Literal Videos


I’ve just returned from rainy Diekirch, Luxembourg, where four students and three teachers from our school took part in an Erasmus+ activity. This time the activity revolved around literal videos.

A literal music video, also called a literal video version, is a parody of an official music video clip in which the lyrics have been replaced with lyrics that describe the visuals in the video. Literal video versions are usually based on music videos in which the imagery appears illogical, disconnected with the lyrics, and more concerned with impressive visuals than actual meaning (Wikipedia).

I’d never heard the concept before and I found it very interesting. Total Eclipse of the Heart Literal Video Version is probably the most famous video of this kind and this is what the students were shown first to get an idea of what they were supposed to do.

IMG_20170308_081745As mentioned above, the trick is to describe the scenes disconnected from the actual lyrics. In this particular video, there seems to be no connection whatsoever between the meaning of the lyric and the visuals, which makes the outcome of the parody absolutely hilarious.

The team of the Lycée Classique Diekirch decided to focus mainly on music from the 1980s since it was a boom of video clips with crazy visuals. The students were given a range of songs to choose from and had three days to work on their piece. On Day 3, the results of their hard work were presented.

Needless to say, the students benefitted from this collaborative activity enormously, especially language-wise. They had to come up with a new lyric which would match the original music. They also needed to get the rhythm right. Some groups even managed to come up with a rhyming version of the lyric. And they finally had to perform it live. What a challenge!

This is an example of what one of the groups did. I recorded their live performance with my smartphone so the quality of the video is very low (it’s a little shaky and dark but for the sake of demo it will suffice, I believe).

I’m sharing this on my blog because I think this idea could be easily adapted for an English class as well. Even if you don’t have all the equipment available (special software and a high-tech recording studio), you can still work on literal videos with your students in regular classes. These are the steps I jotted down while watching students work in Diekirch. While taking notes, I already made some adjustments for the procedure to suit my teaching context. I think that steps 6 and 7 can be easily skipped if necessary.


I think I’ll definitely try this with my students. I already have a particular group in mind – they are musical, creative and very enthusiastic. And I can’t wait to share the results here on my blog.


About Hana Tichá

I'm an EFL teacher based in the Czech Republic. I've been teaching English to learners of all ages for almost 25 years and I still love my job. You can find out more about my passion here on my blog.
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7 Responses to Literal Videos

  1. Marc says:

    This is going to help me a lot in a new course I have been assigned on English through songs. Cheers!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. ven_vve says:

    Is this still the same Erasmus+ project as last year? Did you already do a post on what the project is about as a whole? I’m pretty sure you must have done, but not sure where to look – could you link to the post?
    Thanks for the great start to my Monday – I loved the TEOTH video! So funny.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hana Tichá says:

      The overall theme is Art and creativity. But I don’t think I have written about the project itself before. I only shared some of my insights related to travelling and learning languages in general. I’ve found two posts: Some of my nostalgic (linguistic) memories of the Netherlands and The story behind the chip card.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. What a brilliant idea! Thanks for sharing!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Sandy Millin says:

    I think this would be a great idea for one of our future teen socials – thanks! What level are your students? (ish!)

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Jean-Marie Thoss says:

    Just great!

    Liked by 1 person

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