PICS Tips


PICS Videoguidelines

compiled by
Rick Altman, Deborah Bjornstad, Rebecca Bohde, Anny Ewing,
Sue Otto, James Pusack, Patrick Shoemaker, and Susan Skoglund.

The following guidelines should stimulate your work with video in language teaching. They have been developed through the joint efforts of the PICS staff and expand upon the insights of many others who have worked creatively with video in language learning. We have chosen a list-like format that should encourage teachers to scan quickly through the pages to find the argument or technique that best fits their immediate needs. We hope it goes without further saying that these guidelines are not meant to be prescriptive, but provocative; they are ideas, suggestions, perspectives, fragments of a larger universe of possibilities. Please feel free to copy and distribute these suggestions.

  • Part A: Twelve Topics on Video in Language Learning addresses some of the most frequently heard questions about work with video.
  • Part B: Dimensions of Interactivity provides a rationale and a chart to guide a teacher's approach to any video segment.
  • Part C: An Activities Inventory offers an extensive checklist of specific activities for working with video.
  • Part D: Readings makes a few suggestions for further exploration of this topic.

  • A. Twelve Topics on Video in Language Learning

    1. Who needs authentic foreign video?
    2. How do I get started working with video?
    3. What kind of preparation will help me get the most from a video sequence?
    4. What kinds of activities and programs are most appropriate for beginners?
    5. How can we get students involved in working with video?
    6. How do you get students talking about the video?
    7. How much video should I use at one time?
    8. How can I help students overcome the urge to translate every word of the video?
    9. How do you get at culture with video?
    10. How can I work effectively with the news, which seems too difficult for American students and gets dated too quickly?
    11. What should the teacher do in the video-oriented classroom?
    12. What are the benefits of interactive video for the teacher and for the individual learner?

    1. Who needs authentic foreign video?

    ~hear the language within a visible context,
    ~see the culture,
    ~acquire new knowledge,
    ~prepare for travel, and
    ~expand on knowledge gained via reading and travel.
    ~extend the classroom,
    ~present culture effectively,
    ~build their students' listening skills (and their own),
    ~complement written texts,
    ~motivate students and themselves,
    ~have access to a rich body of knowledge,
    ~update their image of the target country and culture,
    ~provide interactive lab activities, and
    ~move naturally from listening to speaking or writing.

    2. How do I get started working with video?

    3. What kind of preparation will help me get the most from a video sequence?

    4. What kinds of activities and programs are most appropriate for beginners?

    5. How can we get students involved in working with video?

    6. How do you get students talking about the video?

    7. How much video should I use at one time?

    8. How can I help students overcome the urge to translate every word of the video?

    9. How do you get at culture with video?

    10. How can I work effectively with the news, which seems too difficult for American students and gets dated too quickly?

    11. What should the teacher do in the video-oriented classroom?

    12. What are the benefits of interactive video for the teacher and for the individual learner?

    B. Dimensions of Interactivity

    It is 9 p.m. and you are about to prepare tomorrow's 9 a.m. language class. You have already selected an inherently motivating video segment for your class. If you are working under ideal conditions, then your video player and monitor repose conveniently on your desk next to your microcomputer; the transcript of the video segment is even available for manipulation in a window on your computer screen. If you are working under more typical conditions, your pencil and remote control are poised for action.

    Now what? How can we devise a helpful set of practical guidelines for the complex process by which an experienced teacher decides to create classroom teaching materials? Who will interact with what?

    Obviously, the answer will depend on many factors:

    The goal is simple: to develop certain skills by exploiting the right aspects of the video. Yet the most experienced developer of video-based teaching materials can often benefit from a systematic approach to finding the ideal group of activities, especially when a given segment seems a bit intractable or when familiar routine threatens to stifle creativity on the part of both teachers and learners.

    One approach is to view the spectrum of possibilities as a matrix, beginning with preparation, going through listening and viewing activities, and concluding with follow-up activities. This should be familiar to most teachers from pre-reading, reading, and post-reading exercises. To reflect the fact that video combines both viewing and listening (although the term "viewing" is often used to include listening), we will label these three phases "preparation," "presentation," and "expansion." The activities of the presentation phase include both viewing without sound and listening without images, as well as full video combining both listening and viewing. Some of the most creative activities of the presentation phase arise from the opportunity to focus the learner's attention on just the soundtrack or just the images.

