This is the first part of a series of posts on a PBL (project based learning) experiment utilising authentic video on the USA in a junior high school setting.
The Globe Trekker/Pilot Guides video collection is a treasure trove for any English teacher. It encompasses extensive material from every corner of the world, and especially English-speaking countries are lavished with attention. Australia, Canada, Scotland, Wales, Ireland, England – you name it. Even individual cities are endowed with an approx. 50-minute complete video of its own, like London, New York City, San Francisco, Los Angeles, New Orleans to name but a few.
Covering the United States satisfactorily in the language classroom is a daunting project, especially if you want to give your students more than a superficial understanding of its history, geography, language and people. Most textbooks for EFL students fall short in this respect, and it’s understandable – time available is limited and there is so much more that needs to be covered. But the situation can be remedied to a certain extent by taking your students on a virtual tour of this enormous multi-faceted, contradictory country, which, in spite of its young age, has so many fascinating stories to offer, and by giving them the visuals to go with these stories.
To date, Globe Trekker offers a range of videos on the USA, covering practically every individual state, and, so it seems, more is coming every new season.
Every video is about 50-55 minutes, which, of course, means that you have a few decisions to make – viewing all of them in the traditional classroom is a big no-no, at least if you want to keep the students’ attention. You can choose one to view in class and base all your allotted USA-time on that, but then again, which one? Which part of the country is so representative of the USA as a whole that you can disregard the rest? That’s a hard one to answer, and I won’t even make an attempt to do it. One of the other alternatives is to give every student one video plus an assignment to carry out in connection with it. That is the one I personally went for. Another option would be to have the students work in pairs with one video, which means you didn’t have to include the city guide videos but could concentrate on the states. It all depends on how many videos you have at hand, as well as how many students you have. And, of course, what the post-video phase will be.
In addition to making this initial decision, there are quite a lot of follow-up issues to consider:
- 1) Should the students be able to choose what video they are going to work with, or could this choice be made for them (without the teacher being dictatorial)?
- 2) What will the assignment be all about?
- 3) How could the sharing of all the gathered information best be implemented?
- 4) What is the time frame to work within?
- 5) What tools / skills will the students need in order to fulfill the requirements?