There are a number of good reasons to use video in classrooms.
Video combines visual and audio stimuli, is accessible to those who have not yet learned to read and write well, and provides
context for learning. For English language learners, video has the added benefit of providing real language and cultural information.
Video can be controlled (stopped, paused, repeated), and it can be presented to a group of students, to individuals, or for
self study. It allows learners to see facial expressions and body language at the same time as they hear the stress, intonation,
and rhythm of the language. Hence, there is always a context, a concrete situation
in which to base the lesson.
Videos use many of the same literary conventions (plot,
character, development and resolution, … ) found in books. Hence, they
can be stimulating to English learners at least as much as books, and probably more.
Many videos are based on stories, which are enjoyed by almost everyone and particularly favored in some cultures, and
thus may increase the motivation of most learners.
Because many excellent videos are produced as entertainment
for native English speakers, they generally present real language that is not simplified and is spoken at a normal speed with
genuine accents. These videos include movies, television programs, and news broadcasts; they can provide a realistic view
of American culture, and their compelling story lines can motivate learners to stretch their comprehension. Additionally,
using authentic videos in the classroom can provide opportunities for learners to evaluate a medium that they use in their
daily life. This is important because, just as learners need to develop critical literacy skills in order to analyze what
they read to distinguish fact from fiction or to identify an author's position on a topic and compare it to their own, they
also need to be able to do this with what they see and hear, i.e., with films and television programs.
The use of authentic videos is challenging. Often they
do not provide the best means of explaining complex concepts or practicing particular grammar or writing skills.
It takes time for the teacher to preview and select authentic
videos and then to prepare activities for learners. As the language use and the context of authentic videos are not controlled,
teachers will need to take time to explain these.
Authentic videos may contain language, content, or themes
that are controversial, or even inappropriate in the ESL classroom. It takes time, thought, and careful planning on the part
of the teacher to prepare learners to watch and discuss these videos. On the other hand, selecting only G-rated films or family
programs may not be advisable, as their content and language may be of little interest and relevance to many learners. Furthermore,
if an authentic video meets instructional objectives and is motivating to the learners, it may serve as a springboard for
discussing differing cultural norms. These discussions can serve to enhance learners' critical thinking skills while increasing
their acquisition of language and cultural information.
Whether using authentic or instructional videos, there
are criteria to be followed in their selection. The videos themselves may come from television or from the movies. It is suggested that teachers ask themselves the following questions before choosing a video or video series:
Inspiration/Motivation/Interest: Will the video appeal to my students? Will it make them want to
learn? For example, a scene from "Joy
Luck Club", a movie about conflicts between first- and second-generation Chinese American women, may sometimes be of limited
interest to a class of Japanese high school students.
Content: Does the content match my instructional goals? Is it culturally appropriate for my learners? Will they have any idea of what is going on?
Clarity of Message: Is the
instructional message clear to my students? Here the teacher is vital. Preparing the learners to understand what they are
going to watch makes the difference between time wasted and time well spent.
Pacing: Is the rate of the language or instruction
too fast for my students? Many authentic videos move at a pace difficult for a nonnative speaker to follow. Even an instructional
video may be too fast paced and dense for low-beginners.
Graphics: What graphics
are used to explain a concept? Do they clarify it? Do they appear on screen long enough to be understood by the learner? In
some instructional videos, graphics, charts, and even language patterns may be on the screen too briefly to be fully comprehended.
In addition, some videos have translation captions. Will this be helpful or will
this distract the students from really listening? Another possible alternative is to provide students with a script containing
some of the key language being spoken, or possibly a list of the events and / or conversation topics taking
Length of Sequence: Is the
sequence to be shown short enough? With second language learners, segments that are less than five minutes are often sufficient.
A two- to three-minute segment can easily furnish enough material for a one-hour lesson.
Independence of Sequence: Can this segment be understood without lengthy explanations
of the plot, setting, and character motivation preceding and following it? Teachers need to decide whether it's worth investing
the time and effort to prepare learners to understand the context of certain language and cultural nuances, or distinctions.
Availability and Quality of Related Materials: What print materials accompany the video? With videos designed to be used for English language instruction, the accompanying
textbooks, resource books, and workbooks need to be examined carefully to see if they meet the instructional needs of the
learners. With authentic videos, transcripts may be available. If a movie has been adapted from a short story or novel, the
text can be read before or after viewing the video.
