ESL 101: The Music Video

In your teaching career you will reach a moment where you say to yourself “Oh Fuck.” The class that was expected to only be 2 weeks, has apparently extended itself into 3 weeks. The appendix of your supposedly 4 week textbook is approaching, your games have all been used and a second run would be redundant and mundane, and you are running out of tricks in your hat. The students smell it in the air, you’re out of juice….you’re fucked.

You should worry, but be relieved that it has happened to me numerous times and you are not alone. I learned the hard way, I tried boring games and I did one of the biggest mistakes, which was to review what we did in the beginning of the class. I was bombing, but then I had an epiphany! When I was studying abroad in Korea, the school made us do a lip dub music video using all of the international students to the tune of Black Eyed Peas’ Time of my Life. My idea was I can kill some class time, while keeping the students engaged and entertained, while having the students make a MUSIC VIDEO!

My Collection

I have utilized this class project three times. Here are my videos

“Rude” by Magic

This was my first attempt ever. This was in Taiwan, and I had only two hours. The camp scheduled all of us to make a music video. The other teachers attempts were probably shit, because in two hours I was able to make this.

  • Tangent* At the 00:35 minute mark, when that girl fell down, she really got injured. I think she had to go to the hospital. Safety first!

“Happy” by Pharrell Williams

This class was my the first time I have ever taught Brazilians in my life. This second video was filmed in The States, and it took about 4 hours within the span of 4 days.

  • Tangent* I almost went insane filming this video

“OUI” by Jeremih

This was my second class of kids from Brazil. I was really enjoying the song at the time, and I just decided to run with it. This was also filmed here in The States.

  • Tangent* This is the closest I ever came to quitting on making a video. I also had to hold the camera for like 90 percent of the video, while dancing, and directing. I can write an entire article on the making of this video. Keep an eye for it.

The Lip Dub One Shot

There is many different ways to do the video, but there is only one steadfast rule that must be followed: It must be filmed using one shot. That means no editing other parts and clipping them together. Why would one do that to themselves? I find easy things to be boring, I thrive in the difficult, I guess I’m a sadist. Some decide to break this rule, and edit the video, which makes it lame, so don’t do it.

How to do it

There are key requirements I think are necessary to make an acceptable music video.

1. Ample Space

Space is needed to roam around, hide people and set up the next place to film. If you are in a room that is supposed to be a closet, your video is going to suck.

2. People

The key number is more than 13 people, the more the better. It looks amazing if the scene is constantly filled with students.

3. Supplies

You can get away with paper and markers, which are readily available in every classroom. Have the students draw specific lyrics from the song you choose on the pieces of paper. If you can land more supplies such as costumes, props and backdrops, more power to you yo.

4. A Phone with a good Camera

Without it, how are you going to make a video son? If you’re fancy and you have access to film equipment, you are probably not an ESL teacher, and this article is of no use to you (but keep reading it).

5. A Super Star

This student is typically your Alpha. The charismatic one who is central in the classes dynamic. They will be the focus of the video because they are the ones who have enough star power to carry a whole video by themselves. It would be great if they could dance.


The Last Requirement: The Vision

This part is crucial. This video is 90 percent the teacher, and 10% the students. Once you have decided to embark on this mission, you should follow these rules.

a. Think of the song before the class. Do not let the students pick the song! It will take 3 days for them to decide! Save yourself the grief and pick the song. Be aware, they will challenge your song choice, stand your ground, because it will get ugly.

b. Listen to the song religiously. Pay attention the lyrics, think of which words can be put on to posters, and what props can be used. Know the song, love the song, be the song.

c. Envision how the video will look like. What’s the story you are trying to tell to the audience. Create a floor plan with the general directions of the video.

This is a general idea that was in my head

After you have set your brain to the video, take a deep breath, because this was the easy part. The hard part is the actual making a music video part.

Making the Video

At minimum, I think you need a two hour window to make it happen, however I suggest you don’t do this if you want to maintain your vocal chords. I suggest you do one hour a day, for four days. This gives you time to teach your real lesson, and have something to cap the day. Here is my usual schedule.


I would play a video of another class doing a lipdub, I highly suggest you show them one of mines. After the video is done, clear your throat, because it’s speech time. You can deliver this if you suck at life:

All right class, I want to share something with you. I want to give you something that 10 years down the line, 15 years down the line, you can look back and say, “Man that class was awesome!” We are going to make a music video. It is going to be one shot, that means no editing. I am going to yell, and at times, you will think I am crazy. Stay strong and we can make this, so you can show this to your kids about that one time you studied in America.

After your speech, tell the students what video you are going to do (they will now yell at you). You can now start assigning roles to the students for the video. I usually cast spots for these jobs:

  • Lead Actress and Actor (For some reason, they buy into the video)
  • Camera Person (Most likely they will fail you)
  • Dance Leader and Dance Team (Most likely they will fail you)
  • Director (Symbolic role, you are the real director)
  • Movers (They carry things and move things)
  • Arts and Crafts Team (They might take an unbelievably long time to do the most basic tasks)
  • Background Artists (The rest of your class)
  • There will also be a person who does absolutely nothing.

After this, I tell the class they need to start making the props and costumes.


This is the day you make props, and tell them the general flow.


You realize that you are way behind, and the dance team hasn’t created a dance. You start creating a dance. Props will not be done, you yell at them to work faster. You now know that you need an extra hour the next day. You go through a quick trial, it looks like its going to suck.


Show time. You quickly prep to finish anything that needs to be done. You give them a five minute break. You do three runs. The first one, people don’t know there places. The second, was awful. The third one, something different happens. Magically, all the pieces fall into place, and it starts to match your plan. Miraculously the video gets done.

After class, you edit the video. Putting the real audio over your video and add end credits.


You play the video for the whole class. Look at your student’s faces when it is showing. I don’t want to ruin the feeling that you will get, but it’s why teachers teach in the first place.

Post it on Facebook.

10 Years Later

You watch the video, and smile.

If you decide to go through this entire ordeal, share it with me so I can see it. If you say, “This isn’t real teaching”, you can go find some rocks to kick.

Kris Arceo