Deborah Healey's Attic : Using YouTube Videos

Teaching Listening and Speaking with YouTube

ELI145: From YouTube to the Movies

One of the last classes I taught at the English Language Institute at Oregon State University before moving to the University of Oregon was a very interesting listening/speaking elective course called "From YouTube to the Movies." It was open to students at intermediate and advanced levels. The course took place primarily on Blackboard, so I've reproduced some of the key elements here to make it more widely accessible.

I started the course off with some YouTube clips, but quickly moved into a format where students selected and presented YouTube videos, and I showed full-length movies in chunks. The student-selected videos were better than YouTube clips that I found. The fundamental instructions were that they needed to bein English; about 3 minutes long; not obscene, racist, or sexist; and understandable to the other students in the class. Students worked in teams to find the videos and prepare their introduction, vocabulary words, and comprehension questions for their videos.

The full-length movies were interspersed with the student videos. Each movie took about 5-6 class sessions. Students did pre-viewing work, took notes while viewing, and wrote responses at the end of the movies. We used The Perfect Storm (starts low, but it has everyone at the edge of their seats by the end) and My Best Friend's Wedding (a case study in jealousy and selfishness, and amusing to see Julia Roberts as the bad guy/gal). One appealed to the realists and the other to the romantics. I tweaked and used the great material that my colleague Donna Shaw had put together for both movies.

For a final project, students created their own mini-videos explaining at least one idiom or slang term. Using a Flip Video camera made filming and downloading the recorded videos easy.

Here are some of the videos we used:

Week 1 (my selections): Cell phones

Student-selected videos

Linkin Park: What I’ve done:
The students on this team were fans of the group, and this video was one that fit the not obscene/racist/sexist criteria

Friends -learning French episode:
Being language learners themselves, the students could relate to the nonsense that sounded like French.

Moon phases:
A clear documentary for the science-minded.

Do you speak English?
This is one of my all-time favorites. I find it amusing each time I see it. All the students liked it, too.

Heroes trailer:
This one was harder for the intermediate-level students to understand. Some had never seen the TV show; others decided to watch the show after seeing the trailer.

If all movies had cell phones:
Another of my favorites. Great for movie buffs. The Gilligan's Island clip was a stretch for the students, but they recognized many of the others.

Mythbusters – phone book:
Another science-ish video, with an element of "don't try this at home"
Axis of Evil:
This one provoked mixed emotions among the students. One Korean student said he was initially offended at the description of North Korea, then realized that the object of the joke was George Bush, not North Korea. It's another one that worked better with advanced students than with intermediate ones.

George Carlin's 7 Dirty Words: Then and Now
Students living in the dorms hear these words all the time. Even though they're bleeped out of the video, it's pretty clear what is being said. For advanced students, this was more thought-provoking than for intermediate students. It would be better to start with an explanation of what the FCC is, since it's so frequently referenced in the video.

Electing a US President in plain English:
This is the clearest explanation of the Electoral College I've ever had. Now I think I understand it...

Halloween history:
This worked well as an end-of-October video. Some parts are easier to understand than others, but it's generally pretty clear.

Video sites

I gave students a number of sites to look at, but by far the most widely used was YouTube.

Slang sites

In preparation for creating their own slang videos, students looked at the following slang sites.

Definitely a fun class, with lots of opportunities for students to listen to and speak about engaging videos.



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Deborah's Attic by Deborah Healey is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License. Based on a work at
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Last updated 20 February 2009