Introductory Videos – A Digital Tool for Building Classroom Communities

Hey now, TESL Ontarians! Recently, I have been teaching online and multimodal courses and I thought I would share with you an activity I have found effective when working both with ESL students and pre-/in-service teachers. As someone who is new to incorporating (in any substantive way) digital tools into my teaching arsenal, I have slowly come to view activities that allow for taking advantage of students’ digital literacies as invaluable. I hope you find this two-part description of how to incorporate digital technologies in our language classrooms useful and engaging. This first post describes how I have used video introductions as a way to build a stronger (e-) learning community in my classrooms.


An electronic introductory text is a multimodal, digital “text” produced by the instructor and students, allowing for a narrative description of their personal/academic life journey up to this point. This digital text provides an outlet through which students may present themselves to the teacher and other students, outlining, for example, moments that have been decisive in the their life journey, the role of languages in this journey, their real/”imagined” connections to target language communities (in our case English language ones), and, finally, what they would like to achieve in the course. These digital texts act concurrently as a tool for community building, an outlet for demonstration of digital literacies, as well as a site for (critical) reflection on the part of students as they begin to see themselves as part of target language communities. This activity can be incorporated into any (language) classroom and adapted to serve any level of (English) language learner.


  • Develop strong classroom community
  • Promote authentic target language use
  • Promote academic oral presentation skills
  • Allow for assessment of student needs
  • Allow for positive reflection of students’ evolving, hybrid identities


  • Provide students with clear evaluation rubric and assignment objectives
  • Allow class time for investigation of audio/visual production tools
  • Provide class time for students to produce notes to guide their narration
  • Model a version of a video introduction (this is very important)
  • Provide platform for sharing videos (if not institutionally-supported platform, texts can be shared via and ability for students to provide feedback to one another
  • Allow for description of video production (another opportunity for step-by-step description: First, I…Second, I…Next, I…Finally, I…)
  • Provide feedback at several levels (content, structure, grammar, vocabulary)

Introductory Video Production Resources

I look forward to hearing your thoughts on this activity, TESL Ontarians, and, as always, I welcome any additional information or feedback as we learn from each other. Check my next posting for the second part of this description on digital literacies.

Suggested Readings

Cummins, J. (2009). Pedagogies of choice: Challenging coercive relations of power in classrooms and communities. International Journal of Bilingual Education and Bilingualism12(3), 261-271.

Duff, P. A., & Uchida, Y. (1997).The negotiation of teachers’ sociocultural identities and practices in postsecondary EFL classrooms. TESOL Quarterly, 31(3), 451-486.

Herath, S., & Valencia, M. (2015). Neither “A complete insider” nor “A complete outsider”: Autoethnographies of two teacher-educators-in-the-making. In Y. Ling Cheung, S. Ben Said, & K. Park (Eds.) Advances and Current Trends in Language Teacher Identity Research (pp. 86- 101). New York, NY: Routledge.

Hey now! My name is James and I have been involved in teaching ELT/ESL/EAL/EFL/EAP (enough acronyms yet?) for the past 15 years. My teaching and teacher education experiences have taken me across the Americas (from Brazil to Mexico to various parts of Canada). I have a PhD and MA from OISE/University of Toronto and research/teaching experience in a wide variety of classroom contexts. Recently, while teaching graduate and undergraduate students at universities across southern Ontario, I have been experimenting with different modalities in delivering English for academic purposes and TESL theory & methodology courses/workshops. I am excited to share my experiences in educational research and pedagogy with the TESL Ontario faithful as we co-construct knowledge together.


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