Do you ever have those lessons where you look around your classroom and you can see the boredom swirl around the classroom like fog? I used to have a class that was almost catatonic every Thursday afternoon last lesson: Year 9s, after lunch, an hour until home time, and they were DONE.

I used to get so frustrated that my class was so hard to engage during that lesson, and they never wanted to do the set work. But then I realized that part of my job as a teacher is to get them energized, especially when their interest and energy is waning.

One of the best ways I have found to energize my students is to play a short, fast-paced video that gets them in the door, sitting down, and paying attention.

Then I follow up the video with hands-on activities that get them moving around the room because research shows that movement is a key way to energize and engage students in learning.

CrashCourse Literature

Red apple on a blue background with white 'cc'
*Use of logo designed to help identify CrashCourse

The first YouTube channel in of our free literature video resources series is, you guessed it, CrashCourse. You’ve all heard me fan-girl over CrashCourse before. The videos are a great way to introduce topics, and they are short but funny and informative.

The literature videos in particular cover many texts studied in high school. (Think To Kill a Mockingbird, Romeo and Juliet, The Great Gatsby, and Macbeth etc).

They also introduce students to thinking about texts from a more analytical perspective that considers that texts can be ‘read’ from more than one point of view.

One thing I also love about the literature series is the introductory video about how and why we read literature. (Bonus, click here if you want my FREE visual note-taking worksheet to accompany the video).

This video addresses that annoying question THAT kid always has about why they have to study English when they already know how to speak it and write it.

Thug Notes

Man sitting in 'thinking man' post with text 'Thug Notes Get Lit
*This image is from the podcast they’ve just released called ‘Get Lit’

Billed as ‘Classic literature, original gangster’, Thug Notes is a YouTube channel where ‘Sparky Sweets, PhD’ gives a summary and analysis of classic (and some contemporary) literature. Played by actor and comedian Greg Edwards, Thug Notes uses slang (and swearing) to explain and analyse over one hundred works of literature.

Most of the videos are shorter than 5 minutes, so they’re also great for introducing topics. And the comedic elements, ganster slang, and visuals are bound to get your students talking. Win!

Overly Sarcastic Productions

Animated male in blue animated female in red 'Overly Sarcastic Productions' text in background

The third free video resource to help teach literature comes from Overly Sarcastic Productions, specifically their Shakespeare videos. The series has fourteen of Shakespeare’s plays, including comedies, tragedies and histories.

The general format is a voice-over explaining the plays set to videos of the plays. For example, Much ado about nothing has the Emma Thompson version of the play with voice over. However, the creators also include hand-drawn animation in the videos too.

To give an idea of the tone of the videos: Emma Thompson’s Beatrice is called ‘sarcastic chick’ and her love interest Benedict (played by Kenneth Branagh) is called ‘sarcastic dude’. Meanwhile, Hero is ‘forgettable chick’ and her love interest Claudio is ‘forgettable dude’. Certainly made me chuckle!

The videos are short, again about 5 minutes. They’re also funny and use movie versions of the play that you may already be using with your class.

The School of Life

The final free literature resource is The School of Life. It has great literature videos for your students. The videos are short, ranging from just under ten minutes to about thirteen minutes.

Authors covered include:

  • Voltaire
  • Jane Austen
  • Charles Dickens
  • Leo Tolstoy
  • Fyodor Dostoyevsky
  • James Joyce
  • George Orwell
  • Virginia Woolf
  • Ralph Waldo Emerson

The videos are informative and use book illustrations an voice over to explain central ideas that authors have, as well as how those ideas are demonstrated in their works.

What now?

Now that you have a few great free literature resources to get your students in the door, sitting down, and paying attention, check out this post for ways to get your students moving and energized.

Want to know more?

If you’d like to find out more about the following topics, click on the highlighted links:

  • CrashCourse head here
  • my favourite way for introducing Shakespeare, click here.
  • our no-prep resources for teaching literature, head here.

*Use of CrashCourse logo and Thug Notes podcast image designed to help identify CrashCourse and Thug Notes. The CrashCourse logo was sourced from Wikipedia and the Thug Notes image was sourced from their facebook page. I did contact both CrashCourse and Thug Notes to find out if they had a photo, image or logo I could use as part of the blog post but they didn’t get back to me before the time of publication. It’s my understanding that using the logo/image in this way is ok as it is ‘fair use’.

computer with red 'play'button