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Using Video in the ELT Classroom Q&A

woman using video cameraJamie Keddie is a teacher, trainer and storyteller who has shared his insights and ideas in over 40 different countries. He is the founder of Lessonstream, the resource site for teachers. He is the author of ‘Images’ (OUP 2009), ‘Bringing online video into the classroom’ (OUP 2014) and ‘Videotelling’ (Lessonstream Books, 2017). Jamie is also an associate trainer at Norwich Institute for Language Education.

Click here to check out Jamie’s most recent blog introducing his ‘Using Video in the ELT Classroom’ webinar series’. Missed the webinar? You can find it in our webinar library.

Where do you find your videos?

This is probably the question that I get asked the most so it is a good place to start.

The reality is that most of the videos that I use in the classroom are ones that I find by accident. We are all subjected to a constant stream of online content – through news sites or social media, for example. Once I see a video that I like, I immediately ask questions such as:

  • Would other people like this video as much as me?
  • Can I deconstruct the video into constituent parts (audio, stills, transcripts) and use these isolated components to get students thinking, speaking, writing or learning new language?
  • Can I find out more about the video and use the story behind it?

For me, it’s less about where or how I find videos, and more about recognising a good video when I see one.

What is wrong with using videos to introduce subjects?

In the webinar, I mentioned that I often ask teachers how they use video in the classroom. And in my experience, the most common answer is ‘to use them to introduce subjects and spark conversation’.

I didn’t want to imply that there is anything wrong with this approach. But I do feel that it is probably the weakest way to use video – a quick release approach in which the teacher presses play and delivers the video all at once.

Personally, I prefer to take a slow release approach: To look for ways to deconstruct the video, engage students and immerse them in the narrative. During the webinar, we explored three different deconstruction techniques: Using isolated audio, using isolated stills, and using a transcript-first approach.

How do you deal with technical issues and problems when using video in classroom?

Well, I suppose that the most familiar problem is losing or having no internet connection. Many teachers get around this by downloading videos from YouTube. When we download YouTube videos, we can store them on our devices and this allows us to display them in class without an internet connection. The problem is, however, that doing so is a breach of YouTube’s terms of services.

I suppose that my golden rule is to always have a back-up plan in case the technology fails. Not particularly useful, but surely important!

Have you ever shown your students a video you’ve filmed yourself?

Yes – absolutely! The video camera on your mobile phone is great for capturing spoken texts to take into the classroom. I often film my friends and family members and use the videos in class. Most of these are not public but I do have a YouTube channel which has a few videos like this one for example:

Would you give students the possibility to choose the videos?

I love tasks! Especially homework tasks where students choose videos that they like and then write about them. For example, ask students to go online and find an advert that they like. They can then describe it from start to finish, and put the narrative into words. But they shouldn’t say what the product it. In class, students can share their texts and guess what the mystery products are in each case.


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Using Video in the ELT Classroom

Jamie Keddie is a teacher, trainer and storyteller who has shared his insights and ideas in over 40 different countries. He is the founder of Lessonstream, the resource site for teachers. He is the author of ‘Images’ (OUP 2009), ‘Bringing online video into the classroom’ (OUP 2014) and ‘Videotelling’ (Lessonstream Books, 2017). Jamie is also an associate trainer at Norwich Institute for Language Education.

Can you believe it? – YouTube is over ten years old! During this time I have been working with teachers on ways of using videos in the English language classroom.

I often receive emails from other video-enthusiastic teachers that go like this: Hello Jamie. I just found this video on YouTube that I really like. I hope you don’t mind if I ask – what would you do with it in the classroom?

Here is an example of a video that a teacher sent me recently. It is titled: Googly-eyed Stubby Squid:

I don’t know about you, but I really like this video. So, let me put the question back to you: What would you do with this video in your classroom? How would you use it to teach English?

This is a task that I regularly set my own trainees. Suggestions will often fall into three different groups:

  1. To introduce a topic

In my experience, this is often the most common suggestion. In the case of the Googly-eyed Stubby Squid video, topics could include animals, colourful animals, unusual creatures, unusual pets, the sea, science, marine biology, etc.

