Watching it happen

Published on 15th June, 2011 in Global Bloggers by Scott Shelton

This week I thought I’d blog about the video component of Global. I like them for several reasons. The learners find them engaging and they allow for a change of tempo, with the change of focus often creating a new space within the classroom and the fabric of the lesson.

There are really two basic types. One features the paid actors and actresses hired for the job, and are generally linked in some way to the language focus in the lessons. Personally these are my favourites. The actors are expressive and funny, and the videos are brief. The entertainment doesn’t overshadow, but adds value and humour to help students relax and enjoy themselves while watching, listening and thinking.

One which was a big hit, focuses on greetings, and how many ways one can say ‘Hello, how are you?’ (in the context of a party). Seems silly at first, but it lends itself easily to working on intonation and prominence. One of the difficulties many learners have is that intonation patterns often either get carried over from their L1, or they don’t have enough awareness of how a stress-timed language works and this can make their speech sound flat or bored. From the day we exploited this video and had a little drama-related fun, my students never answered or used greetings the same, static way when we greeted each other at the start of class!

The other type is normally a clip or part of a longer show taken from the BBC. The task is graded to the level of the course, but the language is naturally spoken and not scripted in any way. Challenging? Yes, but depending on how you use them, the visual clues definitely aid comprehension, and subtitles can be added on the second or third viewing. Personally, I like the opportunity to expose learners to real language in context and to stretch the limits a bit. If they are set up so that the students are primed and relevant background knowledge has been activated, the message is often picked up easily enough.

I remember using one recently as part of our unit on food and drink. It was a clip from a BBC programme on breakfasts. The clip focused on a British woman who told her breakfast story while she made hers on film. The show was about traditions, and a cultural snapshot of how important, and different the first meal of the day can be. The students found it fascinating to see the strange ingredients used and later, we had fun describing traditional breakfasts and how to make them.

These kinds of videos make for great leverage to launch into a survey, discussion, mingle or interview – which can later be used in many ways, among them writing, project posters, presentations and so on.

I think the videos really bring the language and topics in the coursebook to life, and all of my classes have enjoyed working with them. More than an ‘extra’, I think this part of Global is essential and in my opinion they definitely set this coursebook apart.

Until next week, watching and learning …