Using Videos in the Language Classroom

This is the third post in a series on using technology in the language classroom.

Using web-based technologies into your language teaching can be a good way to capture student interest by using products that students enjoy in their leisure time – in other words, it can bring a ludic element into learning. A really simple way to integrate web technologies into your language curriculum is to use videos.

Videos can expose your students to authentic language and culture, but it can be deceptively difficult to make effective use of them. As a student in French and Spanish class, I remember having to watch videos and listen to songs and having to fill in words in the dialogue or lyrics. In my experience, I don’t find that particularly useful, because it’s easy to misunderstand a word even in your native language, as the existence of “misheard lyrics” archives attest. I like to use videos and audio in the early stages of learning a particular vocabulary set as a way to provide students with plenty of input without requiring them to generate a lot of output.

Say, for example, that you are introducing clothing vocabulary to your students. After the initial presentation, you can have students practice by showing them a fashion show and having them circle words on a handout that correspond to the articles of clothing they recognize in the show.

Agatha Ruiz de la Prada is an internationally known Spanish designer; her shows are readily available to view through YouTube. The clip above is of her Spring/Summer 2017 show. It’s obviously too long to show in its entirety to your class, so I typically choose a 60-to-90-minute clip. After I show the clip to my students and they have checked off items they recognized in the show, we discuss together which articles of clothing appeared in the show, as well as their textures and patterns.

Another type of video I use in my classroom is vlogs. You can use short clips of a vlog or an informational video to gauge listening comprehension. The video below is from a Mexican chef and YouTuber, Las recetas de Laura, who devises healthy recipes.

The six minute video is still too long – students will lose interest – so again I choose a shorter clip. I would use this particular video, which gives directions on how to prepare a dish, to expose students both to food and cooking vocabulary and to the imperative mood. Prior to watching the video, I would give them a handout with the steps to preparing the dish, using the infinitive. I would give them a minute to study the steps so that they can know what to listen for; after watching, students would number the steps in order according to what they saw and heard in the video. Depending on how much time you have to devote to this particular lesson, you could follow this activity up by having students make their own vlogs telling viewers how to make their favorite dishes. (To integrate more cultural elements, students could provide instructions on how to prepare a dish from a Spanish-speaking country).

Finally, you can also use clips from films to help students practice listening comprehension. Using clips of dialogue available on YouTube is ideal, but it’s not always possible to find the exact clip you’d like to use, so you may have to use a DVD. Whichever I am using, I give students a handout with true or false questions about the dialogue. Again, I have them look over the questions before watching the clip to guide their watching. Using the types of handouts I’ve mentioned throughout this post allows students to engage with the media without having to generate a lot of spontaneous, original output, which can be challenging to do immediately after viewing a video. Scaffolding additional activities on those I’ve mentioned here will give students the opportunity to create their own output once they are more familiar with the material.

Using videos in your language classroom requires a bit of preparation – you need to select an appropriate clip in addition to preparing appropriate response activities – but I find that it is well worth it. Videos expose students to authentic language, different accents and vocabularies, and cultural materials in a way that textbooks simply cannot.

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