Using Videos in an ESL Classroom

We are lucky that we live in a time where different videos are easily available. When used with other types of media and activities, videos in an ESL class can be useful. They can also make an ESL lesson more interesting than traditional lessons. Having students watch and listen to movies and TV shows can expose them to a variety of dialogues that they might not have been exposed to otherwise. The subjects and vocabulary used in both are usually dramatic, natural and also funny. This can give students excellent listening practice.

YouTube is a great resource for an ESL teacher. Below are some tips on how to incorporate a video in an ESL class.

  • Find a video on YouTube or another online video site and remember to save the URL. If you are teaching in a foreign country, make sure the video is not taboo in that culture.
  • Prepare a lesson by watching the video a couple of times. While you are watching create a list of difficult vocabulary. You should also write an intro to the video you are going to watch. The more information you give the students before they watch, the better they will understand the video.
  • Create a quiz based on the video.
  • Create a group activity for students to complete after watching the video.

When choosing what video to show your class there are a few things you must keep in mind:


Take notes

This is something that not only students have to do, but the teacher as well. This is to keep track of vocabulary, tenses and anything else that you think might be important. This is also a great way to ask questions of the students when you pause the video to make sure that they are understanding it. Students might also ask questions about difficult vocabulary. If you are taking notes during the video, you will be prepared for any vocabulary questions.


Choose relevant and appropriate material

You should take care and choose something that is appropriate for the age and level of your students. Do not choose a video that is too difficult or too easy for your students. If the video is too easy, students may get bored of the content and not pay attention. On the other hand, if the video is too difficult, the students may become frustrated that they cannot understand what is being said. This can also discourage students instead of motivating them.


Pause often

It is very important to do this in an ESL class to check that students understand the video and to answer any of their questions. You can pause every 10 – 15 minutes and talk about what is happening in the video. Make sure to ask questions to different students. Also ask what students think about the video so far. Another good question to ask is, “What do you think will happen next?” This way you can ask students to predict and give their own ideas about where the video is going. It can be a great question to see if students have understood the video so far.


Create worksheets and activities

You must always connect the video to a topic from your class. Remember to make the worksheet or activity complement the video. You can always ask students questions or divide them into groups and give them questions about the video to discuss. Whatever activity you choose, make sure that it is appropriate for the students’ level and age.


Using videos in an ESL classroom is a great idea, but you should beware not to overdo it. There is such a thing as watching too many videos in the classroom. Videos are effective when they are not overused. If you watch a video in every class and then ask students to do the same activities each time, they will get bored. So, remember to change it up! After all, variety is the spice of life.