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How Students Can Use Videos for Self-study

Here are some ideas about how to use video clips for English learning. This site is a work in progress / something I work on as time permits.

Things to do while watching

  1. Before you watch, look at the “Pre-watching Vocabulary” list in the notes to get the meaning of words that might be new for you.
  2. Watch the video on one device and follow along with the transcript on another device / another screen.  Gather information from what you see and what you hear and what you read.  Repeat until you’re relying mostly on your eyes and ears to follow along rather than reading.
  3. Watch it a few times first without sound and try to describe in English what’s going on.   Understand what is going on in the story before jumping into the listening part.
  4. Watch the video with a pen in your hand.  Write down all the English words you hear / all the English things that come to mind as you’re watching (e.g. actions (they’re explaining something, he is standing in a bank, it’s a group of people waiting for something to start), descriptive adjectives e.g. the man was well-dressed, the lady looked angry, they were speaking from an office).  Look up the words you don’t know in English and write them down, too.
  5. Take two or three sentences with vocabulary / clumsy structures that you want to remember and memorize it / commit it to memory.  Break the sentence into chunks to understand the syntax.  Start trying to recall the hardest part, and build up until you can recall the whole sentence.  Develop automaticity in a structure that is just beyond what you’re currently comfortable producing on your own.
  6. Do the exercises included with the post.  Answer the questions in the notes.  There are grammar exercises, comprehension questions, dictations, true / false questions.
  7. Write a paragraph summarizing this video as though you’re going to tell your friend about it.  Find someone to say your summary to out loud.  If you’re speaking, here are some ways to start:
  • I watched this video the other day about (…)  The narrator was talking about (…)
  • I was watching this video about (…) and I thought it was (interesting, a little sad, great) because (…)
  • I watched a video the other day about this group of people in Arizona who run 400km a day, a woman in Hong Kong and her small and modern apartment, about an 11 year old girl who is a superstar mountain climber, about a doctor who wants all doctors to share information about their bonus, a company in China that is developing driver-less cars (…)
  • One thing I didn’t understand was (…)
  • One thing I’d like to get more info about was (…)
  • It was funny when (…)
  • I don’t understand how they / why they (…)

Questions to think about

  1. Think about what was surprising in the video.  Did you learn any new information?
  2. What did you not like or disagree with?
  3. Who are the speakers and what is their message?
  4. Why did they make this video?  / Why was this video created?
  5. What was the format?  Was it an interview?  Was it a documentary?  Was it done professionally or is it an amateur video?  Is it promoting or selling something?
  6. Is factual, educational and informative?  Is it entertainment or edutainment?  What makes you trust or not trust the information and opinions put forth (presented) in this video?
  7. Think about what your own example or anecdote that is connected to this story.  One way to do this is to imagine telling someone you know about this video and thinking about how they would react.  What would your friend or colleagues’s opinion be about the ideas in this clip?
  8. Say what specific facts or ideas you like / agree with.  Say why.
  9. Is there anything you will search for or learn more about, based on watching this video?
  10. Did you like the narration?

Questions for reflection and to evaluate learning

  1. What percentage of the language in the video was new?
  2. What are five words or structures of phrases that you’ll probably remember from this video.
  3. Were there any new structures?  Did you recognize it when you saw it — or, are you completely unfamiliar with it?  Do you know where and how to look up more information for structures that you need to understand / revise?
  4. What (specifically) made listening challenging or easy?
  5. Can you connect any of the speech in this video to what you know about phonology / connected speech (contractions, linked sounds, ellipsis, reduced sounds)
  6. Ruminate on how useful this was a learning activity and why

Sometimes people ask “Why do you make transcripts when the closed captions are included?” and the answer is on this page.