associated with reduced-length clips. For language teachers, this is an important point. It is much more practical to make use of short, yet complete pieces of material which tell a complete story such as the one above.

12. Life and love

Anyone who has ever tried to learn a new language must feel sympathy for this young learner of English. He is making such an effort to produce the language accurately but can’t comprehend why his efforts to communicate are being met with laughter. Similar thoughts go through my own frustrated head when I try to speak Spanish on a bad day!

Human beings are fascinated by other human beings and the video-sharing phenomenon lets us into the lives of everyday people all over the world. Language teachers can make use of such clips for more serious purposes such as the study of authentic language in use and linguistic and cultural diversity.

I hope that this non-comprehensive list of video genres and types will serve to initiate some discussion here. Perhaps you would like to share a clip that you have used in the classroom. During this month, we might want to look at any of the following:

  • How online video is affecting education in general and ELT in particular
  • How we should choose the material that our learners will engage with the most
  • Principles for using video to teach language
  • How we can make use of video recording devices in the classroom
  • Privacy issues
  • The technical competences that are necessary for using online video in the classroom
  • Copyright and legal issues
  • Access to video: What do teachers do in countries where sites like YouTube are blocked?

I look forward to sharing ideas :)


Submitted by ShSalem on Thu, 12/01/2011 - 18:07

Hi , I have question what's the voluom and issue number of this article cause it's very nice .


Submitted by MyEE Online on Tue, 03/06/2012 - 07:47

In reply to by ShSalem

Useful videos.

Classroom videos really spice up boring lessons.

I use classroom videos a lot especially when I want to organise mini group research projects.

You can find many other classroom videos at http://www.myeeonline.com/video/the-history-of-cats

Submitted by milada on Tue, 01/04/2011 - 20:12


Jamie, thanks for the brand new website full of creative lesson ideas:  

www.lessonstream.org has Great downloadable lesson plans, invaluable tips, visually attractive, easy to search and fun to teach. Highly recommended!

An excellent start to a new year :)






Submitted by jessie799 on Thu, 11/25/2010 - 01:40

It's really good idea to use video material in English classes, which associated real language context with abstract pattens and grammar.

Thank you for your good suggestion, and I am deeply touched by the video about Helen Kell and her teacher-- Anne Sullivan.  There really exists such a devoted and loving teacher to her career and her student.

Thanks Jessie

Thank you for your comment. Glad you like the Helen Keller clip. It is very moving.

Hope you have enjoyed the month

Jamie :)


Submitted by Augun on Thu, 11/18/2010 - 19:45

Hi Jamie!

Amazing collection of videos.

I liked The slap and kiss incident in the train , can't stop laughing.

My favourite one is about Forgetfullness. Interesting psycological facts.

Thanks Augun

Here are a couple of lesson plans for you that use the videos that you like:

  • The Train Tunnel Joke: http://www.jamiekeddie.com/teflclips/?p=296
  • Forgetfulness: http://www.jamiekeddie.com/teflclips/?p=264

Nice to meet you here


Submitted by theteacherjames on Fri, 11/05/2010 - 10:59

That's a great collection of videos Jamie. I found your Images book very useful when teaching movie review writing, and had a great experience of using the Shining fake trailer, an idea I think I got from your website.

Heres a short film that worked very well for me:



I'm looking forward to reading your blog this month, and hopefully getting some more ideas I can use in my classroom.

Hello James

Excellent to see you here.

I love the octopus clip. Have you used it in class? I'd be interested to hear what you did with it. We'll be looking at video activities and techniques very soon. Would be great to hear from you then



Submitted by SteveM on Sun, 11/07/2010 - 17:36

In reply to by Jamie Keddie

Some great clips there, Jamie.

Here's one that worked for me. I used it with Spanish students, B2 and above. Scroll to 05:35 for the start of the activity.


First of all, I dictated the following list of ingredients:

olive oil, tomatoes, sea salt, black pepper, basil, bread, chorizo, garlic, shallot, parsley, sherry vinegar

After checking spelling, meaning and pronunciation, students in groups had to come up with the most creative meal possible using all the ingredients (and without adding any more).

Each group nominated a spokesperson to describe their dish to the class, and everyone voted on which they preferred.

Then they watched what Jamie Oliver did with the ingredients, and gave their opinion on his dish.

Finally I told them i was going to ask them some questions. They watched again and took notes, and I asked these questions, which they had to work as a group to answer.


  •  What is an important ingredient of chorizo?
  •  How much olive oil did Jamie put in the pan?
  •  What do the pigs eat?
  • How much salt and black pepper did he use?
  • What did he do with the basil and parsley?
  • What does he recommend doing with the leftover oil?
  • What kind of cheese did he use?
Homework - watch the rest of the episode on YouTube.



Hello Steve

I love the clip and the teaching idea.

I have heard of teachers actually bringing ingredients into the class and equipping students with cookery-related language while preparing simple recipes (a good teacher friend of mine has a 'Trifle Lesson'). But that is, of course, a bit unpractical for most of us. Hey - perhaps we should be persuading Directors of Studies to equip classrooms with cookers, mixers and sinks rather than Interactive Whiteboards! Cookery clips like the one you have posted are a fantastic compromise.

