The Teacher’s Guide to Using YouTube in the Classroom

YouTube is one of the most popular websites on the planet and a vast resource for educational content. The site is home to over 10 million videos tagged as educational, many of them submitted by your fellow teachers.

A completely free resource this huge and varied has nearly endless potential for the classroom. Here are some ideas and suggestions to get you started.

youtube in classroom

Ways to Use YouTube in the Classroom

1. Bring in videos that show students a more fun side of the lesson.

Many lessons can be enhanced with the right video. Something visual and entertaining that speaks to the subject you’re teaching breaks up the monotony of a lecture, brings some fun into the lesson, and keeps your students more engaged and interested in the subject.

Showing videos in the classroom doesn’t have to mean much work for you. All it takes is some searching and browsing on the website to see what videos are already out there on the subject you’re teaching, along with a little time spent watching to find videos that are a good fit. Although if you choose, you can write some questions or create activities that relate to the video to help students get more out of them.

2. Create YouTube playlists as student assignments or as recommended extra resources.

Some people learn better by watching than reading, so providing video alternatives to the reading homework you assign could really pay off for some students. You can create playlists, either to supplement the other work you assign or as an alternative, and simply send the link to your students for viewing. A playlist puts it all into an easy, well-organized format for their consumption.

3. Record class lessons or lectures and save them for future viewing.

YouTube can become a repository for saving and sharing any lectures you record. Our guide on flipped classrooms discusses some of the best technologies to use for recording a class, if you need help with that part. Once the video is created, YouTube makes it easy to send the link to any student that missed class, or keep track of the different videos you have in case you want to review them before giving the same lesson next year.

4. Take it to the next level.

If you want to do a little more with the video assignments you give, you can use EdPuzzle to:

  • Crop the videos so you’re only showing the most important parts.
  • Add your own audio voice over commentary to them.
  • Include quizzes to assess student understanding of the video.

This gives you more control over what your students view and what they get out of it, and allows you to keep track of who has viewed the assigned videos and how well they understand the concepts covered.

Other Educational Video Resources

While YouTube’s the main place to turn when looking for educational videos online, you can actually find great informational videos in a number of other places.

1. TeacherTube

TeacherTube calls itself the #1 safe educational video community for teachers, students, and parents. It’s similar to YouTube in how it works and what it has to offer, except for being exclusively devoted to educational content. It lets you browse videos by common core standards and individual state standards, and also includes a library of other types of content, like audio and photos.

You can access any of the videos on the website for free, but there’s also a Pro version that’s ad free for $40 a year.

2. Neo K-12

Neo K-12 has a large collection of educational videos for K-12 students in a variety of subjects, with an emphasis on science content. The website divides the videos into straightforward subject categories. Most of the videos are 10 minutes or less, so should be fairly easy to fit into class time. The website also includes games, quizzes, and other interactive activities you can incorporate into lessons along with the videos.

3. Explore shares live animal cams so you can give your students a glimpse into nature at work while sitting in the classroom. They also provide a number of pre-recorded educational films. You can browse these or view them in channels they’ve created based on length or subject.

4. TedEd

From a site that’s long been known for big ideas, you’ll find TedEd videos specifically designed to act as highly engaging and fun lessons. The website collects videos on a wide variety of subjects, all of which manage that useful mix of entertainment and educational value.

5. Zane Education

Zane Education is a great resource for subtitled videos. This makes them especially valuable for any hearing impaired students, but also for any students that learn better when able to combine visual and textual learning.

There is a free version that provides some limited access, but to really get much use out of the resources provided by Zane, you’ll need a subscription. Memberships start at $5 a month.

6. How Stuff Works

The crew at How Stuff Works has been providing interesting and valuable information on a wide range of subjects in a number of formats for a while now. Their video collection is characteristically large and, as with TedEd, nicely pulls off being educational while also being entertaining.

7. PBS Video

You can register with PBS Learning Media to gain free access to their collection of educational videos. We don’t have to tell you what a valuable educational resource PBS can be. Their videos can be sorted and browsed based on grade level and subject matter, so it’s easy to hone in on the ones most appropriate for your lessons.

