{January 27, 2009}   How to of the day: Video in the Classroom

As a student, I remember reading lots of materials on the use of videos for educational purposes. There are lots of worth reading materials, but I guess experience is the best reference when working with media products. Working with Videos in the classroom has been mistakenly confused with unplanned classes and with lazy teachers. Learning (and teaching) a second language that is not spoken in the country  may become rather boring if students always work following the same patterns, routines, and if they always listen to a non-native (though good) accent.

First of all, if you are planning to work with films, I think a little knowledge on film related vocabulary and the meaning of the different camera positions for instance, is a must if you want to include activities that really engage students as critical viewers.

Then, you should be acquainted with the likes of your students, and see what kind of films are appropriate to their age and level of English.

It would be excellent to have video guides prepared in advance, so as to avoid preparing some not encouraging activities just to fill class time and requirements. As regards this, we have to consider the purpose of the watching activity: are we watching a video just for fun or to expand our knowledge on certain topic?

This is important so we can choose after watching activities that are appropriate to work with, keeping in mind that video watching is an activity in itself.

When preparing a video guide, it’s frequently recommended to divide it in three parts:

Pre- Watching Activities, where you may introduce the topic of the film, elicit background knowledge from the students or predict what the film will be about.

While – Watching Activities, which I think should be just short vocabulary note taking so as to let students concentrate in the watching, and

– Post – Watching Activities, which can be individual or group activities, written or oral, depending on your likes and the students’. Usual post – watching activities include gap filling, comprehension questions and summary writing.

We, as teachers, should put all our efforts in creating appealing video guides and activities to motivate students. And I’m not saying that we have to print colour copies or something like that. I think that at least one or two images and a nice font can be used to improve the aesthetics of a worksheet, but if the content is not good enough, there’s no use in embelishing it.

If class time is a problem, why don’t you work with TV Series? They usually last 30/40 minutes, and they can be a great source of material for your teaching practices. Not only will your students be learning with authentic material but also they will enrich their vocabulary with words not usually found in textbooks.

Another option could be to choose scenes from different films that go along with the syllabus/coursebook unit you are working with. You can choose the length, the vocabulary and, what I think is the best about this, is that you can motivate your students with creative post-watching activities. Showing them, for instance, a plane crash in a deserted island (LOST, season 1, episodes 1 and 2) really motivated my 9th grade students last year.  After watching the scene, they started guessing what would they do in that situation and we played a “Lost Island Game”, where they had to choose either 3 things or 3 people they would take with them to a deserted island. It was a great revision of grammar and vocabulary we had been working with throughout the year.

The last option, and I mean the last because not everyone has an Internet connection at school. is to work with youtube or other online videos. There are thousands of videos to watch and, again, you can choose the best to fit the likes of your students.

Some interesting links to check:

Video: Animals, Travel, Kids – National Geographic

Teacher Tube

Very Funny Ads

Learning English Through Movies

The English Learner Movie Guides

English Trailers

Teaching with Film and Video


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