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The use of video as a starting point for a lesson

This blog post was inspired by a great and thought-provoking post by Michael Griffin, in which he asked the question: Is the use of video in ESL/EFL classes inherently motivating?

I would like to discuss the use of video as a starting point for a lesson, and, to offer some useful ideas for motivating your students. If you use video clips to introduce the topic, it is very important that you find a suitable video clip (not more than three-four minutes long), and that you have a Key idea and well-planned engaging activities which follow in order to motivate your students and activate schema.

My ideas for using video in class

Lesson 1: My city

1.  Ask your students to think a little of their city and to write down all the words that can spring to their mind in one minute (anything they can find or see in a large town).

2.  Students watch the video clip and cross the word on their list when they see the object in the video clip. The winner is a student with the most words crossed on the list.

3.  Then, ask each student to come up with an adjective describing the city and its amenities, and write the adjectives on the board: large, major, capital, modern, old, ancient, beautiful, lively, quiet, clean, cosmopolitan, multicultural, touristic, urban, residential, industrial, historic, dynamic, crowded, noisy, dirty, shanty, sprawling etc.

4.  Students in small groups answer the questions below. Ask them to use the adjectives mentioned before.

  1. How long have you lived in Belgrade?
  2. Which part (district) of the town do you live in?
  3. Do you like the part of the town where your school is located?
  4. What is your favourite place in the city? Why?
  5. Where do you enjoy hanging out with your friends? Why?
  6. Which places would you recommend to a foreign tourist?

5.  Each group of students makes a presentation about the city they live in. Round the activity off by asking individual students to report the presentation to the class.

Lesson 2: Extreme sports


Photo taken from James Taylor: Kites

You can introduce this CLIL lesson with a video clip. And this is a very interesting activity in which your students can practice physics and the English language as well.  I have recently come across an amazing video clip Science of Kite Buggying by a great teacher  

1.  After watching the video clip, put students in small groups and ask them to find the answers to the questions on the Internet here.

Looking at the physics behind power kiting and kite buggying:

  • Can you travel faster than the wind speed?
  • How can you go upwind?

As I teach English in a secondary aviation technical school, and most of my students are very good at physics, I hope they will answer the questions correctly and explain this all to me (as I am really fascinated by flying but not that good at physics).

Lesson 3: How to wash hair in space?

1.  Before watching the video, ask your students:

  • What do you think how astronauts wash their hair in space?

2.  Then, ask your students to watch the video clip about an astronaut washing her hair in space and pay attention to the procedure of washing hair in space very carefully.

3.  After watching the video clip students retell the procedure of washing hair in space, one by one, as a chain story, until they repeat the whole procedure (this is a good way of practising the Present Simple Tense).

Lesson 4: Airbus crashed into the Hudson

You can attract your students’ attention and engage them in speaking activities if you show them a video clip about something that has happened recently. For example, I showed my students the video clip about Airbus ditching into Hudson River in January 2009, a day after that really happened; it was the latest news (and, fortunately, a good one because all the passengers and crew survived the crash). The lesson was very dynamic and my students very active, motivated and engaged in conversation.

I would like to point out here that the positive side of the use of video in class is also that they are a good source of authentic language. I feel that using authentic listening texts to form the basis of further classroom activities is very useful for our students and that will train them to listen more effectively. And, it is far more motivating for students to know that they are listening to genuine speakers of English. Students do not generally identify with the characters found in coursebooks because the listening texts are scripted and performed by actors in a recording studio and therefore do not resemble the spoken English students will encounter outside the classroom.

Using funny and interesting clips is, also, a very good way to engage your students when they are tired or do not feel like studying (e.g. the last class on Friday, or at the end of a term). They will learn English without even noticing that they are engaged in learning. It is very important to have in mind, though, that fun should not be the aim of the lesson, but a by-product of an interesting lesson with low affective filters in regards to practising and learning a second language.

Lesson 5: Murmuration

Watching an interesting video clip about something unusual, something your students have never heard or seen before can be motivating for starting a spontaneous conversation, for example, about how they felt while they were watching the video clip, whether they were excited, surprised, amazed, frightened, fascinated, inspired, relaxed, bored, shocked, confused, annoyed etc. (i.e. a good way for practicing past participle adjectives).

Lesson 6: My personal theme song

This can be an enjoyable creative writing activity. Ask students to choose their personal theme song (they can find a video clip on YouTube) and write a short story about why they have chosen just that song. This idea can be found in my previous post.

I recommend you these useful resources and online tools for video editing:




Ted Talks:

Discovery Education Streaming:


Khan Academy:

Online Tools for Video Editing


YouTube Video Editor:




Drag On Tape:

The use of video is inherently motivating for students if it is used occasionally, and as a starting point for doing some language activities related to the topic of the lesson (of course, not as the default mode for starting a class).

Using interesting and funny video clips can be useful as well; and, I think you should not feel guilty of low expectations. The highest-level executive thinking, spontaneity and making connections and “aha” moments are more likely to occur in an atmosphere of joy and comfort. It is obvious that if you enjoy your teaching, it is likely that your students will be enjoying your lessons too.

About ljiljana havran

English language teacher & librarian, a lifelong learner. Love: good books, music, lots of dance.

One response »

  1. Pingback: YouTube Videos in an ESL Classroom and Visible Thinking | Creative Language Teaching

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