As online video-sharing sites have developed, a wealth of short clips on a variety of topics have become available for classroom use. The teacher is no longer limited to school-owned cassettes or DVDs; rather, the world is at their fingertips. Learners can also access video from a number of devices, whether at school, at home or on the go.

Author: 
Elana Boteach Salomon and Jonathan Rickard

Using video offers the learner access to paralinguistic features of language in a way that audio alone cannot. Adding visual clues to a listening activity can assist in comprehending context and meaning, and afford a more realistic listening experience.

Interviews, news reports, reality shows, video blogs and trailers are just some of the examples of formats that teens encounter daily. Using video in the classroom shows learners that this media can be harnessed for educational purposes. The videos are available outside the classroom for learners to view again and practise outside class time.

In addition, video exposes learners to the world and shows them new people, places and perspectives. Because they are constantly being updated, videos can bring current events into the classroom.

Lastly, video appeals to multiple intelligences and learning styles. Video’s multiple presentation modes (images, sound, motion) and simultaneous aural and visual stimuli allow different types of learners greater access.

What are some of the considerations that teachers need to weigh before using video in the classroom?

First, there are the technological requirements. To use internet video in a regular classroom, teachers need a computer, projector, speakers and internet access. If learners are working independently, then a computer lab is necessary, unless the school has a BYOD (bring your own device) policy.

Although the internet can provide authentic videos, there is content that is not appropriate for the classroom context. The teacher should review the videos prior to showing them, according to what the school and local culture would deem acceptable. The Video zone section on the British Council's LearnEnglish Teens website has a selection of video clips specifically for teenagers who are learning English, chosen by teachers of teenagers and considered to be appropriate for 13 to 17-year-olds. Teenagers can watch videos clips and do exercises to improve their listening, vocabulary and grammar, as well as learning about what's going on in the world.

In addition to appropriacy, the teacher also has to take into account the language level. This includes the speed and clarity of the speaker, the complexity of grammatical structures, and the level of vocabulary and register. The videos on LearnEnglish Teens have been rated according to the levels of the CEFR, so teachers can gauge whether a video is suitable for their learners.

Length should also be considered. For language learning, shorter clips of between two and five minutes can be useful for highlighting certain content, vocabulary or grammar. Lastly, the video should be motivating; teachers may want to survey their learners to find out what topics would be of interest. The videos on LearnEnglish Teens are short and chosen for their appeal to teenagers. 

How should the model of a normal listening lesson be adapted when using video?

Video offers a number of options that audio alone cannot. First, teachers can call learners’ attention to paralinguistic features such as facial expressions and body language. For example, in the video How to make the perfect omelette, learners can watch the video without the sound, and then make notes on the different stages that they see. Showing the video with no sound gives learners a chance to narrate the video themselves, and then compare their text to the original.

On the other hand, teachers can play the sound with no video and ask students to describe what they are hearing. For instance, in the video Guiness Book of World records, learners can be asked about how many records they hear about, what are they, and what they imagine they look like. Then they can watch the video to check their ideas.

What are the most effective pre-viewing activities?

The pre-viewing activities have the most impact on the success of learners’ while-viewing comprehension. Providing key vocabulary and allowing learners to pre-view the while-listening questions are common activities. Another effective way to prepare learners is to activate their prior knowledge. For example, before viewing the video Maggot Medicine, a teacher may want to ask what the learners know about maggots, where they usually see maggots, how maggots make them feel, and whether they think maggots could have a medicinal purpose.

The pre-viewing activity should take no more than ten minutes. To allow for maximum participation, teachers can assign questions to different groups and have them share.

What are the most effective while-viewing activities?

It is difficult for learners to watch, listen and write simultaneously. Therefore, while-viewing activities should be simple and not take too much attention from the viewing. For instance, learners can answer yes/no questions, categorise lexical items, or count how many times they hear something. A good example of this is the ‘yes or no’ task for Windsor Castle, where learners can be asked to identify which items they saw in the castle.

Giving the learners several viewings can deepen their understanding. Having gained some familiarity with the video content from the first viewing, learners can deal with more involved tasks on later viewings, such as sequencing events, saying whether statements are true or false or completing gap fills.

How can I assist learners with comprehension while viewing?

One method that can be employed during the video is selective use of the pause button. The teacher can pause the video early on to do a quick comprehension check during a natural break in the dialogue or narrative. Asking some Wh- questions (Who...? What...? Why...?) can focus the learners for the remainder of the video and ensure they are following. Pausing is also an opportunity to ask learners to make predictions.

For longer videos, the teacher can segment them into manageable chunks by pausing. This may help prevent listening fatigue. It is a good idea to plan in advance at what point to pause the video.

Pausing can be used to help learners notice specific linguistic features. For instance, a noteworthy example of pronunciation, such as the use of stress for emphasis in ‘THAT is a robot’ at 0:14 in Doctor Who - Series 10 trailer.

What are the most effective post-viewing activities?

After viewing an interesting video, learners can express their opinions. Questions such as whether they liked the video and whether they have any personal experiences that relate to it are good discussion starters. Teachers can also give writing or speaking assignments related to the topic. LearnEnglish Teens provides follow-up questions after videos that can stimulate class discussions. Learners can scroll down to the discussion question under each video to read comments from students around the world. English learners aged between 13 and 17 can sign up for a free account and can write their comments to be published on the site.

How can the transcript be used?

The transcript should be used at the end so that learners don’t become dependent on it. The learners should try to comprehend as much as possible through viewing and listening first.

One language-focused option is to give the learners the transcript to read through and let them ask questions about anything they are curious about. A listening-focused option is to replay the video and allow learners to read the transcript at the same time. If learners had difficulty decoding particular words or phrases, this will help them match the actual words used with their spoken form. This is especially useful as the authentic language found in online videos often features accents or non-standard pronunciations which learners might not be familiar with. Transcripts are provided for each video clip on LearnEnglish Teens and can be viewed online or printed out. 

How can videos be used for self-access study by learners at home?

On LearnEnglish Teens, printable worksheets for videos are available. Teachers can set a homework assignment to watch a video and hand in the exercises. Another option is to ask learners to select a video from the site and report back to the class. For advanced learners, the teacher may ask the class to come up with their own while- or post-viewing activity.

Videos provide a valuable, up-to-date resource that can be exploited in the classroom and also used by learners to practise their English outside the class.

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