Video in EFL Classrooms

Summary: How to develop video materials for EFL classes

I. Abstract:

This research project provides teachers of English as Foreign Language (EFL) with insights on developing materials and teaching methods that can be incorporated and thus practically implemented in their classrooms. However, emphasis will be on approaching the identity and culture of the native speakers of English through diverse authentic teaching materials.


Video has been proved to be an effective method in teaching English as a foreign/second language (EFL/ESL) for both young and adult learners. Video can be used in a variety of instructional settings—in classrooms, in distance learning sites where information is broadcast from a central point of learners who interact with the facilitator via video or computer, and in self-study and evaluation situations. It also can be used in teacher’s self and professional development or with students as a way of presenting content, initiating conversations, and providing illustrations for various concepts. Teachers and students can always create their own videotapes as content for the class or as a means to assess learners’ performance.

In this project, I have videotaped a number of situations which foreign students are expected to use to communicate with native speakers. These include opening a bank account, mailing materials at the post office, asking for directions, lining up for lunch in the college dining room, and talking to a professor. These “slices of living language” as Lonegan (1992) calls them, can be brought into the EFL classroom with the help of the video equipment to teach language and cultural concepts that are usually associated with it, both verbally and non-verbally, in a real communicative setting.

Stempleski (1987) states, “a rich and exciting source of video software for EFL/ESL classes is authentic material.” Authentic video material, especially that which represents what goes on in a non ELT environment, designed for its entertaining value rather than language teaching is a rich and exciting source of video software for instruction in English as a second language (ESL) classroom.

Using the aforementioned situations, I have devised a language teaching lesson with activities aiming at helping EFL learners get oriented both in language use and some cross-cultural interactions with native speakers of English. Besides, the lesson and the accompanying activities are intended to improve EFL learners’ communicative language skills (i.e., listening, speaking, reading, and writing). Finally, by using the videotaped segments, I aim at focusing on developing the learners’ fluency in the process of language acquisition in a natural ongoing day-to-day interaction with native speakers.

III. Method:

In order to create effective teaching materials to be implemented in the EFL classroom by using video equipment, I adopted the following method taking into account three factors including: language, content, and production (Sherman, 2003).

As a basic step in the creation process of the teaching material, I have acquainted myself with the video equipment. For example, I studied the functions of the ‘Hardware’ then started practical shooting exercise for sometime until I got used to the equipment.

I have asked a colleague, who is a native speaker of English, to help me complete this task by playing the major role in most of the videotaped segments.

I have explained, in anticipation, the purpose of the videotaping to the people who are directly involved in the actual shooting process and have obtained prior permission in each situation from those people.

I have videotaped short segments that can be viewed and reviewed so as to allow longer time for students’ classroom activities and participation.

I have focused on the language, content, and production so as to meet the objectives of the project. For example, I have chosen situations whose medium is “transferable to real life situations, which students are likely to come across” (Stempleki, 1987). In order to make it real, I have chosen a native-to-native interaction. Moreover, I have asked the actors involved to speak at a considerable speed and natural enough to be easily understood by students who are going to use this teaching material. Finally, I have also asked the characters to maintain pauses in the course of the dialogue. This gives students enough time to comprehend the language patterns that they are expected to use in classroom activities.

As for the content, I have tried to choose situations whose content is of great value and interest to students. Besides, the content has also been chosen to project some cultural aspects of the native speaker’s life that are also of great concern for the EFL learner. Finally, I realize that I had very little experience with the cam-cord however; I have tried to produce clear, steady, and focused picture and sound in each of the segments.

IV. Objectives:

This project aims to achieve the following:

  • Videotape authentic material representing non-EFL environments to give examples of particular language functions in operation. These are situations that EFL learners are likely to encounter through their day-to-day socio-cultural interaction with native speakers of English.
  • Intrinsically motivate students by presenting authentic language interaction, providing an authentic look at the culture, aiding comprehension, and providing students with a medium such as the videotaped situations that I have chosen for this purpose.
  • Expose, as explicitly as possible, the nonverbal components of the language (i.e., body language) or what is technically called language paralinguistic features.
  • Developing the concept of ‘acculturation’ and the pragmatic rule of the ethnography of speaking that go side-by-side along with the explicit verbal message a native speaker employs in language interaction.

Teaching English in EFL classes by designing lessons and activities that students will implement as individuals or in groups with the aim to develop their language competence and performance and to use English, perhaps, in similar situations to those included in each videotaped segment. Once we implement the videotaped material with the above-mentioned objectives, we will provide students with opportunities to practice using the language skills in authentic communicative setting.

V. Rationale:

The project serves a two-fold purpose: (1) the pedagogic, and (2) the pragmatic. It also incorporates English language teaching with the teaching of cultural values that an EFL learner is likely to encounter once s/he is stationed in an English native speaking environment. Thus the following justifications have been incorporated in this project:

  • Using video material in a non-English Language Teaching (ELT) environment can motivate students. They will undergo a special experience of real feelings of accomplishment when they understand what is going on in a situation where native speakers use English. Thus, an EFL learner will realize that “with a bit of extra effort and practice, along with some help from the teacher, ‘real English’ is not beyond their comprehension” (Stempleski, 1987).
  • Videotaped material in a non-ELT environment presents real language. The language is real in the sense that the native speakers use it in real daily life interaction. Therefore, the EFL learner is exposed to language use in a communicative setting from which s/he can learn the real spoken discourse including sounds, and utterances, and their underlying messages, which are in most cases, hinted at through the non-verbal explanatory body language.
  • Viewing provides the learner with an aesthetic look at the culture. Through viewing native speakers in real language interaction the EFL learner is exposed to the cultural aspects that accompany language use in communicative settings.
  • Using videotaped material facilitates better comprehension of the intended messages. Besides, it provides an authentic pattern, which when carefully copied by EFL learners can save them any kind of embarrassment while communicating with people from the target culture. Moreover, it is obvious that visual clues clarify the meaning since the speaker is going to use language patterns both verbally and non-verbally.

