Video and young learners 1

This first article will give an introduction to some of the issues surrounding video with young learners. It will discuss the benefits but also the potential drawbacks of using video, the different roles video can take and then present criteria for selecting videos. 

Lynn Gallacher, British Council

Some ideas for the kinds of video suitable for young learners are also given.

The second article Video and young learners 2 will take a look at pre-viewing, while-viewing and post-viewing video activities and will be supported by three lesson plans illustrating these activities.

  • What are the benefits of using video in the classroom
  • Drawbacks
  • Role of video
  • Criteria for selecting video
  • Video types
  • Further reading and bibliography

What are the benefits of using video in the classroom?
Learners aged 3 - 8

  • Children enjoy language learning with video
    • 'One of the aims of teaching English to young children is to instil in them the idea that language learning is a happy experience, and video creates an attractive enjoyable learning environment.' Tomalin (1991: 48)
  • Video is an effective way of studying body language
    • Younger language learners are still learning about the world around them.
  • Children gain confidence through repetition
    • Young children love to hear stories again and again and the same goes for video. By watching a video several times children can learn by absorption and imitation.

All Young Learners

  • Video communicates meaning better than other media
    • Video presents language in context in ways that a cassette can't. Learners can see who's (or what's!) speaking, where the speakers are, what they're doing, etc. All these visual clues can help comprehension
  • Video represents a positive exploitation of technology
    • Teenagers, in particular, have a positive attitude towards television and video. It is seen as being 'modern' compared to books

There are however a couple of potential pitfalls that teachers should watch out for.

  • Passivity
    Children are used to passively watching TV at home on the sofa. Teachers should try to avoid learners 'switching off' in class when the video is switched on by providing stimulating activities where the child can interact with and learn from the video.
  • Parents
    This is linked to the above. Some parents may get annoyed when hearing their child has spent the class watching the TV 'as they can do that at home.' This can be prevented by ensuring that time actually watching the video is kept to a minimum and also by the children having something concrete to show to parents connected to the video: a worksheet, picture etc.

Role of video
Once the decision has been made to use a video in class, thought should be given as to what purpose the video is being used for i.e. the role of the video. The way the video is used and the materials prepared for use with the video will depend on the role the video is to take. Below are four possible roles for video. (Adapted from Willis' 6 roles for video 1983: 45)

  • Developing listening skills
    Listening for global understanding, listening for detail.
  • To provide information
    To provide content relevant to students' needs and interests.
  • Presenting or reinforcing language
    Grammar, vocabulary, functions.
  • Stimulating language production
    Video used as a basis for discussion, a model for learners to follow, a visual aid.

A scheme of work using a video sequence may, however, encompass more than one of these roles. Learners may watch a video to find out information about, for example, a famous person. The same lesson may also include work on developing listening skills to enable learners to extract the relevant information. It could then could be used to develop vocabulary on the topic of 'lives'.

Criteria for selecting video
When selecting an authentic video for use in the classroom certain general criteria should be kept in mind.

  • Watchability
    Is the video interesting? Would a young native speaker want to watch this video?
  • Completeness
    Tomalin (1991: 50) 'The ideal video clip…… tells a complete story or section of a story'. This idea of completeness is important for young learners whose primary motivation for watching a video is enjoyment.
  • Length
    The length of the clip is important, it shouldn't be too long, perhaps between 30 seconds and 10 minutes depending on the learning objective.
  • Appropriateness of Content
    The content should be suitable for Young Learners. How has the video been rated; 'Universal', 'Parental Guidance', for ages '13'or '18'? Would the video be suitable for viewing in all cultures?
  • Level of maturity
    Children mature very quickly so a group of 7-year-olds watching a video made for 5-year-olds would probably regard it as 'too babyish'. On the other hand using a video intended for older children with a group of younger children might lead to the children not being able to understand the concepts in the video.
  • Availability of Related Materials
    Many authentic videos now come with ready made materials that can be used for language teaching (Wallace and Gromit, the 'Speak Up' series of films in Spain.) Other videos may have been adapted from books, which could be used in the classroom to support the video (The 'Spot' series and Eric Carlyle stories such as 'The Very Hungry Caterpillar').

If, however, the video is being used for presenting language or for comprehension tasks there are further factors which should be considered when selecting a video.

  • Degree of visual support
    A good idea is to choose scenes that are very visual. The more visual a video is, the easier it is to understand - as long as the pictures illustrate what is being said.
  • Clarity of picture and sound
    If the video has been copied from the television it is important to make sure both the picture and sound are clear.
  • Density of language
    This refers to the amount of language spoken in a particular time. Videos where the language is dense are more difficult for learners to comprehend.
  • Speech delivery
    'Clarity of speech, speech rate and accents are all factors in determining how difficult a video excerpt will be for students to comprehend.' Arcario (Undated: 115)
  • Language content
    'In using video to present language, an important factor to consider is the linguistic items (particular grammatical structures, language functions, or colloquial expressions) presented in the scene.' Arcario (Undated: 116)
    Another important factor is the amount of repetition of the language content. Authentic videos for young learners will often contain a lot of repetition. It is also useful to see if the linguistic content in the video can be linked to that of the language curriculum or the course book thus providing a way to integrate video work into the course as a whole.
  • Language level
    The language level of the video should be appropriate for the level of the class without the teacher having to explain too much.

Video types

  • Animation/cartoons
    Spider, Spot, Pingu, Mr Ben, Eric Carlyle stories, Wallace and Gromit series
  • Educational programmes
    TV documentaries made for children about science/nature etc, Dinosaurs series, The Blue Planet
  • TV advertisements
  • Music
    Programmes about musicians, video clips
  • Drama
  • TV series/soaps for young people (especially good for seeing life in Britain, maybe not so easy to understand!)

Further Reading
Cooper R & M Lavery & M Rinvolucri Video Oxford: OUP (1991)

Allan M (1985) Teaching English with Video London: Longman
Longeran J (1984) Video in Language Teaching Cambridge: Cambridge University Press
Stempleski S & P Arcario (undated) Video in Second Language Teaching and Learning TESOL Inc
Tomalin B (undated) 'Teaching young children with video' in Stempleski S & Arcario P (eds)


Submitted by Dina Djaksibaevna on Sun, 04/01/2012 - 03:29


I am so happy to have an opportunity to be registered, to read, to post comments, to ask questionsand of course to use these articles in my lessons. Thank YOU, BRITISH COUNCIL!!!

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