Here’s a riddle for you: “How many words is a wordless video actually worth?”

According to Dr. James McQuivey’s ‘equation’, if a picture is worth a thousand words, then a one-minute video has to be worth exactly 1.8 million words.

  1. 1 picture = 1,000 words
  2. 1 second of video (30 frames per second) = 30,000 words
  3. 30,000 words x 60 seconds = 1.8 million.

Following this logic, the activity I’d like to share with you today is worth 2,220,000 words as the video it’s built around lasts 74 seconds.

Wordless videos make a fantastic resource for language teaching and learning:

  • they can be used with learners of all levels;
  • it is learners who provide the language, i.e. the story can be told any number of ways according to learners’ interpretation of the story, and
  • they are typically highly engaging as they tell a story through visuals and music.

One of my favourite types of activity that works great with wordless videos is a videogloss. You are probably already familiar with a dictogloss (see more here). Though they share many similarities, a videogloss is essentially constructing a narrative based on a visual input and building on prior knowledge rather than reconstructing it.

A videogloss involves a high level of collaboration and is ideal for multi-level classes. In the process of constructing the narrative,  students might collaborate with students of different proficiency levels and develop more complex vocabulary.


Step 1. Show a short video to your students, e.g. this amazing chocolate roulade video recipe.

Step 2. Split students into small groups and get them to try to construct a summary of the recipe.

Step 3. Share and comment on those summaries together.

Step 4. Show the video again and pause at various stages to give the students the opportunity to discuss and add more details to their description. Get them to share and compare as a class, and help them out with any emergent language they might need.

*As a follow-up activity, have your students read the recipe of chocolate roulade and make changes/add more details to their recipes.

Bon appétit and happy teaching!


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