Here is another one that I like. I particularly like the simple language that is used in conjunction with the video:


Submitted by SteveM on Mon, 11/08/2010 - 20:57

In reply to by Jamie Keddie

I love that clip - if I hadn't done food to death this term, I'd take it into class tomorrow!

Here's one I used with my B1s


No preparation at all needed - I got the students to describe in groups how to make the perfect omelette, and went round feeding in vocabulary (excuse the pun). Then they practised explaining their method in pairs before describing and comparing with someone from another group. And then they compared with Jamie Oliver. 

No IWBs in my centre (and no cooking equipment either, unfortunately), but putting YouTube clips on my iPod Touch and connecting to the TV has revolutionized my teaching life!



Submitted by Jamie Keddie on Tue, 11/09/2010 - 11:29

In reply to by SteveM

Great clip - I am getting hungry now (it's almost lunch time)

That is a great piece of hardware advice - connecting an iPod (or similar device) to a TV. I have a few questions about that for you. If it's OK with you, I'm going to post them on the blog posting titled 'Video Hardware and Equipment'. See you there I hope.

PS Another cookery clip that I love (+ lesson plan):


Submitted by SteveM on Wed, 11/10/2010 - 22:37

In reply to by Jamie Keddie

That's a fantastic clip!

You've got some great teaching ideas on your site - I really like this one:


And this one (to change the subject from food)


Here's a beautifully-animated clip I came across last week:


And this is what I did with it:


1. Tell students that you are going to dictate ten verbs to them and they should write the past simple of each one.


fly, turn off, get, drink, light, send , put on, cook, wait and wait, blow out


3. After checking, put students in groups of three or four and tell them you’re going to ask them some questions. They have fifteen seconds to agree on and write down an answer in their group. If their answer is the same as the one you have, they get two points. If their answer makes sense, they get one point.


4. Ask the first question and stop the discussion after fifteen seconds. Ask each group for their answer, and at the end of the round, award points. Repeat with the other questions.


The questions are:


  •  Write down one thing you can send. (a message)
  •  Write down two things you can put on. (goggles, make up)
  •  Write down one thing you can fly across. (the sea)
  •  Write down one kind of seafood you can cook. (lobster)
  •  Write down one thing you can light. (candles)
  •  Write down one thing you can turn off. (the light)
  •  Write down one adjective that goes with get. (lost)
  •  Write down one thing you can drink, (wine)
  •  Write down one thing you can blow out. (candles)
  •  Write down one reason why you might wait and wait. (for a blind date)


5.  Tell students that they’re going to watch a clip about a blind date, but they can’t take any notes while watching. Play the clip until 02:30.


6. After watching, students in pairs order the verbs and vocabulary from exercise 4 to retell the story using past tenses, and add any other information they remember. They should also make up an ending.


7. Ask a few pairs to tell their ending to the whole class. Then play the clip to see if anyone came up with a similar ending.


Submitted by theteacherjames on Thu, 11/11/2010 - 10:29

In reply to by Jamie Keddie

Hi Jamie,

Here's how I used the film. I was teaching 'how to write a movie review' (to adults), and I used Oktopodi to help them practice summarising the plot. After I showed the film, they discussed the story with a partner. Then using a questionnaire, they answered questions to identify some key aspects of the plot (who are the characters? where are they? what happens at the beginning? etc). After completing their questionnaires, they used them to write a one paragraph summary of the film. They then compared their summaries in groups, comparing the similarites and differences. Finally, I gave them feedback, concentrating on the writing style rather than spelling etc.

It worked well, and I got a lot of positivity at the beginning of the class because they loved the film. I think it gave the lesson a lot of impetus because from their perspective, it started in such an enjoyable way.

Submitted by Jamie Keddie on Sun, 11/14/2010 - 17:47

In reply to by theteacherjames

Hello James

This is great! Thanks for sharing.

The way you talk about how the lesson was received really demonstrates the potential for video to engage learners. Writing a summary for a film is a really lovely task. As a student myself, I remember having to write summaries for novels - some of which I hadn't read! Unlike long texts, a short clip like this allows for a story to be quickly relayed to a class. The fact that there is no audio text means that students can focus on the story without being hindered by unknown or probematic language. This takes comprehension first and the approach really strengthens the linguistic task that follows. I'll be referring to this acvtivity later in the blog.



Submitted by sbl_maria on Mon, 11/15/2010 - 03:56

In reply to by Jamie Keddie

I found your selection of videos from Youtube very interesting and I wanted to contribute something I did with my elementary students, a small group of adults.

They were learning vocabulary connected with parts of the house, furniture and the grammar structure "there is / there are". So, I prepared some questions connected with a house shown in the video, the rooms and the furniture.  My students had to watch the video and memorize as much as possible. Then they had to answer the questions and finally I played the video again for them to check the answers. I turned this into a memory competition and proclaimed the winners. As a follow up, I asked my students to videotape their own living-rooms and describe the rooms at the same time. Then we watched the videos in class and commented on them.

This is the video I used


Submitted by Jamie Keddie on Tue, 11/16/2010 - 11:08

In reply to by sbl_maria

Love the idea Maria

It reminds of a British TV programme - 'Through the Keyhole'. Presenter Lloyd Grossman used to walk through a celebrity's house and describe what he saw. Contestants would then try to guess whose house it was.


Thanks for sharing!

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