Teaching with images, audio & videos

Our students are not growing up in the same world we grew up. The world now is different from that of 30, 40 and 50 years ago in so many ways. One of these ways is how information is conveyed and presented to us as well as how we get to produce and transmit information. I remember back in 1997 how excited I was when at a friend’s place who owned a printer (!) we were able to print scenes from James Cameron’s movie ‘Titanic’. We held in our hands a snippet of a movie we spent so much money (and tears) watching and re-watching in cinema theatres. For us, then, this was extra-ordinary. The images ended up becoming a collage that I decorated my room with.

Today for many people around the world such images, video and audio clips are available with a just a click on their smartphones. And there is nothing extraordinary about that any more; this is now just how things are. Information is generated and conveyed with more than just language. It is multimodal. And despite the fact that access to information – of whatever kind – is not equal to everyone, since not everyone owns a smartphone or has access to the internet, multimodal literacy should not be considered a luxury but a necessity in today’s world. And this one more way that teachers come into play. As Pegrum et al. (2018, p. 6) explain,

“[a]longside technological developments that prioritise audiovisual input (e.g., voice recognition linked to digital assistants, or image searching), not to mention audiovisual output, growing swathes of our communication take place multimodally, with textual, visual, auditory, haptic and other elements cross-fertilising one another. Multimodal texts serve to “redefine what counts as knowledge, how it can be presented, engaged with and produced” (Saint-Georges, 2013, p. 2), which has implications within and beyond the classroom […] and may begin to shape students’ lifelong and lifewide multimodal communicative practices.”

Pegrum, M., Dudeney, G., & Hockly, N. (2018). Digital literacies
. The European Journal of Applied Linguistics and TEFL, 7(2), 3-24.

This is a brief introduction for novice and interested experienced teachers of English who would like to learn more about ways we can use images, audio and videos in the ELT classroom. Using multimodal texts in the classroom is just the very first step to preparing our students for what the world looks like today – not that most of them don’t know that already.


There is a variety of ways to work with images in the ELT classroom. To start with the basics, here we outline a number of image sources which provide photos that can be used freely, even for commercial purposes.




Free high resolution photography


Of course, you can also ask your students to take their own photos! This can be more interesting and engaging for them. They do after all take pictures of themselves and others all the time.

If you are interested in how and why to use images in your teaching, you can consult a variety of sources. Examples are:

  • ‘Visual literacy in English Language Teaching’ Part of the Cambridge Papers in ELT series. August 2016. Available here!
  • O’Brien, A. (2017). Creating Multimodal Texts. Resources for literacy teachers. Click here!
  • ‘The image in English Language Teaching’ edited by Kieran Donaghy and Daniel Xerri with contributions from several prominent writers in ELT. Click here!


Using audio in the ELT classroom is not a new discovery. And our aim here is not to reinvent the wheel. But we tend to see our students only as consumers of audio despite the fact that in their everyday life they are both consumers and producers of multimodal texts. People today listen to the radio, for example, but they also send voice messages to each other instead of a text ones. So, what can we do to bring this dual role of the consumer and the producer in our classrooms?

One way we can do that is by looking at podcasts and their role in teaching and learning. To start with, a Podcast is a portmanteau of the words iPod and broadcasting. It refers to

“[a] digital audio file made available on the internet for downloading to a computer or mobile device, typically available as a series, new instalments of which can be received by subscribers automatically”


How can we use podcasts for teaching and learning purposes? According to some of the ideas put forward in ‘Podcasting for ELT‘, we can use podcasts in the following three ways:

Authentic Podcasts

They can be used for developing our students’ listening skill. What’s great about them is that students get to choose the topics that interest them!

Teacher podcasts

These can take two forms: those aimed at students and those aimed at teachers. Examples of both are given below.

Student podcasts

Students become the producers of language in this case rather than consumers of language. There are many production sites, software and applications students can use to produce a podcast such as Audacity & Podomatic.

Teacher podcasts produced for students

  • Aprender Ingles con Reza y Craig. This is an English language learning podcast for (Spanish) learners of English! Listeners can suggest topics and they can also send the hosts voice recordings which they can be played for everyone else to listen to. They received feedback on their English, too!

Teacher podcasts produced for teachers

  • TEFL Podcast. This has been suggested to me by a colleague, and it has been described in one of its reviews as ‘probably the best TEFL podcast out there’. The podcasts are created by Ross Thorburn and invited speakers from all around the world.
  • The Cult of Pedagogy Podcast. This has been described as a ‘game changer’. Cult of Pedagogy is run by a team of people whose editor in chief is Jennifer Gonzalez (for more information click here).


As with audio, teachers have been using videos in the EFL classroom for quite some time now. Below you can find information on how to use videos in the classroom and various video sources.

How to use videos in the EFL classroom

There is a plethora of activities one can use that incorporate videos. Examples can be found in the following websites produced by British Council:

Video and young learners 1

Video and young learners 2

Using video 

This blog post outlines important and helpful ‘Tips for Using Videos to Teach English’.

Video sources

YouTube – This might be the obvious place to look for videos – it is after all the second most-visited website worldwide.

TED Talks – Here there is a selection of more than 3700 talks to choose from according to our students’ age and interests.

TED-Ed Lessons – TED-Ed is an award-winning education platform dedicated both to teachers and students all around the world. Ted-Ed animations are short animated videos on interesting ideas and lessons which are also accompanied with questions and resources to create the so-called Ted-Ed lessons. Click here for more information. The option for students to create their own TED-Ed talks is also available! Click here for more information.

Film UK – LearnEnglish Teens – This site is produced by the British Council and it has a variety of lessons built around a short video.

Viral ELT – This is a great site launched in 2014. Its aim – as it says – is to create a collection of viral videos which can be used to generate language in the ELT classroom. Each video is paired with ten speaking questions and a listening activity. For more info click here.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: