A review of classroom activities enhancing the use of video materials in teaching speaking to EFL students
Table of contents: The Kazakh-American Free University Academic Journal №6 - 2014
Author: Yelakov Vladimir, Kazakh-American Free University, Kazakhstan
In order to use films and videos fully in
classroom, EFL (English as a Foreign Language) teachers should integrate pre-viewing,
viewing, and post-viewing activities into the lesson. The nature and
length of these activities depend on the selected film / video, student needs,
students’ ages, and instructional objectives. A teacher may choose to integrate
all three activities in a given film / video lesson while planning only two for
another lesson. Before presenting the video, the teacher should engage the
learners’ interest in what they will be doing and prepare them to do it
successfully. While 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 intrigues and what bothers them. After the viewing, the
teacher should review and clarify complex points, encourage discussion,
explain, and assign follow-up activities. It is also important to ensure the
suitability, length, clarity, and completeness of the videotaped material.
Tomalin (1991) believes that the ideal video clip tells a complete story or
part of a story.
The activities presented below are, for the
most part, standard communicative activities that have been adapted for the use
with films and videos.
The primary purpose of pre-viewing activities is to prepare students for the actual viewing of a film / video. Because
comprehension is partially determined by a student’s own background knowledge,
an effective pedagogical strategy is to devise activities that access this
knowledge. A previewing
activity is meant to acquaint students with the material that they are going to
view and facilitate easier and better comprehension thus achieving successful
results in language teaching. Consequently, the teacher may design this activity
to help students with their language skills. Indeed, it is obvious for both the
teacher and students to work cooperatively, deliberately, and simultaneously
with the intention to develop the four skills (i.e. listening, reading,
writing, and speaking). The
activities listed below should be viewed as possible suggestions for
pre-viewing activities. Some of the activities naturally evolve out of certain
films; the film / video itself, needs of the students, and the goals of the
class session should be considered before deciding on a specific pre-viewing
Student Interviews / Polls. Students can interview or poll other class
members about issues related to the film / video. Ideally, the question(s),
generated by the instructor, should
highlight an issue, concept, and / or problem that will surface in the film /
video. The discussion that accompanies the interviews / polls helps prepare
students for the content of the film / video, thereby aiding comprehension.
There are many variations for an interview
/ poll activity. Students can ask each other the same question(s), or students
can be given separate questions. Students can record their findings so that
once interviews / polls are completed, they can report findings to another
student, a small group of students, or the entire class.
Problem Solving. Students can be given a problem that highlights issues from the
film or video. In small groups, students can discuss and attempt to solve the
problem, later reporting possible solutions to the class. For example, if
students were to view a video about women’s roles in our society, the following
questions could be provided to start a discussion for a problem-solving
activity. Therefore, students discuss a particular woman’s problem in their
group and come up with a list of suggestions for her.
a) Do you have any suggestions?
b) What do you think are some options for
(the woman’s name)?
Discussion of the Film / Video Title. Students can examine the title of the film /
video in order to hypothesize its content. This quick activity can be done as a
class or in small groups, the latter allowing for more student participation.
Brainstorming Activities. The teacher can pose questions or elicit information that link
students’ past experiences with the film / video. For instance, if the students
are going to see a film that accompanies a unit on “Professions”, students
could participate in the following activity: Individually, think of five professions
that can be dangerous or have risks. Write down the risks of those professions.
Then, in groups, compare and discuss lists. Choose the three most dangerous
professions listed and substantiate your point of view. After that, students
could be asked to interview three students from other groups about the three
most dangerous jobs selected in their original group. For example, “Would you
like to be a________? Why? Why not?”
Film Summary. Students can skim a written summary of the
film / video for the main idea(s) and / or scan the summary for specific
details. Teacher-generated questions help students locate the information for
viewing comprehension. The teacher can also present a short lecture summarizing
the main points of the film. To
facilitate note-taking, a “skeleton” of the lecture notes can be distributed,
with blanks for students to fill in missing information. Then the students can
present their summaries verbally in groups or for the whole class. The next
step in this activity is to see the film / video, thereafter the students
choose the best speaker who presented the summary before the film. To terminate
the given activity, the winner’s speech can be presented before the audience.
Information-Gap Exercises. After introducing students to the topics of
the film / video, they can fill in a grid similar to the one below with the
following discussion of the information they noted down.
Dictionary / Vocabulary Work. Students can be introduced to important
words / phrases needed for better comprehension of the film or video through dictionary
or vocabulary exercises. Some believe it is necessary to present vocabulary
lists to students before screening time. Others believe that it is advantageous
to introduce vocabulary items after the film / video has been shown, when there
is a real need for the word / phrase. With this latter option, concepts are
developed throughout the screening of the film, not necessarily by means of
specific vocabulary; the visual stimulus contributes much to comprehension.
Once students have been exposed to the content of the film, post-film activities
will create a need for specific vocabulary words / phrases. Students, at that
time, will be motivated to match a concept developed in the film to a
vocabulary word / phrase. This word or phrase can, then, be introduced at that
moment of “need”, by the teacher or another student in class. The teacher may
want to vary these options at different times in the course.
The primary purpose of viewing activities is to
facilitate the actual viewing of a film / video. More specifically, these activities
help students deal with specific issues and focus on character or plot development
at crucial junctures in the film / video. The activities listed below can be
regarded as possible options to be used while showing a film / video.
Directed Listening. Students can be asked to listen for general
information or specific details considered crucial for comprehension.
Similarly, students can be asked to consider a particularly relevant question
while viewing the film. This activity can be further transformed into discussion
of what the students have found out by listening for general information and /
or specific details.
Information Gathering. As in directed listening, students can be
asked to gather pertinent information while viewing the film or video. For
example, if students are studying a unit on “Energy Sources”, they could be
asked to fill in the following grid and then discuss the information they have
Film Interruptions. The film can be interrupted in progress to clarify key points in
the thematic development of the film. In addition, a film can be interrupted so
that students discuss the content of the film up to that point or predict what
will happen in the remaining portion(s) of the film. The latter exercise is
especially effective in dramatic films / videos.
Second Screening. Films can be shown
in their entirety a second time. However, the length of the film and the pre-viewing
and post-viewing activities may make this option undesirable. It is important
to keep in mind that if films / videos are primarily used as springboards for
other classroom activities, it is not necessary for students to understand all
aspects of the film / video. Second screening activity may also be used to
focus students’ attention on some particular information that can be a source
of the following discussion.
Post-viewing activities stimulate both
written and verbal use of the target language, utilizing information and / or
insights from the film / video. Because the entire class now has a shared
experience, designing post-viewing activities that extract main ideas,
concepts, and / or issues from the film / video is effective. Post-viewing activities can easily lend themselves to writing and /
or speaking practice. Ideally, the two skills can be linked, allowing students
to use the information from a speaking activity, for example, in a writing
In-Class Polls or Interviews. Students can interview classmates to find out reactions to the film
or to explore issues raised in the film. Students can report findings verbally
(either to the entire class or to a small group) and / or in a written essay.
Film Summaries. Students can work alone or in small groups to identify the main
points of the film / video. Students can then summarize main issues raised in
the film in a written and / or spoken form (Williams, 1982).
Alternative Endings. Especially with dramatic story-lines, students can work together to
come up with an alternative ending and report it in an verbal and / or written
Discussion. Film-related questions focusing on issues, personal experiences, and
/ or cultural observations can be raised to stimulate small group discussion.
Similarly, students can examine problems central to the topic of the film /
video; working together, students can share insights, propose solutions, and
later report them in spoken and / or written form.
Comparisons. Students can compare what they knew about
the film / video topic before the viewing with what they learned as a result of
the viewing in the form of discussion.
Agree / Disagree / Unsure Activity. Students can react individually to a series of statements related to
the film / video. For example, during a unit on “Media”, students can complete
the following exercise:
Do you agree (A), disagree (D) with or are
you unsure (U) about these statements?
1) Television is a wonderful educational
2) Watching television is a waste of time.
3) Selective television watching is
4) People read less because of television.
After comparing answers in small groups,
students select a statement that they either agreed with or disagreed with and
comment on it in their discussion or dialogues.
Group Consensus. By ranking various characters, issues, etc., of
a film / video, students can attempt to reach a consensus.
Speech Organization. A number of exercises will help students with speech organization:
а) After eliciting the main ideas of the film
/ video, students can list details that support those major issues; and then
the supporting details can be used to prepare a speech.
b) Teachers can cut printed film summaries
into “strips”, comprising one sentence or an entire paragraph. Students can
practice organizing their speeches by assembling the strips into logical order,
thereby reconstructing the summary which can be presented to the group or
c) Based on a close examination of an
introductory paragraph of the speech, focusing on certain features of the film
/ video, students can identify ideas to be developed in subsequent paragraphs.
Once the main ideas of subsequent paragraphs are identified, students can
compose those paragraphs.
d) This activity can also be presented in
the form of the game called “Snowball”, in which the students can present one
by one sentences or even paragraphs if their level of English is high enough.
Speed Speaking. After introducing a topic related to the film, students are asked to
speak about it for a short period of time. The emphasis here would be on
speaking fluency rather than accuracy.
Using Notes for Speech Practice. If students have taken notes while watching the film / videotape,
students can pool their notes to obtain a more complete set of notes. Then,
using these notes, students can prepare a brief summary or examine a particular
aspect of the film / video.
Role plays / Simulation Games. Students can role-play characters or a situation from the film /
video (Tomalin, 1991).
Debates. Students can hold a formal debate concerning an issue raised in the
film. Such formal activities take careful preparation.
The pre-viewing, viewing, and post-viewing
activities listed above represent a sampling of the types of classroom activities
that can be utilized with films and videos. Teachers who recognize the needs of
their students and have clear instructional objectives should be able to make
productive use of these and other activities.
Some more examples of speaking activities
integrated with video are suggested by Pearson long man. Com but they are not
subdivided into pre-viewing, viewing and post-viewing activities. The assumption
is that while watching television is often seen as a
passive viewing experience, there are ways to turn it into a springboard for
student interaction. Here are some general teaching strategies that enhance the
use of video materials in language classroom by targeting specific skill sets:
- Viewing comprehension;
- Speaking practice;
With picture and audio on:
- Use the pause
control to stop a scene and have students predict what will happen next.
- Use the pause control to stop after a
particular line of dialogue and have students predict the next line.
With audio off:
- Have students
predict the situation and characterizations based on viewing an entire scene
without the sound.
- Have students predict lines of dialogue
after viewing an entire scene without the sound.
- Have students predict individual lines of
dialogue by using the pause button to stop the scene.
With picture off:
- Have students
predict the situation and characterizations by listening to the soundtrack
without watching the picture.
You can check students’
understanding of the situation and characters in the following ways:
- Give students
specific things to look and listen for before they watch a scene.
- Freeze-frame the
scene by using the pause button and check students’ understanding.
While watching or after watching:
- Have students
answer comprehension questions you devise.
- Give students
cloze scripts and have them fill in missing words in dialog lines.
Role Plays: Have students role play a scene, practicing
the lines of dialogue for correct intonation and emphasis.
On-Location Interviews: Have students circulate around the classroom
and interview each other using questions contained in the video segment.
Students can then report to the class about their interviews.
Information Gap: Have half the class see a segment without
audio and the other half hear it without the picture. Students from each half
of the class then pair up, talk about the situation and characters, and act out
Strip Dialogue Scenes: Write dialogue lines on separate strips of
paper, distribute them randomly, and have students recreate the scene by
putting the lines together.
students discuss the scene, plot and characters’ actions, thoughts, and
- Have students think about what the
characters in the scene are thinking but not saying. Students can create these interior
monologues, present them to the class, and discuss any varying opinions
about characters’ inner thoughts during the scene.
- Have students
tell which characters they identify with and explain why.
Although the use of films and videos in the
second-language curriculum is endorsed by many professionals and has proven to
be an excellent teaching tool, their use is not without limitations:
- First, using such media effectively
requires rather extensive teacher preparation. As overworked as most teachers
are, it is difficult to find the necessary time needed for previewing films,
film selection, and lesson planning.
- Second, if one’s school does not have the
equipment, or has poorly serviced equipment, a film / video component in the
curriculum would be unwise. Similarly, if one’s school has an inadequate (or
nonexistent) film / video library, it may be close to impossible to select
films / videos that would justifiably enhance one’s syllabus.
- Third, this modern audiovisual technology
can easily master its viewers, causing teacher and student alike to lose sight
of instructional objectives, turning both into passive and uncritical
television-like viewers (Willis, 1983). These possible pitfalls can be
circumvented if one is cognizant of them and consciously attempts to avoid
Films and videos, widely recognized as
powerful communication media, can greatly enhance and diversify a
second-language curriculum. With careful selection and purposeful planning,
films and videos can motivate students, thereby facilitating language learning.
Moreover, the integration of pre-viewing, viewing, and post-viewing activities
into the film / video lesson encourages natural language use and language skill
development, making films and videos valuable teaching tools.
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E. (1982). The “witness” activity: group interaction through video. London
7. Willis, J.
(1983). 101 ways to use video. New York
Table of contents: The Kazakh-American Free University Academic Journal №6 - 2014