By Anna Rozzo

YouTube, like Google, has become part and parcel of daily internet use for many. Because YouTube is not simply a video hosting service, but rather a social network, it allows students and teachers to interact and collaborate in new ways in and outside of the classroom.

The good news is that if you have a Google account, you already have Gmail, Google+, YouTube, Google Play Music, Picassa, and all other Google apps and products. So, if your students have a Google account, they can make a YouTube Channel and then begin uploading videos without creating any new usernames and passwords.

Although you can use webcams and laptops with built-in cameras, it may be easiest to let students use their own smartphones. “Those with relatively low income and educational attainment levels, younger adults, and non-whites are especially likely to be “smartphone-dependent.” (Pew Research Center) Not only will many students depend on their smartphones for internet access, but it will also be simpler to take a video and upload the video using the same device.

As an instructor, you can use Screencast-o-Matic to create tutorials and then post them on YouTube. Here is my short playlist of tutorials.

Finally, privacy is an important factor to consider for projects using YouTube and when teaching digital citizenship. It might be a good idea for students to use pseudonyms as their usernames and come up with creative channel names. There are three YouTube Settings: Unlisted v Private v Public. I recommend the “private” setting for students and here’s how. That way students’ work remains private, but can still be shared with other students and the instructor.

Design and develop digital age learning experiences and assessments
Teachers design, develop, and evaluate authentic learning experiences and assessments
incorporating contemporary tools and resources to maximize content learning in context and
to develop the knowledge, skills, and attitudes identified in the Standards. – ISTE Standards/Teachers

Here are some suggestions for projects and activities that you may be able to implement for any level.

Passion Projects 

A Passion Project is essentially any task-based activity that is centered around the students’ interests. Students are more likely to remain engaged when class materials are applicable to their lives. A Student YouTube Channel can be a means to track progress for a semester-long project and/or serve as a cumulative task in the form of a final presentation video. In a semester-long project, instructors often assign weekly tasks. For example, if a student is researching his/her dream job, Week 1 could be to find out how much education one needs to attain said dream job. Then, the student can make a video to report his/her findings. It can be as simple as finding out the answer to one question each week and then posting the answer in a video. For an advanced class, students can be assigned a news item or current event that interests them. Their job for the semester is to follow that news item and post weekly updates.

Storytelling/ Oral Journals 

While many adult students may need assistance with the technology, making YouTube videos is not reserved for advanced students. There are several speaking tasks that low-beginner and even literacy-emergent students can complete. Videos can be any length, at the discretion of the instructor.

Daily Journals
Students can make videos about their days. They can report on their day at work, their family members, what they ate, what they did, etc.Storytelling
Students can retell stories that they have learned in class or attempt to tell stories they know in their native languages in English. Students can share their culture through folktales, national history, and religious stories.

End of Class Review
Students can attempt to recall or recap what they did in class. This video can be an end-of-class task like a digital exit ticket, or assigned as a homework assignment.

Oral Dictations
The teacher posts a short dictation on YouTube. Then, the students reply with a video in which they try to repeat the dictation.

Post Field Trip Report
Students report on the highlights of a recent field trip. Students can summarize chronologically or answer questions provided by the teacher. Students can also film aspects of their field trip and post the video.

Interviews in the Community and/or School
Students prepare questions as a class or in small groups, then students practice these questions by asking members of the school community or neighborhood. Students share responses on their YouTube Channel where fellow students can view.

Summarizing, Predicting, and Reacting to Leveled Readers
At the end of each chapter in a leveled reader, students can create a video response in which they summarize the chapter, predict what they think will happen next, and share any comments.

Vocabulary & Idiom Journals
Students can keep track of the vocabulary and expressions they learn in class and in the world by sharing it with their classmates on YouTube. Students can demonstrate original examples of the new vocabulary in their videos.

Pronunciation Journals
The teacher assigns pronunciation tasks (thought groups, stress exercises, minimal pairs, tongue twisters etc). Then, after the students have practiced, they record themselves attempting the task. Both teacher and student can evaluate progress.

Authentic Portfolio 

If used consistently throughout the semester or year, a YouTube Channel is the ideal tool for an e-portfolio. Students and teachers can track their speaking progress over time through their posts and videos. Students, especially literacy-emergent, can post reflections about goals and growth.

Have you used student YouTube Channels in your classroom? Tell us about it in the comments!


Anna Rozzo is currently a visiting lecturer for the academic ESL program at SUNY Binghamton where she teaches composition and public speaking skills to international students. Additionally, she helps to train and supervise undergraduates who serve as TA’s in the ESL classes. Previously, she taught ESOL at Carlos Rosario International Public Charter School, Prince George’s Community College, and Montgomery College. She has also taught at the American Centers in Rabat and Kenitra, Morocco and served as an English Language Fellow in Indonesia.

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