There is nothing wrong with this approach. But wait! Shouldn’t we try to do something with video first? It is short in length but strong in narrative. How can we engage students with the story that it offers? This is exactly what I would like to demonstrate in the webinar.

  1. Listening comprehension

Another standard way to approach video is to focus on the spoken text. By spoken text, I am referring to the words that you hear – the monologues and dialogues that the video offers. As language teachers, we often consider that the audio contains the meat!

But wait! Authentic video can often be difficult to comprehend. Audio quality can be poor. People speak over each other. They make cultural references. They use low-frequency or technical words and phrases. So how do we deal with that? Again, this a question that I will be addressing in the webinar. 

  1. To teach [insert grammar point here]

Sometimes we recognise a possible language point in the material. In this case, for example, we could use the video to teach language for speculation (e.g. It could be a squid; It might be an octopus; Perhaps it’s a cuttlefish; It can’t be a crab; Etc.).

But wait – slow down! If we can regard the video as a story – if we can immerse students in the narrative – language can become more meaningful. In this webinar, I would like to show you how we can take a “meaning-first-language-second” approach to video.

The webinars take place on the 16th and 17th of August, and there are multiple times available. Click here to register today!

I look forward to seeing you there,

Jamie Keddie


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Bubbling Under: Helping ideas to surface in speaking classes Q&A

School children writingEdmund Dudley is a teacher trainer, materials writer and teacher of English with more than 20 years of classroom experience. Based in Budapest, he has extensive experience of teaching EFL at both primary and secondary levels. He works with teachers from around the world as a freelance teacher trainer and as a tutor at the University of Oxford’s ELT Summer Seminar. He is the co-author of OUP’s Mixed-Ability Teaching and has also contributed materials to several OUP textbooks and training courses.


What can we do if our students are afraid of making mistakes?

Ask yourself what it is that your students are actually afraid of. Is it making mistakes? Or is it the consequences of making mistakes? In many cases, I think it’s the latter. Students are afraid that if they make a mistake when speaking, the teacher will embarrass them, or that the other students in the class will make fun of them. There are two things that we can do:

  1. Be encouraging and supportive
  2. Refuse to tolerate it when students make fun of each other in class.

What if students don’t understand the question?

Asking for clarification is an important aspect of successful speaking, and should be practised in class. Teach students phrases such as I don’t understand the question or Can you repeat that, please? Again, it is entirely natural for students not to understand our questions on occasions. It is only a problem, however, if the students do not have effective strategies for dealing with this situation.

We can also take steps to help students understand our questions. We can do this by:

  1. ‘Modelling’ the question to demonstrate its meaning before we ask individuals
  2. Repeating the question with added gestures
  3. Rephrasing the question using simpler language
  4. Writing the question on the board
  5. Asking another student in the class to clarify the meaning of the question
  6. Asking students to say what the question means in L1.

What if they refused to take notes?

Teenage students are usually only reluctant to write notes if they cannot ‘see the point’ of writing something down. In this case, there is definitely a point. Taking notes gives students time to prepare and to organise their thoughts. It makes the job of speaking much easier – and less embarrassing. When practising in pairs, I find that quieter students are much more likely to speak if they have already written something down in advance. As you practise doing activities like this, students will be able to see the benefit for themselves.

And if they still refuse? I think that in the rare situations where a student ‘refuses’ to carry out a reasonable request from the teacher, then the problem is not merely connected to the task. There is something more complex going on there.

Why do students love to talk about something/someone they hate, and not vice versa?

There’s a straightforward answer and also a paradoxical one. The straightforward answer is that students get bored of being asked about their favourite things all the time. The paradoxical answer is that it is more difficult for teenagers to talk about the things which they love, because there is more at stake: they can be judged more harshly by their classmates for giving an ‘uncool’ answer.

Although it was based on your experience with teenagers, this could also work with adults, right?

The techniques we looked at in the webinar can all be used – or modified for use – with adult learners, too. Adult learners of English can also suffer from a lack of confidence, and they too can benefit from activities designed to give them time, ideas and language resources to use while speaking.

How do you assess speaking as a skill?

