Why videos should be used in ESL/EFL classroom?

6 reasons to use videos in ESL/EFL classroom

6 reasons to use videos in ESL/EFL classroom


  • Activities
  • Tips & Strategies
  • Methodology

One of my best school or university memories of English lessons is a teacher coming into a classroom, turning on a video cassette player, and us holding our breath because now we’re going to watch a film … in English!

Like for most Ukrainian teenagers who grew up in the 90’s, watching a video in English was a miracle for me. However, today, when this type of content has filled all possible spaces, as well as educational one, the question arises: what can we, as teachers, do to help our students learn effectively through video?

Lesson planning for English teachers

We can speak to generations through videos

A little bit of statistics. If, for example, we are talking about generation Z, then:

  • 97% of these people use live streams during the week, and watch at least 68 videos a day;
  • 30% of generation Z watch stream in their free time;
  • 63% spend 2+ hours a day on YouTube;
  • 59% prefer YouTube to books (Bauducco, D. (2020). ‘Targeting Gen Z: reaching a new generation of learners’. English Teaching professional, 131).

Video is not just passive entertainment, it is also a way of interactive communication and transmission of information that you get daily access to.

Our students are used to this kind of content, and we can use it for their benefit. After all, it is not just a resource, but the language that students speak.

Video engages students

Some colleagues believe that watching videos is more fun than learning. However, if we look at it as a text — a source of information — and create a lesson that will help students develop their language skills, then we can use video to capture and hold their attention while teaching.

We do not allow students to read a text without learning the language. When we do the same with a video, the result will be effective, enjoyable lessons. For example, we can use videos at any stage of teaching:

  • at the lead-in stage in order to interest students and present the topic of the lesson;
  • listening/reading for gist so that students can get a general idea;
  • listening/reading for detail to help students understand more detailed information;
  • speaking/writing tasks to give students a model / background for producing their own speech;
  • at the language presentation stage to show a certain vocabulary / grammatical structure and its use in a certain context;
  • at the stage of language clarification to help explain exactly how this or that lexical / grammatical item works;
  • in the Controlled/Freer practice stages to encourage students to use the language learned in the lesson.

What kind of video to use depends on your aims.

Teaching ESL vs EFL

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Video brings real world to your classroom

Newscasts, advertisements, comedy programs, documentaries, dramas, and even academic lectures are available online or as student-created projects. All of this was not originally designed as educational material, which means that all videos serve real communicative purposes in the real world.

The resources we can use in our classes are endless. They can be divided into three categories:

  • educational — these are stories created for educational purposes, available in textbooks or websites, demonstrate target language in context, and this language is structured by certain levels; 
  • instructional are videos that contain clear explanations, visuals, and illustrations to explain grammar or reading rules, such as those available on self-study sites or YouTube, or for error correction;
  • authentic videos are not designed for use in lessons. They are available anywhere, students are more likely to view them outside the classroom, they use “real” English, and their language is not structured by levels.

These videos can be used in lessons, depending on the interests of students, as well as your goals.

Video is a wonderful source of information

Those who study English, especially for academic purposes, often need to conduct research for projects. Films and videos (especially documentaries) can be great sources of information. Visual imagery often helps to clarify and support the meaning of the language, making research more effective.

It also works well at lower levels. In many cases, we can completely ignore the audio part of the video and have a great source of visual information

This is especially useful when we want to control the level of language; we don't need to adjust the video to a certain level, instead we can select the task levels for students.

It is also very important to give students a task so that they understand why they are watching the video and what information they will need to pay attention to.

Language 1 in the classroom

Pros and cons

Videos stimulate learners’ activity

Academic skills, such as the ability to draw conclusions, paraphrase, and express one’s own opinions, are often associated with texts as a source of information.

However, video is also an information-rich text that can be used, for example, in a flipped classroom.

To do this, you send students materials to read before the lesson, and in the classroom you practise the language. The combination of image and sound is the best way to present new information.

Video is a good model for student speech production

Once we’ve used video to perceive information, it’s time to try to use it as a model for speech production. Many teachers can be proud of newscasts, interviews, and documentaries made by their students in English lessons.

After seeing the model in the video, students can create their own version of the original. In the modern world where everyone has access to video cameras (for example, on their own phones) the result of learning can be a video.

However, students can also show live videos in class, focusing on content. The content of such videos may resemble the videos you watched in class.

For example, you can use the following tasks:

  • film and describe your favourite room;
  • make a tour of the area where the student lives;
  • stories on Instagram about everyday life;
  • video tutorial about what a student can do well;
  • a video review of the book, film;
  • product review (unpacking);
  • online game tutorial (video from the screen).

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As we can see, the use of video in the classroom is no longer something new and extraordinary, especially because of the increase in online learning during the pandemic and recent events in Ukraine. 

Using video in class is now becoming a necessary skill and is no longer something you just want to know.

Article authors & editors
  • Yulia Chorna

    Yulia Chorna


    DELTA Module 1, CELTA certified teacher of General & Business English



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