Why Use Video in The ESL Classroom?

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Using Video in the ESL Classroom.

Can you remember the 2 distinct feelings you felt, as a student, when a Video lesson was going to be taught?


The first one was when a TV and DVD unit was wheeled into the classroom. You felt like Christmas had come early and you weren’t going to have to sit through another boring book-based lesson today. That feeling of relief and excitement all mixed together with anticipation.


And the second one, where the teacher took out his movie recorder and placed it onto a tripod. You felt your stomach slowly moving southward while the nausea in your gut slowly moved north. It was like the double-edged sword of doom.

First off, you knew you were going to have to prepare a speech. And secondly, you were going to have to read it out in FRONT OF THE CLASS.

This article is going to cover both of these situations.

After 15 plus years of teaching ESL and EFL in Vietnam I have used, and still do, various techniques to make these lessons fun and rewarding for my students.

Below you will find some of the “advantages” and the “how to’s” of using or creating your video or vlogs. Whether they are short or long, aesthetic or on-point, there is something for everyone.

Pro Tip; Screencast-O-Matic is a great recording tool you can use to capture video for the classroom.

Watching and using Video in the Classroom.

When it comes to studying English, video is a fantastic tool. Your students will almost certainly respond well to the combination of sight and sound in cinematic harmony, regardless of their age.

Here are a few of the advantages of using video

  • This is normally more entertaining, than purely book-based learning, and can help make lessons enjoyable and memorable.
  • Video is ideal for visual learners or those who haven’t yet mastered the basics of reading and writing.
  • Using video gives the language context and helps students understand the subject by providing lengthier and more relevant visual background.
  • It’s also great for honing a variety of language skills other than speaking and listening. For example, You can drill down into certain grammatical points or even slang and other structures that ESL students find dificult to understand.
  • Short “YouTube” videos can be a great warm-up activity for your classroom or can be used as an intro for a lengthier video.

How to use video in the Classroom.

Using any tech in the classroom comes inherent with the standard tech risks, “will it work on the day”

Check Your Gear.
Arguably the most important thing to do before any lesson is to check your gear. Make sure where you are teaching has a strong internet connection and you have access to the password and are set up close to a power outlet.

Your laptop’s speaker will not be loud enough for even the smallest classroom. So invest in a blue tooth speaker that is both portable and loud enough so the sound can carry clearly all the way to the back of the classroom.

Vietnams public schools quite commonly have 40 students, so you need to be heard from the front of the class all the way to the back.

I also use an Aporro wireless blue tooth speaker that I connect up to my Sony SRS-XB41 blue tooth speaker. At 30 watts RMS it gives me enough power to project my voice all around the classroom.

This is a great tool for saving your voice after teaching all day in large classrooms.

Write a Lesson Plan.

If you don’t have a lesson plan, you’re not doing yourself or your pupils any favors. Prepare your pupils for what they will need to do before, during, and after the video.

Also, make sure it’s relevant to the lesson’s objectives. Always try to keep everything connected to the rest of the course and never just watch a video to pass the time.

You can find out more here about “how to design a lesson plan” This includes some free resources in helping your preparations.

Pre-Teach Difficult Vocabulary.

If there are any specific language concerns with parts of the video, like difficult vocabulary, you will want to write these words on the board and pre-teach what they mean and how they’ are pronounced.

Another option is to read these words out and get the students to write them down. They have to spell the words correctly and give meanings for each word.

Depending on your time frame, you can also get the students to write an example sentence for each word.

Turn this into a game that you can keep flowing through the length of your lesson.

Keep it Clean and Culturally Appropriate.

For your younger student, everything must be “Micky Mouse”. Only use PG-rated content for younger kids and watch the video yourself in its entirety before your classroom public screening.

You must be aware of local culture and legislation whenever you use films in an ESL classroom. If you’re not sure if a video is appropriate, have a coworker preview it.

My Cultural Test.

When I first came to Vietnam to teach, I accepted a job a short distance away from the center of Saigon. It had a lovely mix of normally talkative students.

Yet that night the students shuffled in and sat down very quietly. Although they looked rather intensely at me. We had a new student that night who feigned being a slow learner. He sat quietly through the first half of the class and then disappeared at the start of the second period.

