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My favourite ways to use video in class by Dan Baines

DanDan Baines joined the Oxford TEFL team in Prague this month as director of studies. In this blog post he shares some of his favourite techniques for using short authentic video clips in the classroom.

I’ve always liked using video with my classes and my students have always seemed to find it fun, but when I started teaching we had to rely on the same old VHS tapes being passed round the staff room, which was a little limiting.  However, since the rise of computers in the classroom and video sharing sites such as YouTube, it has become much easier to incorporate video into the classroom and to get more creative with it.  So, rather than just making a comprehension worksheet, here are three of my favourite ways of using authentic video to practise things other than listening skills.  

using video class

Running commentary/split viewing

What you’ll need

Two different (it helps if they are related though) video clips. I tend to use TV commercials as they are short and it works best if what is happening is very visual, but isn’t completely clear just from the images.

How it works

For the first viewing you’ll need the students divided into pairs with only one person in each pair able to see the screen.  Once the clip starts they should narrate what they see in real time to their partner.  After the clip has finished, the students should change roles and do the same with the other clip.

Once both clips have been viewed the class is divided into two groups (the group who watched the first clip and the group who watched the second clip) who try to piece together what the clip was about based on what they were told and in as much detail as possible.  As a final stage all the groups watch the clips with sound and discuss how accurate their partner’s description and interpretation of the clip was.

What I like about it

This activity is good for generating spontaneous speech from the students and can stimulate lively discussion in the final stages.  The commentary aspect can provide good practice of present tenses – particularly present simple and present progressive.


What you’ll need

A clip featuring a dialogue which is no more than 60-90 seconds (ideally 7-8 turns per person).  It works best if the dialogue is taking place in an unusual setting or if the participants have particularly expressive body language. 

How it works

The students all watch the clip with no sound twice and discuss what the situation is and what the people are saying to each other.  After this they can watch the video twice more to count the number of turns each speaker has before trying to write the dialogue as they think it happened.  After spending time on this the teacher plays the video a further two times so the students can see if their dialogue fits with the timing of the video and they have the opportunity to edit.  Once edited to fit, the pairs of students take it in turns to try to dub the clip into English with their dialogues.  At the end the teacher can play the clip with sound for students to compare the content to their own.  However, the aim is not to try to match the dialogue as it was originally spoken, just to have fun with the language.

What I like about it

This activity is a lot of fun and gives the students a controlled opportunity to produce ‘real life’ English.  The added pressure of fitting the dialogue into the scene unfolding in real time provides an opportunity to focus on and practice connected speech and other phonological features that we often forget to teach.

Blind ‘viewing’

What you’ll need

For this activity you need a clip with sounds, but ideally no dialogue.However, when viewed, there should be a clear narrative.  As with the other activities, it’s probably best not to use anything that’s too long.

How it works

Students listen to the clip a couple of times, but can’t see any of the accompanying images and write down all of the sounds they hear.  In pairs or small groups the students discuss what they think happened in the clip and write up the scene.  After having a bit of time to do that they can watch with visuals and compare their scenes with the original.

What I like about it:

My students have always found this activity very engaging and enjoy the challenge of the first stage.  It also creates a good opportunity for students to do collaborative writing in a fun way and for the teacher to introduce lexis and practise narrative verb forms.

So, there you have some of my favourite ways of using video in class. Give it a go!

Dan Baines is the Director of studies in our Prague centre. If you would like to learn some more tricks of the trade from Dan, join him on our Trinity CertTESOLTrinity DipTESOL or Training the Trainer course. Get in touch to find our more about these courses.

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