8. National Geographic

Teachers and students have been turning to National Geographic Magazine for information about nature and world cultures for years. Now the same trusted brand puts out hundreds of educational videos that anyone can access for free on their website. From wildlife to space to cultures both ancient and modern, you can find videos covering a wealth of valuable material on the site.


NASA TV has a live broadcast online you can drop in on, if you’re feeling spontaneous. They also have a number of videos you can share with your classroom that explore happenings in space, our missions to explore it, and other cosmic events worth knowing about.

10. BBC

On par with PBS and National Geographic in having a long reputation of earning the respect of educators, the BBC offers their own collection of educational videos that you can add to the pack. They have them divided based on the grade level classifications of the UK, so you’ll have to do some Googling or browsing to figure out which ones are right for your class, but the subjects covered and quality of the videos should make it well worth it.

In Short

Between these many resources, you should have no trouble finding videos appropriate for the lessons you have planned. If you do find a subject that’s not covered though, you can always make your own video (or even enlist your student to help as part of an interactive assignment) and share it on YouTube to help out the next teacher.



  1. Jagriti Pande

    September 3, 2015 at 2:30 am

    Thank you for the great post. Massive Online Open Courses are another way to get really great content. While it could be best if all the students can actually take up the class but otherwise also, Coursera, EdX, Future Learn and many other MOOCS let you audit the course for free.Most of the times the lectures are downloadable plus there are the reading lists which are shared too.

  2. Yaswanth

    September 6, 2015 at 10:36 pm

    Good and informative post, may be you can add Big Think in your list.

  3. Damian

    September 10, 2015 at 4:33 am

    National Geographic have good metod.

  4. Chelsey H.

    September 18, 2015 at 4:31 pm

    I think you tube is such an amazing resource to use in the classroom. I do like the ideas to expand on the subject matter. Thank you for the list of other video sites, especially the one that relates to common core. Some of the ideas you listed were great such as recording the lesson for students who are out sick. This helps them stay on task and is an asset to the classroom. I hope to use these in my classroom someday. Thanks for the post.

  5. Diego Gallego

    September 19, 2015 at 7:17 pm

    Great article! with lots of resources for us educators. I enjoy using video sites as a support tool for my classroom, it brings so much excitement in the classroom, I teach elementary spanish from K-5th in a private school and every time we have a class my students are expecting, we call our class a “performance”, it makes the class very engaging and the interest levels also grow so much. I also recommend using your own videos it adds a new dimension when your student hear your voice in a video! I use Educreations for iPad, it is an excellent application to create video lessons.Another great addition is youtube kids, as is more suitable for younger audiences since the ads are targeted to younger audience.

  6. stacey Krosschell

    September 20, 2015 at 7:38 pm

    I really enjoyed reading this article. You provided many different options to help us use technology in our classrooms. I have used youtube, but I will now try to use some of these other great resources. Another great online resources with videos is united streaming. The only downfall of it is that you have to have a subscription. It has many great videos for all grade levels and subjects. I have also used animal webcams in my class. My students really enjoyed seeing the animals in their own habitats. Thanks for the article.

  7. Sadia Syed

    September 27, 2015 at 8:57 am

    It is indeed a very helpful post! I use YouTube videos extensively in my math classes. I’ve observed that short videos (around 4 to 6 minutes long) are very good tool for opening a lesson in order to generate discussion on the big ideas. Conversely, videos can be very effective to summarize or reflecting back on a topic. I always find that videos greatly serve as a supplement tool for my students who are visual and auditory learners. I feel lucky to come across this article that generates different ideas to use youtube videos effectively in teaching and learning. I’ve never thought of making playlists and/or own channel about different topics to share with my students. I’d definitely use this suggestion as an alternative to the reading homework I assign. Previously, I have used flipped classroom model in my class. To gather videos for flipped classroom, I have always struggled to search for clear and concise videos. This article has reminded me to record my lectures and send the youtube link to any student that missed class. I can also keep track of the different videos I would create for different topics and review them before giving the same lesson next year. My most significant discovery from this article is to learn about EdPuzzle that allows teachers to crop the length of a video easily. I have just created a video that I’d use this week using EdPuzzle. I believe some of it features will be extremely useful in my teaching, like adding voice commentary to videos, including quizzes to assess student understanding of the video, and keeping track of who has viewed the assigned videos and how well they understand the concepts covered.

    Thanks again for a great post!