    The second axis of this matrix consists of the elements we hope to manipulate in one or more of the three phases. This list is infinitely extendable, but at the highest level certainly contains the elements of text (the words of the transcript), sound, and images:

     

     Preparation

     Presentation

     Expansion

     Text      
     Sound      
     Image      

    How does this chart help in preparing a successful video lesson?

    First, it is a reminder that video is not just a transcript delivered by television. Setting aside the fact that the artistic qualities of some video productions yield multiple layers of interlocking meanings, it is still safe to assume that even the most quotidian news clip has mutually reinforcing or complementary elements of text, sound, and image. By focusing the learner's attention on just one or two elements, we can provide a well-marked path into the forest. For example, the teacher might:

    Second, even this simple matrix already suggests that some video segments lend themselves to one approach more readily than others. The text, for example, in the form of the transcript, is seldom a good starting point for stimulating listening; it is best held back to be discovered in small doses via the contextual clues provided by the images. But when the content of the text is rather familiar (e.g., a foreign documentary clip on the life of Martin Luther King), a partial transcript provided in advance of the video can motivate students working in small groups to speculate about lexicon, dates, names, and places. The video then becomes the answer key to verify how well they have brought their own knowledge of the world to bear on a comprehension task.

    The following guide shows how the simple matrix above can be expanded into a more detailed array of elements of special concern to the instructor.

    PICS Exercise Development Guide

     

     Preparation

     Presentation

     Expansion

    Text: dialect      
    register      
    parts of speech: nouns      
    parts of speech: 
    verbs
         
    familiar or difficult words      
    key words of topic      
    semantic categories: numbers      
    semantic categories: food terms      
    semantic categories: places      
     

     Preparation

     Presentation

     Expansion

    Text: segment title/topic      
    expressions/idioms      
    sentences: long vs. short ones      
    sentences: hard vs. easy ones      
    sentence structures: passive/active      
    sentence structures: subjunctive      
    speech acts: requests      
    speech acts: commands      
    lists      
     

     Preparation

     Presentation

     Expansion

    Text: paragraphs: descriptions      
    paragraphs: facts      
    paragraphs: main ideas      
    paragraphs: examples      
    paragraphs: arguments      
    dialogue      
    musical text      
    scenes      
    narration: plot elements      
    narration: time sequences      
    relationship of segments      
     

     Preparation

     Presentation

     Expansion

    Sound: pronunciation      
    hesitation sounds      
    colloquial speech: elision      
    colloquial speech: contractions      
    dialect      
    speed/clarity of language      
    laughter, coughing      
    background noise: vehicle sounds      
    background noise: champagne corks      
    background speech      
    back- or foreground music      
    relationship to text      
     

     Preparation

     Presentation

     Expansion

    Image: objects      
    actions: actions in text      
    actions: actions not in text      
    gestures      
    facial expressions      
    people      
    groups of people      
    clothing      
    places      
    nature      
    cultural content      
    single image (still frame)      
    short sequence      
    scene      
    text within images      
    relationship to sound      
    relationship to text      
    production techniques: editing of shots      
    production techniques: camera angles      
    genre conventions      

    The above chart or matrix can serve as a lesson preparation aid or as a convenient checklist of the features that can be exploited in developing a video-based lesson. One way to use it might be to fill in selected cells with the language skill and specific activity desired.

    One Example

    The following example is based a report on changes in the West German military draft law that extend the term of service from 15 months to 18 months; the story contains both rationale for the new policy and on-camera statements by several boys and young men who might be affected by the change. The annotations in the chart indicate the activities to be developed. The numbers indicate the order in which the activities will occur during a given phase.

     

     Preparation

     Presentation

     Expansion

    Text: numbers   1. Listen for dates, ages, numbers.  
    Text: title   Talk about draft in the U.S.    
    Text: arguments   4. Focus on main issues by advance questions on subsegments.  
    Text: arguments     1. Orally summarize position of each person.
    Text: dialogue   3. Match boys with their statements.  
    Text: dialogue   5. Cloze exercise on quotes by 3 draft-age youths.  
    Sound: colloquial speech     2. Discuss difficulty in understanding young speakers.
    Image: people   2. Describe 3 boys using blackboard: view with sound off.  

