Linking to learning

Using videos in the classroom webpage

How times have changed. I remember the hoops that I had to go through to show a video when I first started teaching ESL on the Upper West Side about 20 years ago.

The topic was body language, and I wanted to show the students a skit of the famous mime Marcel Marceau. I had to first go to one specific public library branch that specialized in movies and sign up for the film club. Then I had to wait a week for my order to be processed and then go back to the library to secure the video.

There was no way to preview the videos beforehand, so it took me several weeks of going back and forth to the library before I found an appropriate one.

Finding videos to use in the classroom has become much easier. Now I just hop on the Internet and with a little bit of surfing find the video clip that I want.

Videos are a great way to engage the visual learner, but there are a few things to keep in mind when showing video clips to your students:

  • Always preview the entire clip you plan to show from start to finish. You don’t want any surprises.
  • Engage students in an activity while they are watching the clip to promote active listening. Have them listen for answers to specific questions, for instance, or summarize what happens in the video. Provide a graphic organizer for note-taking. Enhance the learning experience further by having discussion questions before, during and after the clip.
  • Play no more than three to five minutes at a time, then pause and do an activity.

There are many free sources for video clips online. Most news organizations such as have daily clips as well as archived clips and are a great source for current events. has a teachers section complete with lesson plans, video segments and handouts. Its classroom resources are categorized by grade level and subject area. A recent feature, for example, is about the Gettysburg Address, taken from the PBS series “Looking for Lincoln.” is a nonprofit organization that sponsors “Ted Talks.” Speakers from around the world talk about topics ranging from how to separate fact and fiction online to “One Seed at a Time. Protecting the Future of Food” about a seed bank in Norway. Look under “Talks Tags” to find categories such as poetry, global issues, AIDS, pollution and economics. Each “Ted Talks” is about 18 minutes or less., with a library of more than 3,000 educational videos, showcases mini-lessons in math, science, computer science, the humanities and test prep. The presentations do not show the speaker, but have a “magic pen” that writes on an online board.

Of course, one of the most popular websites for video segments is (Previewing the whole segment is particularly important as YouTube videos come from a vast number of sources.) Can’t play YouTube videos in the classroom? You can download videos by using, a free online site. Simply copy the URL of the YouTube video you want to show and paste it into the box on keepvid. Save the segment in the MP4 version and download the video onto a flash drive. (Note: you must have Java applet updated in order for this program to work.)

A final site worth noting is, which includes video clips geared to teacher professional development. It is a “teacher-to-teacher” sharing site. There are lesson ideas aligned with the Common Core Learning Standards as well as teaching practices such as Google Docs in the classroom, working collaboratively and think alouds. It also has a “Let’s Chat Core” section that gives ideas and reflections on the Common Core standards.

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