Exploiting video for authentic English

So far in this series of articles on using video in the classroom, I’ve focused on ways to plan a video lesson and how to make the activities more collaborative. In this post, I’d like to look at the impact authentic video can have on a lesson when we teach real English from it.

One of the challenges I have as a materials writer is trying to find authentic video with real English which is accessible enough for learners – especially at lower levels. By definition, the language in authentic video isn’t graded according to level so it can prove frustrating to learners if they have to endlessly watch a video but can’t understand or make use of the language it contains.

One type of video which can work very well is when real people are responding to the same stimulus. To illustrate how effective this can be, here is a wonderful video which we used in the course series World English. It’s the story of a man who takes his telescope into the street and invites people to look at the moon. Watch this video and – as you watch, identify the repeated language point which you could exploit in class. Here’s a clue – it’s useful for teaching a particular function and pronunciation point.

It’s a great video, isn’t it? And it’s full of expressions showing surprise.

To use it in the classroom, show it once so that students get the general idea behind the video. You could ask them the question, “What is the filmmaker’s main message?” – the answer comes right at the end when he says we should all “look up more often.” Then play it again and ask students to check the expressions they hear from this list:

1. No way!

2. Isn’t it awesome?

3. That is so cool!

4. What?

5. Fantastic!

6. I’ve never seen this before!

7. Really?

8. Isn’t that amazing?

9. That is incredible!

10. Wow!

Afterwards, play the video one more time and ask students to identify what the intonation pattern is for all these expressions – it’s rise-fall for showing surprise. As a follow-up language practice task, ask each student to write down three pieces of surprising news about their own lives (it can be true or made-up). Then, working in pairs, they share their news and use the expressions to show interest and surprise.

Check out my previous blog post where I extend this idea of using video to target authentic English by looking at what happens when you stop real people in the street and video them answering the same question.


‘A new view of the moon’ is available to watch online and also appears in World English Level 1, Third Edition by John Hughes and Martin Milner (National Geographic Learning).

John Hughes is the author of many titles with National Geographic Learning including the course series Life and the new third edition of World English. He has written video scripts for these titles and he has also created video content for various language learning and teacher training courses. His website is www.johnhugheselt.com.

Author: John Hughes

John Hughes is a teacher, teacher trainer and course book author. He currently combines a variety of roles including part-time teaching, running online training courses, and lecturing on ELT methodology at Oxford University. He is an author of many National Geographic Learning titles including Life, a six-level general English course, Spotlight on First, Practical Grammar, Total Business, Success with BEC Vantage, and Aspire. He lives near Oxford, United Kingdom.


  1. omg! I’m speecheless, beacuse I have never seen someting like this before. I’m so glad I found this site and from now on, I’m gonna check this page as much as I can. Thanks for bringing this out. and let me tell you this, the video made me cry, I don’t know, maybe I’m a little bit emotional, because I can see that there are lots of diffrent ways to teach a child or teenagers. thanks a lot.

  2. I really like this article. It is a good example of how to use exponents of functions in a contextualized way .

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