Saturday, 19 January 2013

2 Great Videos to use in Class

The Internet, to misquote Douglas Adams, is big. Really big. Vastly, hugely, mindbogglingly big.  (And it's mostly cats).

Even if you discount the cats, there's still so much just out there that the good stuff can be hard to find, especially when it comes to video.  And if we find it, what to do with it?  We can do better than gap-fill exercises using clips of Nineties comedy shows, can't we?

So, in this and my next post I'm sharing some of my favourite videos, with a few ideas on how to use them in a language lesson.

1) Dumb Ways to Die

(Warning - will not be suitable for all classes: animated gore and twisted humour)

What it is:
Cute, funny and wrong.  Misguided little critters sing and dance while demonstrating Darwin-Award-worthy ways to die.  Then in the end it turns out to be a safety advert for Australian trains.

In class you could:
  • Link it to a lesson on comparatives and superlatives by rating the ways to die according to level of stupidity, or likelihood of happening to an average person (anyone could take out of date medicine, but very few of us will swim with piranhas, for instance).
  • Look at the advert along with some stories from the Darwin Awards site, as a way into disscussing the  appeal of sick humour.  For higher level groups, this article on whether the Internet affects people's ability to empathise could be relevant.
  • Use as part of a larger topic relating to public health campaigns and how they get their messages across - the recent NHS anti-smoking advert could be mentioned, or various ads from the NSPCC (here's their current one, but this old one also comes to mind).  Students could then:
    • debate the value of shock advertising.
    • design and make their own public health video using images or drama.
    • write a letter to a newspaper complaining about or supporting a controversial advertising campaign.
  • Look here for a lesson plan using this video from allatc, focusing on listening accuracy and prediction (and finishing with the dance routine!).
Oh, and there's also a karaoke version, if you want to go there!

2) The History of English in 10 Minutes

What it is:
An animated whistle-stop tour to the English language, starting with the Anglo-Saxons, and finishing with Global English, by way of the Norman Conquest, Shakespeare and the Internet.  Comes with helpful chapter breaks, or you could watch it as separate 1-minute videos (transcripts can also be downloaded here).

In class you could:

  • Give students the 10 chapter titles and ask them to put them in order as a pre-listening task.
  • Challenge students to note down categories and examples of new words and phrases that entered English in each of the 10 periods, 
  • Use chapter 5 to introduce a lesson looking at formal and academic language, or chapter 9 to look at texting and internet language.
  • Focus on loan words in English: ask students what words from their language are used in English, or what English words are used in their languages.  Students could research the subject online for a presentation, or discuss whether bodies like the Academie Française, which aims to protect the French language from linguistic invasion, are necessary, helpful, or misguided.  (Useful article here).
  • Look for and discuss national stereotypes - do students find any of them offensive?  Are they helpful to understanding the video?

Check back around the end of January for my next entry, with 2 more great videos to try!

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