    Nine More Dimensions

    The approach suggested here is only the beginning. The specific implementation of an activity for a given phase takes the teacher beyond the two dimensions of the matrix into a multidimensional universe of possibilities. We list nine more here:

    The Activities Inventory presented in the next section leaves open how these dimensions should be brought to bear on a given activity. In particular, it is important to note that the suggested activities indicated by verbs like "discuss," "present," "complete," "describe," or "identify" will fall to a combination of the teacher and individual students or small groups working either in class or in the lab, or even interacting with a microcomputer.

    C. An Activities Inventory

    Activities for Preparation
    Activities for Presentation
    Activities for Expansion

    Preparation

    1. Act out specific actions that are prominent in the segment.

    2. Anticipate content and vocabulary by having students give personal examples related to topic of the segment.

    3. Ask students to predict or identify the most (or least!) relevant vocabulary on a list, based on segment title or other indication of the topic.

    4. Direct individuals or groups to complete a cloze (fill-in) activity based on a (partial) transcript; discuss answers without correcting.

    5. Direct students to focus attention on certain events, expressions, things, people, terms, problems.

    6. Discuss customs or cultural stereotypes to be encountered in the segment.

    7. Discuss the title and predict the content of the segment.

    8. Discuss a wider issue, period, topic, or problem addressed by the segment.

    9. Display and discuss a map of relevant area.

    10. Present samples of casual/unusual/difficult speech to be heard.

    11. Require reading of a partial transcript (e.g., difficult dialogue or political speech).

    12. Require reading of a related article, advertisement, poem, story, etc.; option: have students locate related text in newspapers, or magazines.

    13. Require reading of text summarizing scenes or action; or: assign a cloze activity based on a summary of the segment.

    14. Review grammatical forms to be heard.

    15. Review the historical or technical background of a difficult topic; focus on activating students' own prior knowledge of the topic.

    16. Review or exercise grammatical feature(s) used frequently in the text of the segment.

    17. Review/present key vocabulary to be heard.

    18. Use pictures, conversation, or realia to introduce the vocabulary of the segment.

    Presentation

    1. Complete statements describing or narrating the visual sequence.

    2. Create a plausible narrative for the visual sequence; option: have small groups or pairs each take a subsegment and then present and compare results.

    3. Describe and speculate about the occupation, age, relationships, etc., of people shown in sequences or single frames (use fast forward and pause); option: repeat immediately with sound.

    4. Enumerate objects or a class of objects shown (students take notes during presentation of the video, instructor uses blackboard to assemble results).

    5. Identify familiar people and places in the segment.

    6. Indicate the probability or improbability that statements from a printed handout will be heard during the narration or dialogue.

    7. Indicate whether statements about the segment are true or false.

    8. Mark words from a list that are likely to appear in the narration or dialogue.

    9. Predict the action of the next subsegment based on the previous one; option: repeat immediately with sound.

    10. Reenact actions seen in the segment.

    11. Relate people making on-camera speeches to a list of quotes from those figures; discuss guesses with full class.

    12. Speculate in full class or smaller groups what the topic or action is (withhold title and limit preparatory activities).

    1. Attempt to discover the setting of the video segment based only on the soundtrack.

    2. Enumerate objects or a class of objects mentioned (students take notes as video plays, instructor uses blackboard to assemble results); repeat with images.

    3. Indicate the probability or improbability that objects or actions will be seen in the segment.

    4. Indicate whether statements about the segment are true or false.

    5. Predict the action of the next subsegment based on previous one; repeat with images.

    6. Reenact the actions and gestures of figures in a scene; then watch the scene and discuss the differences.

    1. Check off or count occurrences or order a list of items appearing in the video.

    2. Classify elements of the segment by marking or completing a chart.

    3. Complete a partial outline of main points of the segment.

    4. Complete a cloze exercise with blanked-out numbers, key words, easy or difficult words, verbs, nouns, or colors; option: provide list of choices.

    5. Create a complete list of items from a specific category, such as numbers, places, airplane parts, actions seen or mentioned; option: replay and freeze-frame after each item, assembling a list on blackboard.

    6. Enumerate objects or a class of objects presented (students take notes as video plays, instructor then uses blackboard to assemble results).

    7. Transcribe the text of a song and then join in a sing-along.

    8. Have students raise their hands when items from a given category appear in the video; rewind and replay so that all students hear the item.

