Teaching English with Videos Part Three by Hall Houston

This time around I’d like to suggest a simple framework you can use to create your own video-based lessons. This framework consists of 3 phases, before, during, and after.


The Before Phase is where you prepare the students for the video. Two things you can do here: generate curiosity and activate schemata


To get students interested in the video, it’s important to get them curious about what they’re going to see. You can ask a question that can only be answered by watching the video. Or you can show them a few images from the video and invite them to speculate what is going to happen. If the video includes dialogue, you could read out a sentence and let them guess who says it and what the situation is.


Activating schemata simply means getting students to access their prior knowledge about a subject. For example, if you’re going to play a video of a scene in a restaurant, ask them what you call people in a restaurant (customer, waiter, waitress) and some common expressions you hear in a restaurant (“What do you recommend?” “I’d like to order dessert.”)


The During Phase is where you play the video for the students. You should definitely set a task for each viewing, so that students have a clear idea of what they’re expected to do. For the first viewing, you can provide a question for gist (the main idea). For example, where are the two people? or why are these two people arguing? For the second viewing, you can provide some questions for specific information. For example, what was the man carrying in his left hand? or what did the woman say at the end of the video? If you want to play the video an additional time, you can ask an inferential question, a question that is not answered directly, but must be inferred. For example, how do you think the man was feeling? or do you think the man is going to call the woman again? However, you shouldn’t show the video more than three times.


The After Phase is where students go over language from the video more carefully, picking up new vocabulary and grammar. Also, students can use the video as a springboard for their own writing and speaking practice.


To review sentences, you can give them a handout with sentences from the video with the words in the wrong order, and you assign students to write out the correct sentences. You can also provide several sentences from the video in a different order from the video, and tell the class to put them in the correct chronological order.


To review vocabulary, you can give students several two syllable words from the video and assign the class to write the stress pattern for each word. Another option is to give them a list of words and ask students to make sentences using the words.


For speaking practice, students can create a role play based on the video. Students can also quiz each other about what they remember from the video.


For writing practice, each student can write a sentence stating their opinion of the video. Students can also write some questions they want to ask the people in the video.


However, you might wish to tinker with this framework. For example, you might wish to have students do writing or speaking before they watch the video. Or you could play the video without a Before Phase, just to get the students’ reactions.


Here are some alternative formats:


  • Play part of a video, then pause it. Ask students to write down what they think will happen next. Ask a few students to read what they wrote. Repeat a few times.


  • Play half of a video then stop it. Ask students to do a role play, continuing the action on the video.


  • Send half of the students outside. Play the first half of the video to the remaining students. Next, send the remaining students outside and ask the others to come back in. Play the second half of the video for them. Put students into pairs (each pair with  students from both groups). Ask them to describe what they saw to the other student.


  • Sit one student in front of the computer screen. Make sure the rest of the class can’t see the screen. Play the student a video, and get the others to ask him/her questions to find out what is happening in the video. Variation: you can make this more interesting by asking the student watching the video to answer some questions truthfully and some dishonestly. Then the class has to guess which answers were true and which were false.


In the next (and final) installment of this series, I’m going to show you two of my own video-based lessons that use different versions of the framework I’ve presented here.


>> Continue to Part 4 >>



Hall Houston teaches at Kainan University in Taoyuan County, Taiwan. His articles have been published in periodicals such as It's for Teachers, Modern English Teacher and English Teaching Professional. He has written 3 books: The Creative Classroom: Teaching Languages Outside the Box, Provoking Thought: Memory and Thinking in ELT, and The ELT Daily Journal: Learning to Teach ESL/EFL

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