One of the best ways to take advantage of video in the ESL classroom is to offer students a host of techniques that can be used outside of class. These techniques can make home study periods more entertaining and productive. Students should work with fragments of dialogue or short films. They should actively do a wide range of exercises. These can prove to be a rewarding manner in which students take control of their learning.
Choose the video scene carefully
These are language classes. A short, dramatic dialogue scene between two people, lasting perhaps no more than five to ten minutes can best serve for the at-home and in-class activities. Programs from the early days of television, when actors were trained and directed in a more theatrical style, will provide clear audio and visual clues to aid with comprehension.
A video that has too much action and too little dialogue will not expose students to speech. On the other hand, a sophisticated comedy in which much of the humor is based on word-play or cultural aspects can prove discouraging. Make sure the language in the video is appropriate both for the age group of the learners and for the subject material of the class.
Tell your students what is going on
If you expect the students to jump into a dialogue without background information, you are preparing them for frustration. Explaining who the characters are, what their relationship is, what they are talking about helps students to associate known vocabulary with the words used in the dialogue. Run the scene through for them. Ask contextual questions based on the information in the scene.
Have the students watch the scene with pen and paper. They should note down every word that they hear and recognize. When a student has a total of ten words or phrases, that student shouts “ten!”. The video is paused. The student reads through the list of ten words, earning a point for each word that has been listed that no other student has.
The remaining students can earn points by presenting their unique words. Then the video is started again. Another list of ten words is created. This activity focuses on words and phrases that students know and can recognize and encourages them to admit that they have understood something of what they have heard.
Present the script
Have a printout of the script of the scene. Go over the script with the students. Highlight important words or expressions that contribute specifically to the scene. Have the students try to use these words or expressions in original sentences. Have the students act out the scene. Ask them to take notes on the script concerning vocal inflection, emotion.
Turn down the volume
Have students act out the script while the video is running, trying to keep up with the actors. This exercise might best be done in 30-second fragments. Students will probably get behind the video. If the technology is available, have students dub the film, recording their voices and then playing this recording with the video. (A useful freeware program for this work is Audacity, once the dialogue has been recorded, it can be spliced onto the clip using Windows Movie Maker, for example).
Give the students advice
Some tips to give students would include the following:
- Get the DVD and watch the entire film dubbed into the student’s native language.
- Choose a scene that will become the study segment.
- Watch the scene in English.
- Watch the scene in English with English subtitles.
- Watch the scene in English with native language subtitles.
- Watch the scene in English without subtitles.
- Note words that are repeated in the scene.
- Note words that seem important in the context of the scene.
- Watch the scene including the scene that precedes it and the scene that follows it.
- Change movies often but study each movie in the above fashion.
Video is sometimes considered a waste of time in the classroom because it is often used at the end of a semester, after a big test, right before holidays. Students will become bored watching an entire film in a language that they do not control.
Students actively participating in activities during the use of video makes the media a tool for learning. This tool can be taken home and used outside of regular class time. It is an agreeable activity that gets the nose out of the grammar book and gets the brain working on communication.