Use of videos: How will
I use the video? In the classroom, a teacher can help students tackle video presentations that are linguistically more complex
and in which the story line and characters are more ambiguous. Videos of this type should probably be avoided when assigned
for self study
Lesson Format for Using Videos
A video lesson, much like a reading lesson, can be divided
into 3 sections:
viewing activities, and
Presenting the Video
The teacher must engage the learners' interest in what
they will be doing and prepare them to do it successfully. The teacher tells the students or leads them to discover for themselves
why they are viewing the video (e.g., to understand work expectations in the United States, to learn ways of meeting and greeting
people, to learn what to do and say while staying with an American family). Preparation may include a pre-viewing reading
activity or a discussion of new vocabulary from the video. It may involve looking at still pictures from the video and predicting
language and content to be covered. Finally, pre-viewing preparation means ensuring that an operating VCR and monitor is available
and that the screen is large enough for all students to easily view the film. Using
a movie guide, much like using a reading guide, can be quite helpful for building initial understanding and interest, as well
as improving comprehension throughout the video.
A good movie guide could include any or all of the following
(1) a character / cast guide
with names, photos, and short personality / physical descriptions,
(2) a plot CLOZE,
(3) “Who Said It?” quotations list,
(4) sequencing list of mixed events from the
(5) factual, interpretative, evaluative, personal-reaction
questions about the video.
To create a movie guide from scratch, whether it is from
television or film, search the internet in order to obtain character photos, reviews, plot summaries, and scripts. Some good sites for this include:
The Internet Movie DatabBase: http://us.imdb.com/
Yahoo! Movies: http://movies.yahoo.com/
What has happened so far in this movie?
What’s this movie about?
What do you predict will happen later in the movie?
What kind of movie is this?
How good is this movie so far?
How good is this movie?
How was this movie?
What did you like or not like about this movie?
What kind of person is character ?
What do you think of character ?
What do you think character will do next?
What’s a problem that character is facing?
What do you think character should do to solve this problem?
Learners View the Video
The teacher should remain in the classroom with the learners
to observe their reactions and see what they do not understand, what they are intrigued by, and what bothers them. The teacher
is there also to press the pause, rewind, and play buttons as needed. Sometimes it is best to leave the lights on. This facilitates
the teacher's observations and enables learners to take notes and to complete worksheets prepared by the teacher. For example,
in viewing a vignette from "Joy Luck Club", learners may be directed to note down the words that the young European-American
man uses to compliment the dinner prepared by his Chinese-American girlfriend's mother.
Video Viewing Activities
There may be a number of points in a video where a teacher
may wish to stop the story being shown and have the students perform an activity related to that section. Some typical times to have students engaged in such activities include:
at the close of an important scene,
after and / or just before the use
of difficult language,
after and / or just before the presentation
of an unfamiliar context,
near the end of the class session,
at the beginning of a class following
a video not yet completely viewed.
Through mixing learning activities throughout a video,
students will be guided to do more comprehension-enhancing work related to the video, and thus learn more. Such “stops” also better ensure that students will stay on their learning tasks. A typical activity at these intermittent pauses could be simply having students ask and answer questions
related to what has just happened, and about what they predict will happen next. For
more example activities, see Video Activities below.
The teacher should review and clarify complex points,
encourage discussion, and explain and assign follow-up activities, especially discussion- and essay-based work. See Video Activities below.
Videos are a powerful tool in helping English language
learners improve their language skills. They provide the learner with content, context, and language. Videos will play an
increasing role in providing ESL instruction to students in the classroom as well as in self-study situations. So learn how to use them well! A fair number of movie guides
for specific films have already been created for use. See Movie Guide folders.
Some good activities to have students perform in conjunction with videos include:
acting out a video scene
answering questions from a video
guide (see above)
completing CLOZES about dialogue
describing freeze-frame scenes
describing a story with only
sound but no picture
describing story without sound
discussing issues related to
explaining what is happening
in a scene
making a video scene and then
enjoying and assessing the results
making questions about what
predicting what will happen
reading transcripts or captions
while a video is playing
rephrasing what has been said
describing the events or actions
that have just taken place
summarizing what has happened
translating what has been said
writing down the expressions
used in video
writing an essay or report on
Play a game along these lines:
Divide into Teams – Write what was done or said – Correction – Award Points – Award Prizes.