10 reasons you should use video in your ESL class

Video can be such a powerful tool for the ESL classroom. I’m a huge fan of using video to improve my students English, but find it tricky to get the time, or the right video, to express what I want to do and link it with the lesson somehow.

Recently I’ve been using video more, either squeezing it in at the start or end of class, not only to break up the routine, but provide a valuable learning experience.

Here are a few reasons why you should be using video on your class.


Try forgetting that… Photo by Peter Kurdilica

Visual learners

Whatever video you chose, you know you’re going to appeal to all those visual learners. If you hadn’t noticed, most videos have something visual about them. Be it the people moving, animals scurrying, or funny weird machines flying through the air.

I’ve done some of those bizarre tests to find out whether you’re a visual, audio, and kinaesthetic leaner. I’m a visual one, hence my appeal to using videos. I think that’s why I have a pretty good memory as well, I just tend to remember stuff I see. It’s hard to imagine that most people don’t remember what they see, if you know what I mean.

Students who see a video, whether it’s funny, serious, or inspiring, will no doubt leave that class with more of a connection to whatever activity you did, and make learning more memorable too.

More memorable

The best way to make students learn, is to make your lessons memorable.

I don’t mean that they were so bad that students could never forget them, which I think I sometimes do, but the opposite. Creating interest among students is a hard job, especially with so many different likes and tastes in the class. So how can you make it memorable for everyone? You can’t, it’s just not possible, so stop fighting that battle and just roll on the floor like a defeated penguin. Using video will no doubt make the lesson more memorable for most people though. If it’s memorable for us teachers, then it must do wonders for the students.


Teaching is all about providing the students with some form of entertainment. How else are they really going to show an interest and be motivated to learn? There are so many videos out there which can entertain your students, so you don’t have to worry about producing such dynamic classes all the time, use someone else’s hard work.

You can’t deny that a funny video is entertaining. One which surprises the students, makes them giggle, or even just inspires them in a weird way. I witnessed one student suddenly decide he wanted to be a fireman, and another to go build a dam in Africa. Entertainment is the purest form of inspiration.

Bring the world in

In the class there’s not much connection with the outside world, so video is a great way of bringing it in.

As teachers we tend to get stuck in our own world, course book, exam preparation, and snotty, germ-filled classrooms. We are trapped there, 6 hours a day, with just a window to bring in some mosquitoes, leaves caught in the wind, or a mouldy orange now and then (one Halloween some kids through an orange in my class).

Video material can educate students as well. Showing information about the world will also help them see the usefulness of English, and why it’s so important to learn it.

Teacher break

Okay, let’s be fair. You don’t have to do much while the video is on, just sit and watch, or think up questions to ask after. Of course, you’ll be checking to see who is watching, not speaking their L1 language, or making a nuisance, but it takes you away from being at the front of the class, and allows you to see and enjoy something as well.

There’s nothing wrong with giving yourself little ‘reflective’ break now and then. We are only humans after all.

Exposure to new vocabulary

New vocabulary is vital for bumping up your student’s level and raising their knowledge. By regularly showing videos, you’ll bring in a load of natural and complex vocabulary to the course. As I said before, we tend to get bogged down by the course book, but why the hell should we?

We are teaching English, and just because it’s not in the exam, doesn’t mean it’s not going to be useful or relevant to students in the future (shame students don’t see that).

Videos will also normally be unedited, unlike the course books listening, and not influenced about whether a certain word is a certain level. It’s just English, plain, true, and alive.

Connected speech

This is something I tend to skip when I teach, but I annoy myself because it’s so important to understand, and would be great if more students could produce more natural sounding phrases.

Having natural sounding videos, which aren’t edited for the level, will provide students with natural exposure to connect speech. They’ll be able to see, with your help, that words join, sounds change, and letters disappear when they are pronounced. All you have to do is point it out, and bob’s your granny.


Unless you are doing silent Charlie Chaplin movies, most videos will provide some form of listening. And this is generally the most challenging area for students. Any natural listening will do wonders.

My best student ever was a huge rap fan. He obviously liked it, but also forced himself to listen to fast paced English music, so he could improve his level.

Watching videos can do this as well. My level of Spanish is about B2, but I’d say my listening is nearer C1 because of all the exposure I’ve had over the years.

Motivate students to use English at home

Even if students go show their mates, or their family the video from class, you’re promoting them to do some extra English. Kids and teenagers share a lot of information on their mobiles. Guaranteed that if you show a decent video in class, they’ll share it around the place. So you’ll even be teaching other people’s kids English…maybe time for a pay rise…

You might even inspire them to watch different videos in English. Once they have the confidence to do so, they can believe in themselves and become great English learners.

Keep watching

This blog is going to be the first of many connected with using videos in class. My next post will be about activities you can do with videos. I’ll then be posting regular lesson plans with the videos I use in class.

What about you, do you use video much in class? Know any good sites to share?

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