4 effective ways to use YouTube in the language classroom

UPDATE: I’m delighted to say that this post has been nominated for the British Council’s TeachingEnglish blog award for innovative teaching ideas. I’m really delighted to have been included in this month’s nominations, so… make me a super happy boy by clicking here and voting for me!

When it comes their language learning I can safely say that my teenage students always enjoy the multimedia experience.Rather than studying grammar and vocabulary through boring old course books, they find it more exciting to watch action unfold via moving images on their laptop, tablet or smart phone. What’s great about this is that it’s not just a one-way deal: video clips offer us as teachers the basis for the development of many language skills.

I’m an avid user of short clips in my classrooms. Not only does the use of YouTube echo the everyday habits and actions of the teens I teach, this resource is also a goldmine of clips that fit just about any language teaching scenario you could think of. Here are four of the most useful ways we can employ YouTube in our classes.

1. Identify a specific language component you want to focus on

Don’t go into this without a specific purpose in mind. Identifying the aspect of language you want to focus on, or that you want your students to practice, is an essential first step. For instance, any video clip from a film with a scene of a detective or a policeman interviewing a suspect will naturally revolve around a discussion of events in the simple past and continuous tenses. Alternatively, any clip with lots of action can be used as a vehicle for narration, as students describe what is happening to each other using the present continuous.

Suggested resource: Here’s how I use YouTube to teach and review conditionals

2. Practice listening and comprehension skills

Short video clips are such a natural way of practicing listening and comprehension skills with your learners that they simply shouldn’t be overlooked. Visual comedy such as Mr. Bean is particularly motivating and reasonably short on difficult dialogue. Basically, though, anything with a lot of action that is fairly light on dialogue will enable your learners to feel a sense of achievement at understanding what’s going on and subsequently answering questions on what they have seen. Consider what you want learners to take from the clip and prepare worksheets for them to complete either while or after watching the video. For instance, this may perhaps include questions about grammar, vocabulary or even focus on specific English expressions and idioms that come up.

Suggested resource: Mr Bean’s official YouTube channel

3. Use as a springboard for writing

A well-chosen video clip can be a great starting point from which to ask your learners to compose a piece of reflective writing. Actually, there are many engaging and motivating ways to go about this. One thing learners can do is to write an alternative ending for a video clip. Alternatively, they could prepare a comic strip or story board to accompany the clip. A nice way of directly following up a clip is to write a review of what they have seen. Furthermore, if you want to facilitate creativity, learners could write a short sequel to what they have watched.

Suggested resource: Chad, Matt and Rob’s interactive adventures are good for stimulating creative thinking about alternative endings

4. Use clips as a model for role-plays

It’s a great idea to use video clips as a springboard for role-playing. For instance, learners may try to use the new vocabulary or grammatical structures they hear in a video to role-play particular common situations. This is particularly good for focusing on meetings and greetings, which are a common occurrence and feature in many movies and TV shows. This is, therefore, a great way of looking at and rehearsing common dialogues and showing the differences between formal and informal encounters.

Suggested resource: This video clip is a good starting point

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19 thoughts on “4 effective ways to use YouTube in the language classroom”

  1. Pingback: Blogs | Pearltrees
  2. Slam Sir,
    I am a principal of a private school in Najaf Ashraf Iraq. I like your work done to serve the non-native English learners. Thank you for this achievement.
    Syed Qalb-e-Abbas Mohsin,
    Principal Bab-ul-Ilm Public School Najaf Ashraf Iraq.

  3. Great ideas! One more: Watching trailers of the first James Bond film and one of the latest. A discussion about film industry might follow, special effects and other features which make them distinctive for the time period and finally, writing a film review. Great fun!

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