Using YouTube videos in the language classroom

I have always been a big fan of using videos in my lessons. One of my bosses once told me that videos were ‘my thing’ (and to this day I’m not sure if it was a compliment or not). However, I have used a lot more films and TV series than unscripted videos from YouTube.

There main reason for that is I used to think students, particularly adolescent ones, would be more interested in watching series they are already familiar with than an unknown person from YouTube. That is not to say I never used film trailers and such like, but I didn’t dive in the large ocean of videos as much as I could have.

Something I read last year started to change my mind, though. Rubens Heredia had a very interesting blogpost on the Richmond Share blog about video genres for the language classroom. Vlogs, in particular, were something he pointed me in the direction of and that I have since been exploring with my students.

For a while there had been a lesson in this coursebook I used that I didn’t like teaching. The lesson was based on ‘The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat‘ and although I personally thought the book was interesting, I had a hard time convincing my students of the same.

Enter vlogs. It finally occurred to me that people might be discussing books on YouTube and I found an interesting review by a vlogger named Emily Cait:

I used this video as a pre-reading task and even though her review isn’t exactly positive, it made students more interested in reading about the story in their coursebooks. These are the while-watching questions I used (up to 2:32):

  • Who recommended this book to her?
  • What was her first impression of it?
  • Can people who don’t study psychology understand the book?
  • Did she like the book? Why (not)?

A nice bonus is the fact that Emily is Canadian and my students are always asking me for different accents. You can get them to pay attention to the famous (or infamous) about and see if they notice any difference from the way it’s pronounced in the USA, for instance.

Another good example of finding a video for a specific purpose is something I used last week. I have this private student who is an adult (B2) and I noticed that basically every lesson he would be wearing a different watch. I actually ended coming across an interesting text on watch collecting, but wanted to find a video to go along with it.

It turns out that there is a series called Talking Watches and I couldn’t be happier to know a basketball player was one of the people interviewed for it (I’m a big basketball fan, by the way).

I used the video up to 3:55 with the following while-watching questions.

  • What was the first watch in his collection?
  • What does he look for in a new watch?
  • What is the ideal size of watches for him?
  • Which of his watches did you like the most?

I also thought there were some interesting pieces of language in the video, so I used this as a follow up.


I covered the bottom half and discussed the meaning of the expressions in red before asking him the questions.

Now, the last point I’d like to make about using YouTube videos is that you need to give students a reason to pay attention to them. They should be treated as any listening or reading activities and that’s why I always post while-watching questions together with videos. the rationale is that if students know what information they should focus on, they are more likely to be able to answer the questions afterwards.

Thanks for reading.

One thought on “Using YouTube videos in the language classroom

  1. Pingback: So Long, and Thanks for All the Fish | ricardo barros elt

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