What you see here is an approximately 3-minute clip from a 50-minute travel video on Ireland. It is authentic, in the sense that it’s intended for English-speaking people interested in travelling and other countries, not for language learners per se. “Ireland” is one of many videos in the Globetrekker series produced by UK-based Pilot Productions. The series is based on the concept of having a travel guide touring a specific country, experiencing cultural highlights, meeting local people and basically learning about the country together with the viewer. The “guide” is not the expert here, the experts are the locals, and the viewer travels the country in the “guise” of the guide, which makes the videos quite entertaining and exciting – and ideal for the language classroom.
There is hardly any language classroom without the use of videos at one time or another. Youtube videos abound and you are sure to find something suitable regardless of subject matter at hand. Authentic video clips are the obvious choice for introducing real-life people, accents and situations, as well as giving the students a cultural frame of reference for the target language.
What activities are used in connection with video-clips in class? Most common, I would say, are the following:
- – for introducing a new subject: Watch and guess what we are going to talk about today.
- – to go together with a text: Watch and find similarities to what was said in the text
- – to go together with a text: Watch and look out for certain objects (= make a list)
- – for discussion: Watch and tell me (the teacher) what this has to do with the text we’ve read
- – to go together with a grammatical point: Watch and write down all the instances this particular structure is used
- – to illustrate situations: Watch and then tell me what this situation is all about. How would you react / What would you have said in the same situation?
- – for listening comprehension: Watch and answer the following questions
Quite a lot it would seem. However, I would argue that we could do much more if we applied the blended learning concept.
Hardly ever do the video clips replace texts, and there is a good reason for that: the time variable that basically defines the video and audio media. Watching a video together in a class makes it rather impossible to pause, to rewind, to replay according to individual demands. By making watching video possible for all students at the same time, we make it impossible to adjust for individual needs and individual study. But if we take out the “all students at the same time”-aspect, and gave over the play and pause buttons to the students, a whole vista of new possibilities emerge, increasing the overall as well as individual student activity.
So, what could these alternative activities be? I will try to give at least a few scenarios in this blog.
Skills: Listening, reading, speaking/writing
Objectives: the student should be able to talk/write about life and travelling in Ireland based on the facts presented in the Globetrekker video
Pre-video phase – tuning in to the subject
The teacher writes down words having to do with Ireland on the whiteboard, eg. LEPRECHAUN, GUINNESS, GAELIC, JAMES JOYCE, CONNEMARA, THE TROUBLES etc. The students guess what country is represented and when they have arrived at the correct destination, Ireland, they can try to guess what phenomena these individual words are associated with. The answers will be found in the subsequent video.
Video phase – instructions what to do + work sheets –> student activity
The students are asked to do three things while watching the 50-minute video:
- 1) Before watching he needs to read through all the keywords so that he knows what to listen out for.
- 2) During the watching he is to draw the travel route in the blank map, and
- 3) watch and listen for the given keywords on the worksheet, make additional notes in order for the keywords to make sense to him.
As he has access to the video online (in a closed community/LMS) he can pause the video whenever he likes, re-play what he didn’t catch the first time around, ie. he will now enjoy total empowerment and control over his own learning process. Neither is he confined to the classroom space – he can work from home as well.
The keywords have been sorted alphabetically, ie. they do not appear in the correct order. Thus the student has to read through the keywords several times in search for something to match what he has seen and heard. He does not have to find all of them – there is no 100% score to aim for here. The teacher decides how much time will be allocated for this, and when he thinks it appropriate he stops the activity and calls for the students’ attention back to the class.
Post-video phase 1– Discussion in small groups
The students compare their findings in small groups, assisting each other in filling in missing information on the worksheet.
Post-video phase 2 – Debriefing
There are countless possibilities here , but I’ll just give a few, based on a simple PowerPoint slide show with ten keywords from the worksheet.
1) The students work in pairs, but no worksheets allowed any more. You will show a keyword and the students take turns in telling his partner all there is to know about that keyword. If the partner has nothing to add, the first student will score a point. For the next keyword the partner in turn does the same. If none of them has anything to say both will lose a point.
2) Divide the class into 4-5 groups and give each group 10 blank papers. Explain the rules: You will show 10 keywords, one at a time, and each group should write down as many facts associated with that keywords as they can. The group with the most correct facts will score a point. The same with the next keyword until time is out or all ten keywords have been dealt with. The winning team will get a prize.
3) Let the students write down their names on small pieces of paper. Collect the names, put them together in a hat, let a student draw a name. That student will have to explain all he knows about the given keyword.
Post-video phase 3 – Final task for evaluation and assessment
Give the students a choice between 4-5 broader topics in connection with the video and have them write a composition of 200-250 words. For example:
- 1. Music in Ireland
- 2. Irish history
- 3. Farming in Ireland
- 4. Sports in Ireland
- 5. Irish climate and geography
or a communicative topic like this one:
you have a friend you have met on the Internet and there only.
Now he/she tells you he/she is about to go to Ireland in a couple of weeks and as you have told him/her that you have done and read a lot about Ireland in school he/she asks for advice on where to go and what to do and see there exactly. His/her interests are very wide which means he/she is open to all kinds of activities. Write your reply to him/her now and try to uphold his/her image of you as the real expert on Ireland.
Length: about 200 words
A short test on facts related in the video. For example:
A photo album with nine stills from the video. The students’ task is to write short texts about six of them. For example: