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7 Reasons why you should be making videos with your students and 9 activities to get you started

Video is a great tool for instruction and research tells us that it has become the ‘go to’ medium for many millennial and younger students, but how often do you get your students to make videos rather than watch them as part of your lesson?

With so many teachers and students owning powerful smartphones with high quality video recording and editing capabilities it’s never been easier to produce good quality clips with clear digital sound, so let’s look at why and how we can utilise those phones to help our students develop their communication skills.

Video Class

Why make videos?

There are lots of good reasons why we should be encouraging students to create videos. Here are my top 7 reasons:

  1. Increasingly video is becoming a mainstream means of communication. As remote working becomes increasingly common, the ability to communicate confidently using video based platforms will be an important aspect of our students’ employability. To develop the confidence and necessary skills to do this in English, students need practice.
  2. Video is an excellent means of developing understanding of body language and non verbal communication. Students have the chance to see how they and others use their bodies, gestures, proximity and expression when communicating and have the chance to practice using body language and see themselves.
  3. With large or even moderately small groups of students it can still be hard to give time and focus to each student, to watch and listen to how they communicate and diagnose where they need help and support to develop. Having video recordings of students can give us time to look and listen more closely to how our students are using language and communicating and enable us to develop a more personalised approach to how we help them develop.
  4. Getting our students to record themselves regularly and add these recordings to a digital portfolio can make it much easier for both you and your students to really see progress over a period of time. Students can repeat tasks they did earlier in the course and go back and compare their present performance with the older video. This can be a powerful tool to motivate students and show them that they really are making progress.
  5. Making and editing video clips can be a very creative process for students and can give them an opportunity to actually use the language they are learning in a creative way.
  6. Collecting video clips from students over a period of time can prove very enlightening for linguistic research. You can create a form of corpus of language and communication which can help you to develop insights into how your students’ linguistic capabilities develop and the kinds of common challenges and problems they face.
  7. Getting students to create and edit video is a great way to develop their digital literacy skills and the kind of knowledge that will be valuable in their day-to-day and academic future lives.

What activities can we use?

There are lots of different video creation activities that you can get students to do with their phone or a webcam. Here are my top 9 activities:

  1. Poems – Either choose a poem or get your students to choose a poem and get them to record a version of it. Encourage them to try to memorise the poem rather than reading directly from the text. They may well be able to find a recording or video of the poem on YouTube and they can use this to inform their own reading. This is a great way to get students trying to speak expressively and also a good way to diagnose any pronunciation problems they may be having.
  2. Sales pitch – Get students to find a household product or object of some kind and record a sales pitch for the product. They can show it to the camera, describe it, talk about its benefits and generally try to persuade the viewer that it is a good product to buy. This activity helps students to try to address the camera like it’s a person and to work with visual prompts and persuasion.
  3. Joke/anecdote – Jokes and anecdotes have a significant role in social interaction, so knowing how to structure and deliver one in English can be a useful social skill to have. Recording a clip of themselves telling the joke or anecdote and then watching it can give the students the opportunity to learn from their performance, develop and improve on it.
  4. Video vocabulary – Students can create their own video dictionary. When they learn a new word they can create a short video clip and include the word, an example sentence, an image and even a translation. They can use these clips to revise their vocabulary. Groups of students can share their videos together and help each other develop and learn more words.
  5. News report – Students can read through recent news and then create their own video news report. This can be done with students working individually or they can work in groups and have different roles within the report such as anchor, live reporter, bystander, etc.
  6. Video dictation – You can record yourself reading a text and then send the video to your students. Ask them to write down what you say in the video and then record their own version and send it back to you. This should show you how much of the text they were able to clearly identify. This is a great test of receptive and productive pronunciation.
  7. Movie monologues – Ask the students to find a monologue from a movie and make their own recording of it. It’s quite easy to find monologues from movies online and students can find both the script and an example video clip from the film. They can then rehearse and work on their own version of it. This can help the students to develop both their listening, speaking and reading skills  and help them to work on body language and expression.
  8. Show and tell – Get the students to choose an object that has some special significance for them. Ask the students to record a short clip describing and telling the other students about the object, how they got it and why it has some significance for them.
  9. Learning diary – Students can create their own learning video journal. They can create a clip each day that records what they have been learning, what challenges they had and how motivated they were feeling. They can then share clips from the diary with you for your comments, or they can keep the clips for their own reflection. Learning journals are a great tool for consolidating learning and for showing you what students are really understanding from your lessons.

What are the problems?

As with any use of technology, we need to make sure that we approach it with an understanding of any potential problems.  Here are a few things to be aware of when getting students to create video.

  • Especially with younger learners we need to make sure we have permission from students and parents to make and to store the video we or our students make as part of their study.
  • We need to be especially careful that we protect our students and that these videos are kept safely and only shared beyond the classroom with the students’ or parents’ permission.
  • It’s good to share your rationale for making the videos with your students, but we should never pressure students to be included in videos if they feel uncomfortable about it.
  • Make sure you have a code of conduct for how the videos will be used and especially if students are recording each other on their phones, that they understand that these videos can’t be stored indefinitely or shared with others outside of the classroom or through social media.
  • If students are making videos in the classroom then there can be problems with background noise and poor lighting that can impact on the quality of the videos, so many of the tasks suggested here are more appropriate for students to do at home.

Video editing tools

Here are my pick of a few video editing tools which can be used when making videos for your classes:

Kapwing has a great collection of simple free editing tools: 

Clips is a useful simple video editor for iPhone users:

InShot is a good simple video editor for Android users

Filmora works on both Andriod and iOS phones

Shotcut is a fully featured open source video editing suite

I hope you find these ideas useful and that you are able to access the power of student created video in your face-to-face or blended classroom.

Using video really can have significant benefits for students and help to power up their learning and reflective abilities and help to make them more autonomous learners.

As more and more of our courses have moved entirely online, such as our 100% Online CELTA course and our Trinity DipTESOL course, we will be embracing this medium and encouraging our students to do the same. What about you?

If you need help developing course content for teaching online, take a look at Nik Peachey’s tips here.

If you would like to learn more about teaching English online or online tools, you could consider our 30-hour Teaching English Online course with tutor support.

Want to learn more? Check out some other blog posts:

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