Impressing your students with your Youtube skills

Impressing your students with your Youtube skills

By Tory Thorkelson

As teachers, we are certainly aware of the place technology will take in the classroom whether we want it to or not. One reason I like to use Youtube – despite the increasingly large numbers of ads masquerading as videos on any given subject – is that my students can easily access it inside of class on their phones while wearing headphones, if the class computer is not working or outside of class to review or prepare for a future lesson. Secondly, most of the videos have English subtitles even if they may or may not always match what is actually being said; which often serves as a source of merriment for the more advanced students.

Here are a few basic rules and suggested videos for various types of lessons I have used more than once:

Suggestion 1: Short videos of 2-5 minutes are best as they are not too long to keep students’ attention but are also short enough that the teacher could play them more than once if needed.

Lesson 1: Comparing two music videos:

After discussing descriptors (adjectives/adverbs) and comparatives with my lower level writing or speaking classes, I show two music videos of OK Go’s This Too Shall Pass and ask them which one they liked better and why? Or ask them to write a compare/contrast paragraph answering the same question.

Lesson 2: Talking about past, present future

I show Five For Fighting’s 100 years about what happens at different ages/stages of ;life. I ask students to write down the ages he mentions in the song (could be done as a cloze with the lyrics with lower level classes) and then have them discuss what they did and will do at various ages (15, 20, 35, 67, 99 and so on). With higher level classes, we would discuss his advice for each stage and whether they agree or disagree with him and why.

Suggestion 2: Animations are great as they make longer talks, like TED talks, easier to understand.

Lesson 3:

I use these videos with my Global Business and Business writing classes but there are so many on the RSA list that they could be used in almost any class I teach and with high beginner to advanced level students.

Video 1: Daniel Pink’s Drive: The surprising truth about what motivates us.

Students watch the video and answer the following questions:

1) Rewards equal performance. Is this still true?
2) Why do rewards work differently for mechanical and cognitive tasks?
3) What did the MIT study show in both the US and India?
4) How do you make money into a non-factor in motivating workers?
5) Why are Autonomy, Mastery and Purpose important in work situations?
6) What happens when profit and purpose become separated?
7) If you were the CEO of your own company, how would you apply what Daniel Pink is talking about?

Video 2:

In my Business writing class, we discuss advertising techniques like Ethos, Logos and Pathos and then look at a few other techniques like those in the Science of Persuasion video. Students as asked to fill in a chart listing all the factors with names, definitions and examples. Then, they have to discuss with a partner or in a group what each factor means and whether they have encountered any of them in their daily lives. They are asked to bring examples of ads, in print or other kinds, for the following class to share with their classmates.


A channel like Crash Course covers subjects or topic areas like literature, philosophy or economics in 10-15 minute lessons that are entertaining for college level students (and let you get informed about areas you as an instructor may not know much about or may have forgotten).

The humor can be a bit corny at times, but the content is quite solid. Many include suggestions for lessons or resources for teachers and students as well.

Suggestion 4:

There are plenty of TED Ed videos with or without lessons that you can easily adapt to your own classes using what is already there or creating your own lessons around the video in question.

Suggestion 5: I use a lot of humor in my classroom on purpose.

Especially with a more advanced class, a channel like Comedy for ELT has a lot of great short clips on topics like pronunciation, dialects, small talk, job interviews and other relevant topics mostly from UK TV shows. Many even have worksheets available in the comments below the videos.


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