Set specific goals and make sure that the students know beforehand how they are going to be assessed. You might evaluate their task completion, in which case the emphasis is on fluency and communicative competence. Alternatively, you might be doing controlled practice of certain structures, in which case the emphasis would be on accuracy.

What’s the most effective way of monitoring during a speaking prep? How much do you want to interfere (to give them more confidence in what they’re about to say?)

It depends on what the task is. As a general rule, let students speak. Intervene afterwards. Remember that the teacher’s role is not always to correct. Sometimes, asking students to repeat what they have just said can be an effective and face-saving way of helping them to self-correct.


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The essentials of lesson planning: a Q&A session with Philip Haines

shutterstock_323995139Philip Haines is the Senior Consultant for Oxford University Press, Mexico. As well as being a teacher and teacher trainer, he is also the co-author of several series, many of which are published by OUP. Earlier this month, he delivered a webinar on ‘The essentials of lesson planning’, and today we bring you the question and answer section of the session.

Sharing aims with students

Is it a good idea to communicate the lesson aims to the students?

This is generally considered good practice and has the following benefits:

1. When used well it can involve students more in the learning process.

2. It forces us as teachers to be clear about what we want to achieve, how we hope to achieve it, and to state this as clearly as possible.

Writing detailed lesson plans

I find that writing in detail makes me distracted reading the plan in class. And I found that with detailed plans I would still forget a step.
But, doesn’t over-detailing procedure lessen the scope of emergent language?

There are two reasons for writing a very detailed lesson plan:

1. To help you be aware of all the features of as lesson that you need to take into consideration. This is a good exercise to help you develop the skill of lesson planning.

2. To enable you to prove your lesson planning abilities to another person.

In our everyday practice going into a lot of detail is often not very practical. The best plans I find are the ones that I can access quickly at a glance to get the main points. The main things I want to know are: What am I doing next?’, ‘How much time do I have for this?’ and ‘How should I do it?’

The process of writing the lesson plan forces me to do the thinking process before the class, but then when teaching, the lesson plan acts as a guide from which I can move away and return, as needed. Once I have a solid plan I can move away from it, but know it is still there acting as a safety net.

Avoiding lesson planning mistakes

What mistakes in lesson planning should I avoid as a beginner at teaching?

I hope that the suggestions above can help you with your lesson planning process. However, I would give two other pieces of advice for new teachers.

1. Go back to your lesson plan after each lesson and make a few simple notes about things that worked and things that didn’t work. Also note down the reasons why in each case. If you can, make suggestions of what you would change.

2. Try to identify any possible thing that might go wrong and think of a practical solution for each of these. This will help you remain calm when things don’t go as you expected, and there is always something that doesn’t go as planned, even for the most experienced of teachers.

Checking instructions

Even when I have checked and it seems everyone understands, if a student doesn’t perform according to what I’ve check then there’s an issue with language ability.

Instruction giving and checking is somethings that particularly interests me at the moment. I believe that if my students have misunderstood my instruction, than it is probably my fault, not theirs. I can think of four reasons why students don’t understand instructions:

1. The task might be badly constructed. No matter how good the instructions are, it will never make sense to some students because of some inherent flaw at the level of the task.

2. Your instructions might be incoherent. I have observed classed where there inconsistencies in the instructions. This is why the practice of occasionally taking an activity and writing out in full yours instructions and instruction checking questions (or ICQs) is such a powerful exercise.

3. The level of the language in the instructions or task might be too high for students. We need to make sure the language is carefully graded.

4. Students might not be paying attention because they were distracted or not interested.

If we have addressed these four points than we can assume that most students will know what to do, but we should then immediately monitor to make sure everyone is on task.

Lesson plans for dyslexic students

Can you give an example of a lesson plan/type of activity for students with dyslexia? Any sources we can use?

This question asks about lesson plans for dyslexic students. Being dyslexic myself, I feel I can give some advice about this. It is important not to expose a dyslexic student’s weaknesses but to provide them with a range of ways to process information. In two previous blog posts I gave suggestions for using audio scripts and for doing while-reading activities. The suggestions in these posts go some way to address the two points mentioned above.

