Many young learners nowadays are visual and auditory learners who are also generally quite computer literate, have no problems with digital technologies and enjoy watching videos on the internet: “digital natives”, as they are sometimes called. The lesson outlined in this paper illustrates how integrating digital technologies into the teaching of listening can facilitate student learning and encourage both motivation and active participation in the language learning process.
Text by: Angeliki Cheilari, David Coniam and Peter Falvey
There is a considerable amount in the literature regarding the use of video for developing listening skills. Stempleski & Tomalin (1990) argued some 30 years ago that “the combination of moving pictures and sound can present language more comprehensively than any other teaching medium”. Kim (2015) extends the argument, stating “videos provide second language learners with contextual, visual, and non-verbal inputs that minimize any lack of comprehension that might result from listening alone”. Yasin et al. (2018) observe that “videos contain visual and audible components to provide content and to teach elements of authentic language”.
Video materials used in a language learning context can be largely divided into two categories, scripted vs. off-air (Slaouti & Kanellopoulou, 2005). Scripted materials are generally seen as materials created for educational purposes and intended for non-native speakers of English. That means that they have been elaborated and simplified before their use. Off-air materials include video excerpts that are addressed to a native-speaker audience (Slaouti & Kanellopoulou, 2005).
Selecting appropriate video materials is crucial for the whole teaching-learning process and should be given serious consideration. The off-air video used for the lesson described below -- a TEDEd video-based lesson on pop art -- was selected on the following criteria: comprehensibility; appropriateness of content; interest; length of sequence (Arcario, 1992); as well as relevance to the target learners (Fawkes, 1999).
THE VIDEO-BASED LESSON
While the entire TEDEd video-based lesson (https://ed.ted.com/best_of_web/uU1NwqUi) lasts 60 minutes, the clip selected for use in the lesson outlined below only lasts 4:30 minutes. Such a length permits the clip to be replayed a number of times to actively facilitate the development of listening and writing skills. In the current lesson, this comparatively short, yet authentic, video clip enabled the teacher to focus on developing active viewing skills and strategies. The replaying then allowed for learners to employ top-down and bottom-up listening processes; to develop problem-solving skills, as well as collaborating with their peers and becoming more autonomous learners.
The lesson comprises three stages: pre-viewing, while-viewing and post-viewing. Given that the video presenter is Ellie, a native-English-speaking 12-year-old girl, and that the content of the video is delivered in an authentic context, the current lesson would probably be suitable for learners who are B2 and up. A sample lesson plan (aimed at B2, age 12 students), using the criteria presented above is shown below. The lesson makes considerable use of the “watcher and listener” viewing (Stempleski & Tomalin, 1990). Under this technique, learners (usually in pairs) work together such that one learner has to actively watch while the other actively listens: a strategy which aims to develop learners’ speaking and observation skills as well as integrating speaking and listening in a meaningful, communicative manner.
Lesson Plan: What is Pop Art?
Stage 1: Pre-viewing. Here the teacher introduces the topic and writes the title of the video “What is pop-art?” on the board. She divides learners into groups of three and asks them to discuss what pop-art is, take notes and write down any vocabulary related to the topic. Learners then watch the video to check their predictions of “What is pop-art”. This gives them a reason for watching and listening, rendering the learning process meaningful and communicative.
Stage 2: While-viewing. The teacher plays the first 1:30 of the video, then gives learners time to check their predictions. Learners are now divided into watcher and listener groups, where one group watches the screen while the other group listens. After 30 seconds, watchers do their best to explain to listeners what they have seen. Watcher and listener roles are subsequently reversed.
The freeze-frame technique is then used again at the 2:02 point in the video where Ellie, the speaker, asks the question “Who is Andy Warhol?”. The teacher writes up the question on the board, after which learners discuss in groups who Andy Warhol is and write down anything they might know about him or his work.
Learners then watch and listen to the video again to check their answers. Again, the principle of active viewing is important as learners need to guess and then create expectations regarding the content of the video which increases their interest and keeps them cognitively involved and motivated throughout the task.
Following the completion of this activity, learners watch the video again in order to complete first an open-ended question worksheet and then an information table – activities which require both “bottom-up” and “top-down” strategies to be used if learners are to gain a deeper understanding of the content of the video.
Stage 3: Post viewing stage. Learners now work in groups, using pictures or the internet, to create a poster regarding pop art for an upcoming exhibition of pop art in their school next month.
Digital technologies and video materials are valuable aids in the language learning context. Authentic video materials demonstrate language used in real-life settings and promote the development of listening skills in a meaningful way to enhance motivation and learners’ active participation in the learning process. Learners work in groups throughout the lesson with the teacher essentially acting as a facilitator, monitor, and provider of feedback. The current sample lesson has drawn on a short (five minute) video from the TEDEd stable. TEDEd is an excellent resource with many short authentic videos on engaging topics. The comparatively limited length of the videos is crucial since the clips can then be viewed a number of times. This permits learners to actively engage with both the language and the topic and to work through a series of activities based around the topic.
So, try and move beyond seeing the teaching and developing of listening skills as more than just dry standalone listening activities. Video listening – which to be frank is how most of us engage with language these days – provides a much more meaningful context. This not only makes learning more interesting and engaging for learners but also permits more integrated skills learning to take place.