Denver the guilty dog

Last weekend I was at the TESOL Spain conference in Salamanca. A beautiful city and a great conference, thanks to all the organizers for a warm welcome.

This was one of the activities we looked at in my session on teaching teenagers.  It’s based on a favourite clip in our house, and I noticed that at least one other person in the audience had watched it as many times as me as she could recite the voiceover, word-by-word.  So, here’s introducing Denver, an internet sensation, also known as the number one guilty dog on youtube.


Just showing his photo on a projector brings a smile to the students’ faces.  Some may have seen him before.  They can all identify the emotion on his face.  The gist questions as we go into the first viewing of the clip are:  what has he done wrong?  What does his owner say to him to make him react like this?  You can elicit answers to both if you want, or just go straight into the famous clip which has garnered over 41 million views as I type this.

After watching the clip, we check answers to the two gist questions and then we turn to Denver himself.  What is he thinking?  What would he say if he good talk?  Students write down their ideas in pairs and groups and then watch again and spot where their phrases could fit in with what the owner is saying. Then a second brainstorming session in groups to shape the thoughts or words a little more.  Then there are a lot of possible directions the students can take.  Here are two options:

1 They can choose to speak for Denver, a kind of retro voiceover/commentary by the dog, recalling the experience from his point of view.

2 They can write a dialogue between Denver and his owner.  They can choose to interleave it with the owner’s words on the clip, or replace it with their own words.

Looking at practicalities, the classroom management of the group work will depend on a number of things; wifi connection or not, availability of students’ devices or not, time available, to name a few.

Viewing the clip during the writing stage

If your students can work with their own devices(phones, tablet, laptops, whatever) and you have a good wifi connection, they can watch the clip again in their groups, pausing and rewinding and timing their voiceover as many times as they want.  If not, then you can play the clip again a couple of times for the whole class at three or four minute intervals.

Presenting their work/the final product:

The students can then present their work in various ways.  They can choose to record it on their devices to play in synch with the clip; they can use a web tool like overstream  to add subtitles; they can add their own voiceover using a web tool like Weavly , an easy, accessible, free tool that lets students record their voiceover on sound cloud and add it to the clip.  In all these cases they can watch and listen to each other’s recordings and spot and comment on difference and similarities.  More simply, and just as effectively, they can stand up at the front of the class and read out their scripts as the clip plays with the volume on low. Again, they can comment on each other’s scripts, spotting differences and similarities.


Having worked with Denver and his dilemma, you can choose to explore the topic from a more personal point of view. Guilt, getting caught out, being told off, these are all situations and emotions that teens can relate to. You can brainstorm other relationships; parent/child, teacher/student, team member/coach and the kind of things that might have gone wrong. The students can then take one and write a new dialogue to fit the new context. They can choose to make it personal (the last time I got told off) if they want to, and feel comfortable doing that, or they can choose to play out different roles.

Exploring balance

In the session in Salamanca we discussed the following three balancing acts:

Fun vs challenge

Control vs choice

Structure vs creativity

It might be interesting to look back at the activities I’ve suggested here and see how it measures up in terms of each of these balancing acts.

For an alternative approach to the Denver clip, see Ian James lesson on ViralELT. 

This entry was posted in conferences, using images, using video and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

1 Response to Denver the guilty dog

  1. Anna says:

    Nice blog! I am glad I stumbled across it. This is useful. I have also used YouTube as a teaching tool in my classroom. I particularly like this video, though, and its application to the lesson. I think students may have already seen Denver (I’d certainly seen him before!) and he is a relatable dog; this is engaging for students.

    I like the idea of the ‘voice-over’ for the dog; you can make this into a language lesson and activity.
    I also have an education blog. It would be much appreciated if you took a look!

    – Anna

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