    9. Have groups each note items from a single category of items, e.g., actions, objects, numbers, and places in the text; follow up by assembling lists on blackboard; option: have each student form a sentence using expressions from at least two categories; erase words as they are used.

    10. Identify words on a list that are English cognates of words used in the text.

    11. Identify verbs on a list that are infinitives of verbs used in the text; supply the conjugated form.

    12. Identify which questions on a list are answered by the segment.

    13. Indicate the order in which sentences from the text occurred or were uttered.

    14. Indicate the proper order of a list of actions according to when they happened in time or when they were presented in the segment.

    15. Indicate whether statements about the segment are true or false.

    16. Indicate which items on a list are heard and which are seen in the segment.

    17. Mark multiple-choice questions that closely follow order of the segment.

    18. Predict the action of the next subsegment based on the previous one.

    19. Recreate the approximate narrative for the segment; option: have small groups or pairs each take a subsegment and then present the results.

    20. Retell the action of a series of subsegments; specify the tense to be used; replay the subsegment as often as needed for general comprehension.

    21. Stop on an image and describe the scene in order to elicit key vocabulary or structures such as colors, objects; compare people; locate buildings, objects, etc..

    22. Take notes on five to ten main points using a list of key terms.

    23. Transcribe brief subsegments such as conversations.

    24. Transcribe expressions or sentences that answer content/factual questions.

    Expansion

    1. Complete a crossword puzzle using vocabulary and facts from segment.

    2. Compose dialogues or narratives based on a list of idiomatic phrases from segment.

    3. Conduct a team competition based on detailed student-generated true-false statements or who/what/when/where questions about the segment (including visual content).

    4. Create a new, alternate, or humorous narrative or commentary for the segment; option: small groups or pairs each take a subsegment and then present the results.

    5. Devise analogous situations for students to act out (compose the scenarios in small groups); option: videotape the resulting skits.

    6. Find a segment you have never watched; have students watch it without you (in class or lab) and retell/reenact it for you with as many details as possible; option: play it in class and comment on the accuracy of their rendition.

    7. Imagine characters in other situations.

    8. Prepare and act out selected scenes or engage in role-playing or interviews based on characters from segment.

    9. Research and report on related topics via group effort.

    10. Retell the content of the segment based on notes taken earlier.

    11. Select a particular scene or image and describe it in detail, either as small group or as written homework.

    12. Select a key aspect or problem of the segment and apply it to the students' own situation; discuss pros and cons in small groups and present results in class or in writing.

    13. Use an alternate narrative or soundtrack as follow-up cloze exercise.

    14. Use the transcript to note differences between the formal (cleaned up) version of the text and features of actual speech such as elision, intonation, stress, hesitation, or false starts.

    15. Use the transcript to note linguistic features such as slang, abbreviations, technical terms, word formation, or syntax.

    16. Write an advertisement for a product appearing in a segment.

    D. Readings

    Altman, Rick. The Video Connection: Integrating Video into Language Teaching. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1989.

    Berwald, Jean-Pierre. Au Courant: Teaching French Vocabulary and Culture Using the Mass Media. Washington, D.C.: Center for Applied Linguistics, 1986.

    Birkbichler, D. W. Creative Activities for the Second-Language Classroom. Washington, D.C.: Center for Applied Linguistics, 1982.

    Geddes, M. and G. Strudbridge, eds. Video in the Language Classroom. London: Heinemann, 1982.

    Gillespie, Junetta B., ed. "Video and Second Language Learning." Special issue of Studies in Language Learning, 5:1 (Spring 1985).

    Lonergan, Jack. Video in Language Teaching. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1984.

    Omaggio, Alice C. Teaching Language in Context: Proficiency-Oriented Instruction. Boston: Heinle & Heinle, 1986.

    Rivers, Wilga. Teaching Foreign Language Skills. 2nd ed. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1981.

    Sinofsky, Esther R. Off-Air Videotaping in Education: Copyright Issues, Decisions, Implications. New York: R. R. Bowker, 1984.

    Smith, Wm. Flint, ed., Modern Media in Foreign Language Education: Theory and Implementation. Lincolnwood, Illinois: National Textbook Company, 1987.

    ----- , ed. Modern Technology in Foreign Language Education: Applications and Projects. Lincolnwood, Illinois: National Textbook Company, 1989.


    Revised March 11, 1999.
    Contact PICS at pics@uiowa.edu.

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