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Video: The Brighter Side of Humanity

Being able to describe a short video is a skill that needs to be taught. What was the basic progression of action? Who were the characters? How did they interact? Where did the action take place? These are some of the questions that students need to be able to recall and tell in speech and in writing.

The skills are easy for a teacher to plan for but too often the provided texts from the books are too dry for students to form any interest. Maybe the text has an overpriced DVD. Maybe the book doesn't. But if the book does have an accompanying DVD, the content is so boring to the point of being useless. Let us not forget that education is meant to be inspiring, captivating, and memorable. 

After so long in China, I now feel spoiled having access to YouTube. Although there is a lot of junk on YouTube, there are pure gems--short videos that are not difficult for students to understand that are appropriate for the classroom which are sure to leave a deep impression on the students.

Below is a perfect example. A Thai telecommunications company put out a series of ads that masterfully tug at one's heartstrings. The below ad is my personal favorite.

The video never fails to make me well up. During class, I well let the silence hang a little for the class to recover their thoughts. Not wanting to put anyone on the spot, I know a few moments are necessary before turning the lights back on.

I walk the students through the story and have them copy notes from the board. I have them make their own comprehension questions and then ask each other in groups. Then I have them retell story by answering the questions in complete sentences. For EFL students, at the school where I teach, this is enough.

To native speakers, simply retelling a story is thought to be a simple task. We don't automatically realize that to retell a story we are first pose a series of questions that the listener, who has not watched the video, wants answered. Often times retelling a text is simply answering questions in your own mind. The key is having those questions ready in your mind. This is hard to do for students are not accustomed to be able to ask questions in class. It is even harder when students have been trained to mute their voices.

This video and task are not part of a larger curriculum. There is no overarching vocabulary lesson or connecting theme involved. In fact, we barely mention the theme which the producers so clearly hit over the viewers heads.

I recently used this lesson in classes that returned from their Lunar New Year holiday. Well over 50% of the students were absent. Resuming the semester plan would mean that I would need to reteach the lesson the following week anyway. This would only punish the students who were dutiful and came to the first scheduled lesson after the holiday.

So I use this material when I am in a pinch, when it doesn't make sense to go forward with the planned material.

I can have this material at moments notice because I do not need a computer, Internet connection, speakers, or a monitor.

I just always keep my IPad handy with a bluetooth speaker. I have downloaded the short video to a handy app called Documents.

Once you download the app:

1. open "browser," is the left side panel

2. search for the video in YouTube

3. cut and paste the url

4. type in the address bar

5. paste the video address

6. follow the options to download

7. turn off wifi to test to see in video can be played in the "documents" file.

After that, you have the video whenever you would like without relying on the school's wifi which often doesn't work when you need it in the classroom. There is no buffering time to disrupt the rhythm of the lesson.

Without a dedicated classroom with equipment, lessons with material have to be portable. This would have a negative effect on what I was able to do if it weren't for the mobile devices. 

Introducing the students to the world of ideas is the role of the teacher. This video is not for the cynical.

A video produced by the same company but is longer (over 7 minutes) is incredible and not something that I would bring into a high school classroom. It is called "My Beautiful Woman," and tells the story of a college student who is judged by her classmates for having a 6 year old daughter. It may however be something for more mature classes but not knowing how this video might impact my students, sharing this video might be too much for some.







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