It was later my students told me that the “new student” was actually a policeman checking me out to see if I was saying the right thing. Or more importantly, was not saying anything I shouldn’t have re politics or culture.

Do a warm up Task.

You should have a warm-up task for your students to do. Give them a reason to watch the video carefully. Here are a couple of warm-up tasks that I use.

The “The” Game.

One task I use is to get the students to listen for one particular word. E.G. “The” is a good word because it is used often and scattered evenly throughout most articles.

It is also helpful if you have a written copy of the text you are listening to. If you wish to turn it into a game then whoever comes closest to the correct answer (Times ‘the’ is spoken) wins.

The Directors Cut.

Or, as another option, you can mute the sound and play the video. Get the students to work in teams and write the script for the visual content. Then get the students to act out the video.

Describe What Happens Next.

Another popular activity that uses students’ imagination and language skills is to guess what happens in the next scene. This can be done by simply pausing the video and asking the students to write down what they believe will happen next.

They can then use their writing to elaborate on what they believe will happen in next. Or you can make it more difficult by adding different scenarios to what is currently happening. E.G. If it was raining, how would it change things?

Video Recording in the Classroom.

The impactful learning that comes from watching yourself or listening to your own voice can best be attested by my remembrance of my father recording me when I was seven years old in Broadlands, New Zealand.

It was so different and so strange hearing my own voice that it is something I have never forgotten. The actual reason for recording has long been forgotten but such was its impact on me, it is something I have never forgotten.

A Picture is Worth a Thousand Words.

When I first started recording my students on video, I was much the same as everyone else and recorded the students’ reading out what they had written. The double-edged sword of unhappiness for the student.

It was informative and fun for everyone but the student who was actually doing the work. Yes, it showed the weaknesses of the student and was helpful in showing them how they could improve.

But it was still something the students didn’t look forward to.

So What Did I do.?

I became less possessive and let my students use the vlogging tools, not me. And what things did we do. Well, we put the learning experience firmly in the hands of the student and let them take control of their learning experiences.

If you don’t have expensive vlogging cameras or video recorders to pass around, the “smartphones” of today have enough functionality to be able to produce some “kick-ass: content.

Here are some of the things I have done with my students to make the lessons more exciting.

Book Reviews.

Instead of writing a book review, the students did a ” movie trailer” about the book in question. You can have 2 or 3 students participating in a review of one book. They can even ask pre-prepared questions to make it like a panel discussion.

Instructional Videos.

The students created how-to videos. They taught other students everything from how to do a Rubik cube in under 3 minutes to how to draw chickens.

Another great topic is video games where you can explain “how to beat the boss” or any other feature needing an explanation.

International Introductions.

Rather than doing the same old “introduce yourself” to other students in the classroom, we put together a video introduction to go to international schools in other countries.

You will find if you reach out to other schools they will happily become involved and it builds a reason to learn English.

Video Projects.

Instead of drawing a poster for the next project you do, why not practice English, and put a Video presentation together in its place.
Teaching Tip
: When putting together a video you can add the photographers’ name, scriptwriter’s name, and any other position and name you see as being relevant.

Parental Permission.

The school must obtain written parent permission to videotape when the video is for a purpose other than safety or classroom instruction. If the school is going to display video on a school website or other public medium, individual students should not be identified without parental consent.

Miller Nash

Source; Miller Nash (LLP)


Students become more involved and learn quicker when they are exposed to video information related to the topic in hand.

Using videos and video recordings dramatically boost remembering the lesson much like I remembered the recording of my voice by my father.

Also asking questions during both processes improves research, teamwork, organizational skills, and problem-solving abilities. These are the most important abilities to have when we enter adulthood.

Much like the brain is undergoing restructuring during the teenage and young adult years. Going from the links in the brain being multiple “streets” heading to the same destination to one large “superhighway” enhancing the brains ability to process information faster.

Who Am I?

My name is Stephen and I have been teaching ESL for over 15 years in Vietnam, and own an English school in Vietnam.

I love experiencing different cultures and enjoying their food as well as meeting new people. And I still have a passion for teaching students of all ages and levels.

You can look at my house in Vietnam here below by clicking on the YouTube button.

My House in Vietnam

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