Monday, November 28, 2011
The Joys of YouTube
By Tamara Jones
EAL Instructor, British School of Brussels
After many years of teaching without access to the internet, I am overjoyed to finally be able to take advantage of some of the great teaching resources on the great ole World Wide Web, particularly those on YouTube. Because of my late start with this resource, I understand that I am behind the curve, so forgive me if some of my enthusiasm seems a bit out of date. There is just so much great stuff out there, if you look hard enough! In addition, the clips are generally bite-sized, so they are perfect for a bit of English practice.
I teach young learners, and I can personally vouch for the sedative quality that video clips seem to have. Nothing quiets my students down faster than the promise of a video activity. The key is to make the video more than just the video. There always has to be a purpose, even if the kids are too busy watching the clip to notice.
Kramer and the Past Tense
I was having a hard time coming up with fun activities for my students to practice the simple past tense. They need so much review to help them remember the irregular forms, but that repetition can get boring fast. So, I showed them a clip from Seinfeld available on YouTube. In it, Jerry is going out for the day and Kramer is in his apartment. The next 1 ½ minutes shows Kramer doing crazy things like riding a bike, putting out a fire, starting a fight, and hosting a party. You get the idea. At the end of the day, Kramer is asleep on the sofa when Jerry comes home and gets irritated because Kramer had not used a coaster.
This clip works particularly well because there is no dialogue, so students can focus on the action. The video is also a great match for simple past practice because, as I show the video, I ask the students to list all the things they can remember in answer to the question, “What did Kramer do?” I show the video several times, often pausing to give students time to write. Then, they share their lists with the class at the end and I correct any mistakes they may have made with the simple past. It’s a lot of fun.
Niles and the Third Conditional
One of my all-time favorite TV moments involves Niles Crane from the comedy Frasier. In this clip, Niles is waiting for a date and he notices that the crease in his pants isn’t as sharp as he’s like. He tries to iron them and in a hilarious chain of events causes a fire in Frasier’s apartment. Again, this clip has no dialogue, so students can concentrate on the action. I show them the video a couple of times and them have them work in pairs to write sentences using the third conditional, such as “If Niles hadn’t cut his finger, he wouldn’t have fainted.” I don’t pre-teach any vocabulary; I just circulate and supply words as necessary. But, you might want to consider it because certain vocabulary items (fire extinguisher, for instance) might be too frustrating for some students.
I Love Lucy and Speaking
In 2005, I attended a session at TESOL called “Practicing Structured Long Turns Using DVD Clips.” In this presentation, Ron Belisle and Anita Aden demonstrated how to use video clips to prompt students to speak quickly and descriptively. In our classes, we focus so much on accuracy, I was intrigued to learn about an activity that promoted fluency. To begin, divide your students into partners and assign each partner a role, either listener or speaker. The listeners should sit so they can’t see the video and the speakers should sit so they can. Then, play the video clip and have the speakers describe the action to the listeners in real time. After, the listeners re-tell the story to me based on what their partners told them. Then we all watch the video together. Finally, have the partners switch roles, so the speaker becomes the listener and vice versa and play another video clip. I like using 2 clips from a famous episode of I Love Lucy in which the ladies and men switch (1950s) roles and the men stay at home while the women go out to work. In the first clip, Ricky and Fred are trying to cook rice and chicken to hilarious results. In the second clip, Lucy and Ethel struggle to work in a chocolate factory.
Using video clips in the class is a fun way to facilitate learning. I have suggested 3 of my favorites, but I am sure you have some of your own great ideas. Care to share?