• 25 alternatives to reading aloud around the class: https://oupeltglobalblog.com/2017/01/17/25-alternatives-to-reading-aloud-around-the-class/
• 25 ideas for using audio scripts in the ELT classroom: https://oupeltglobalblog.com/2016/09/20/25-ideas-for-using-audio-scripts-in-the-elt-classroom/

If you missed the webinar and want to catch up, feel free to visit our Webinar Library, for this session and previous recordings.


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Bubbling under – Helping ideas surface in speaking classes

students talking speaking smiling in classroomEdmund Dudley is a teacher trainer, materials writer and co-author of ‘Mixed Ability Teaching’ in the “Into the Classroom” series. In this article he looks at ways to create the right environment for effective speaking classes and offers some practical advice to manage them, ahead of his webinar on the subject on 12th and 13th July.

When they go well, speaking activities can bring life, laughter and energy to the language classroom, providing a real sense that the language is being put to use in an enjoyable and authentic way. When they go badly, however, speaking activities can be immensely frustrating – and not only for the students. Have you ever set up a speaking task with confidence, only to find it fizzle out before it even begins? Are you familiar with the experience of scanning the faces of your silent students, trying to read the thoughts they are struggling to put into words? Have you ever wished you could find a way to help them express all the thoughts and ideas that are clearly bubbling under the surface?

Helping students find the confidence

With teenage students, the first thing to be aware of is that difficulties with speaking are very often exacerbated by inhibitions that they have about themselves as learners – and as members of the group. Speaking is an inherently ‘social’ skill: everything that is said is heard – and judged – by the teacher and the rest of the class, making already self-conscious teens reluctant to put themselves in a position where they can lose face in front of their peers. Putting students at ease and providing a supportive atmosphere in the classroom is essential if speaking activities are going to work.

Responding to seemingly simple prompts often requires a lot of confidence on the part of the student. Think about questions such as “What’s your favourite pop group?” or “What did you get for your birthday?” Giving an answer requires not only marshalling language but also sharing private information which might cause others in the class to sneer or laugh. It’s hardly surprising that these kinds of questions often produce only mumbled, one-word answers. In order to avoid such situations, we need to think hard about the kinds of questions we ask and be sensitive to the potential difficulty of certain topic areas. A simple tweak to the question is often enough. The same teenagers who hate talking about things they like often love talking about things they hate. Try asking “What’s the worst song on YouTube?” instead of “What’s your favourite pop group?” and watch the hands go up.

Creating space and time for language and ideas to emerge

The feeling that they are being ‘put on the spot’ is another factor that can make speaking activities challenging for students. Unless they are given adequate time to think and prepare, it’s unreasonable to expect a typical student to be able to give a spontaneous, extended answer to a spoken question. For short answers, one simple idea is to give students the chance to ‘speak, pass, or nominate.’  Those who do not wish to speak can instead choose to ‘pass’ – in which case we move on to someone else, or ‘nominate’ – in which case they can bring a classmate with a good idea into the discussion.

How can students best make use of the time they are given to prepare a spoken answer? Well, it depends on whether they are stuck for language or ideas. If it’s language they need, having access to appropriate reference materials and task models can make a big difference. They might just be stuck for ideas, though.  ­­At intermediate level and above, it is surprising how often students say “I wouldn’t know what to say about this in my mother language, let alone English.” That’s when collaborative, pre-speaking planning and brainstorming activities can help.

Managing speaking activities

Once they have the confidence, the language and the ideas, it should be much easier for students to tackle speaking tasks effectively. There’s still a lot that can go wrong at the production stage, though. From a classroom management point of view, it’s important to remember that good speaking requires good listening. Unless there is an attentive and sympathetic audience for a speaker, s/he will see no reason to take the task seriously. That’s why we need to set up speaking tasks in such a way that they include a focused listening element. One simple way to provide this focus for listening is to give students the option of not telling the truth in speaking tasks: it then becomes the job of their partner to listen and decide whether they were lying or not. When our students speak in class, we should also strive to pay attention ourselves, to really listen. Too often I catch myself ‘waiting’ rather than listening.

If you are interested in this topic and would like to join in the discussion and learn some practical ideas for the classroom, join me for the webinar.