12 Ideas for Using Video in Class

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It was 9.02am in a small classroom in 1995.  Our German teacher was nowhere to be seen.  Was he sick?  Hopefully! Was it a free class?   No!  He was fetching the TV on wheels.

The very sight of this beauty being wheeled down the corridor on its way to our classroom was more than we could have asked for.   This meant a MOVIE and in turn meant no interaction with the teacher and no homework.


We could boast to our friends at break that we got to watch ‘All Quiet on the Western Front’ , hadn’t a notion what is was about and didn’t have to speak a word of German.

The only learning objective was to keep us occupied while the teacher corrected our homework he never got around to the night before.  And the best thing about LONG movies was that we would have to continue them the next day.  Double win!

Ok, so it didn’t happen THAT often.   But it shouldn’t have happened AT ALL.

As teenagers, we weighed it up.  We didn’t enjoy the movie; It was in German, in black and white and it was a war movie but ….

we didn’t have to do ANYTHING …just sit there.

On balance, we were quite happy with our win.  Did we learn anything?  No.  Did we care?  No.

As a teacher now looking back, it does leave a sour taste in my mouth….and I wonder if my friends that sat either side of me engraving their names into the wooden desks with their metal compasses now feel the same.  I’m guessing not.

I doubt this still happens today but I do have a feeling that video is still not being used to its full potential.  Many teachers still revert back to the tried and tested ‘watch the video and answer the questions’ task when there are so many ways to exploit and explore learners’ critical thinking skills.

Barahal (2008) defines critical thinking as “artful thinking” (p. 299), which includes reasoning, questioning and investigating, observing and describing, comparing and connecting, finding complexity, and exploring viewpoints.


Benefits of Using Video:

Stimulating and engaging for learners – encourages creativity and discussion
Authentic learning opportunities – news, documentaries, advertisements, interviews.
Bringing the outside world in – increasing learners cultural awareness through video as well as text
Suitable for all – You can decide what tasks to create and use to suit your learners level.
Increases higher order thinking skills – see image.
Extensive variety – readily accessible videos online

12 Ideas for Using Video in Class

Before Watching:

  • Screenshots!
    Use websites such as moviescreencaps.com or www.film-grab.com to choose screenshots from a movie of your choice and build your own task. Save approx 8-10 screenshots of pertinent moments in the movie, jumble them up and have students in small groups re-order them to build the story.  Try to choose a movie they have never seen so they can discuss, predict and give their opinion on what they think the story is.
  • Screenplay!
    Use websites such as simplyscripts.com and www.gointothestory.blcklst.com to search for your movie and download the script.  Choose a one page scene and print it for your students. Before watching, do a read through with students, eliciting genre, character, story and any other information.  This is a great lead in to get your students engaged and interested in watching the video clip.
  • Read the Blurb!
    Using only the blurb of the movie to engage your learners, jumble up the storyline and get your students in pairs/small groups to put it back together.
  • Characters!
    Show your students images of the main characters in the movie/scene and in groups, ask them to think about three adjectives to describe each character. You could also take this further and get students to discuss the relationships between the characters and the parts they play in the movie.


While Watching:

Pause the clip at a moment decided on beforehand. Now, give your students two minutes to discuss what they think is going to happen next, for example, to predict the next action by the main character.

You Watch, I’ll Listen!
If you’re using a short clip, this task works particularly well. Divide your class into pairs.  Student A becomes ‘The Watcher’ and Student B, ‘The Listener’.   You will need WiFi for this task and students will need access to the video clip on their smartphones.
Tell them to bring their earphones too.
One student watches the movie, without sound and the other student listens to the movie only, without watching.  Now Student A and B get together and build the storyline together – a modern information-gap activity.


  • Character Study
    Assign a character in the scene to each student in the class. Students focus on that character while watching and answer questions based on their character.  Try to avoid questions such as ‘What is she doing?’ or ‘What is he wearing?’ for your higher levels  – Encourage students to use their critical thinking skills, asking them to answer questions such as ‘Do you think her reaction was appropriate?’ or ‘Was she being honest with her mother?’.
  • Just Take Notes!
    Students simply take notes while watching and then afterwards get together with their group and create questions to ask the other groups about the scene. Again as in Number 7, try to get students asking more meaningful questions.  You can adjust this task easily depending on your level.

Post Watching:

  • Act it Out!
    After watching the video clip, students now in their groups write what they think will be the following scene and then act it out for the rest of the class.
  • Silent Movie!
    Students watch the scene without sound and then with group, discuss what they think it was about. They can also add their own dialogue to the scene with their partners.
  • Alternative endings!
    Play a video clip which finishes on a cliffhanger. What’s going to happen next?  In groups, students discuss two alternative endings and present their ideas to the class.
  • Film It!
    After watching, students film another short scene
    on a smartphone using the same characters/genre
    /theme from the clip.

3 Responses

  1. I love the idea of filming an alternative ending!

  2. Great post Aoife.
    Some really interesting ideas there to exploit a fantastic (and endless) source of authentic text.
    And who doesn’t like watching films?!

  3. Fab ideas..and thanks for the links

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