Mystery Person Videos

Joshua Lee Solomon, Hirosaki University

Quick Guide

  • Keywords: speaking, presentation, creativity, video
  • Learner English level: intermediate to advanced
  • Learner maturity: teenager to adult
  • Preparation time: 30 minutes
  • Activity time: depends on number of students
  • Materials: projector, speakers, internet connection

The following assignment was developed as a way of alleviating some of our students’ fears of public speaking, while simultaneously encouraging them to be creative and show off their personality in class.


Prepare an example two-minute video or live speech in which you take the role of a famous person or fictional character whom most of your students know. In it, mention things like why “you” are famous, “your” signature costume or catch-phrase, what “your” profession is, “your” home country and time-period, and so on. Do not say the person’s name. Try to really get into character, mimicking characteristic gestures or using a simple prop or costume piece. You may try contrasting a strong and a weak example for the class.


Step 1: Show your video(s) or give your speech(es) to the class. When you are done, ask students to guess who “you” are.

Step 2: Explain to students that their homework will be to develop a similar two-minute video. The “person” can be real or fictional, as long as most of the students in class can guess who it is. Depending on their level, students should not read directly from a script. They may use notes or memorize their speech. Explicitly instruct students that they may cut or splice 2-3 times during the video, but not after each sentence.

Step 3: Encourage creativity. Instruct students to study a video (when possible) of their character and attempt to mimic them in their video. Advanced students may be encouraged to attempt to copy rhythm, intonation, accent, and so on. Do not imply that students should buy or make complicated props, but do require some sort of visual aid. Students might use a white board, sports equipment, or improvised costume to hint at who their person is. If they can use video editing software, they may even use sound effects or music.

Step 4: Collect assignments ahead of time using your preferred method. A private YouTube channel or Dropbox “file request” may be good vehicles for this. Remember to instruct learners to label their video files in a systematic manner before submitting.

Step 5: View the videos in class and have students guess the answers. Use this as an opportunity to introduce and practice level-appropriate vocabulary (e.g., by categorizing the people as historical, fictional, or contemporary). Have students give feedback on the effectiveness of the videos and performances, as time allows: Which videos did they like the best and why? What did they learn through their observations?


The mystery person videos are always popular with my students: the creativity and mystery keep them engaged while viewing their peers’ videos, and many enjoy performing for the class. Both the performance and observation aids learners in focusing on improving natural speaking patterns, body language, and fluency. Additionally, pre-recording their performances takes away much of the pressure of speaking live, and allowing cuts in the video removes the necessity for memorizing a lengthy script. I employ this assignment as a midterm project for advanced students; however, with minor adjustments, it can be adapted for use with a wide variety of ages, levels, and contexts.