VI. Lesson Plan and Classroom Activities:

Milli Fanzy of Kentucky Educational Television (KET, 1999) suggests that teachers think of using as a thee-part lesson, including pre-viewing, viewing, and post-viewing activities.
Before presenting the video, the teacher must engage the learners’ interest in what they will be doing and prepare them to do it successfully.

While learners view the video, the teacher should remain in the classroom with the learners to observe their reactions and see what they do not understand, what they are intrigued by, and what bothers them.

After the viewing, the teacher should review and clarify complex points, encourage discussion, explain, and assign follow-up activities.

It is also important to ensure the suitability, length, clarity, and completeness of the videotaped material. Tomalin (1991: 50) believes that “the ideal video clip … tells a complete story or section of a story”.

The videotaped material that I have produced can be used to teach an EFL sixty-minute lesson. The following are suggested activities that can cover the class duration at beginning and intermediate EFL levels.

1. Previewing Activity:

A. Rationale:
A previewing activity is meant to acquaint students with the material that they are going to view and facilitate easier and better comprehension thus achieving successful results in language teaching. Consequently, the teacher may design this activity to help students with their language skills. Indeed, it is obvious for both the teacher and students to work cooperatively, deliberately, and simultaneously with the intention to develop the four skills (Dublin & Olshtain, 1991).

B. Procedure:
Use the following sample brainstorming questions and hints about what students expect to view:
Teacher: What are we going to do now? (Fixing video equipment)
Student 1: I think we’re going to watch a video.
Teacher: Good, what would you do when you lose your way?
Student 2: I use a map.
Teacher: O.K., but what if you don’t have a map?
Student 3: I’ll ask somebody in the street.
Teacher: Very good. Now we’re going to watch a woman asking somebody in the street to find her way. Please, watch and listen carefully so that we’ll discuss the next activity, which is going to be based on the videotaped material.
(The teacher half-darkens the classroom, turns on the TV and video equipment, plays the first segment while everybody watches and listens carefully).

2. While-viewing Sample Activity:

(Sound off) Teacher asks question.
Where does this conversation take place?
Who do you think this woman is?
What do you think is she looking for?
Where do you think this man is going?

3. Post-viewing Sample Activity:

(Sound and Picture)
Circle the correct number in the following. Your answers should be based on the viewing and listening:
a) The man was… 1. angry 2. pleased 3. cooperative 4. in hurry
b) The man looked… 1. old 2. young 3. middle-aged 4. sick
c) The woman was… 1. polite 2. smiling 3. panting 4. scared
d) The questions were 1. direct 2. formal 3. informal 4. funny

4. While-viewing Activity:

The teacher plays the video again and asks the students to work on the following ‘while-viewing’ activity:
While viewing and listening to the following segment, please write the directions that will help the woman find her way to the place she is asking about. It is preferable to draw a sketch to the destination on a sheet of paper.

Post-viewing Discussion group activity:

After the students have already viewed and listened to the segment, the teacher will ask them to sit in groups of 4 or 5 and discuss their reaction to the man’s and woman’s interaction. For example, they can discuss the woman’s behavior when she stopped the man to ask for directions. Was her behavior culturally and linguistically appropriate? How did the man react? Was he helpful? What verbal and non-verbal language behaviors were employed? Etc.

Post-viewing Activity: Writing Task

The teacher can ask his students to write an outline description of the man’s and woman’s use of phrases in the course of interaction. For instance, what polite expressions, complements, and accompanying non-verbal gestures are expected to be employed in similar situations.

Post-viewing Activity: Writing Task Combined with Role-Playing

The teacher can ask two students to role-play similar situations to the ones they have just viewed and simultaneously the rest of the class to write down an outline direction as the one presented in the video segment.

VII. Summary

As we have noticed, video material can be a very useful source and asset for the language teaching-learning process because it combines both fun and pedagogic instructions in an authentic material that reflect real interaction. By employing videotaped material teachers can always create an indefinite number of language teaching activities. The devised activities above are mere examples based on one short segment and each focuses of a different language skill that EFL students need to acquire.

Stempleski and Tomalin (1989) point out a recent trend in the use of the medium to stimulate oral and written communication among students. Another trend in the use of video language teaching, readily apparent to anyone who has surveyed Teachers of English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL) annual convention programs since 1986, is the use of authentic material—video and television material designed for entertainment rather than for language teaching. Likewise, articles on video in second language teaching reflect a central concern with the use of authentic material (Brinton & Gaskill, 1987; Griffin, 1980; Hill, 1987; Kerridge, 1982).

Finally, I would like to comment that this mild attempt at revisiting the use of video equipment and material in a non-ELT environment to give examples of particular language functions in operation gave me the opportunity to explore more relevant material in the field of “video in action” and made what has previously ‘sounded Greek to me’ a language that I understand and use.


Brinton, D., & Gaskill, W. (1987). Using news broadcast in the ESL/EFL classroom. TESOL Quarterly, 12. 403-413.

Dublin, Fradia & Olshtain, Elite. (1991). Course Design: Developing Programs and Materials for Language Learning. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Franzy, Milli. (1999). Kentucky Educational Television. Kentucky. USA.

Golebiowska, Aleksandra. (1990). Getting Students to Talk. New York: Prentice Hall.

Griffin, S. M. (1980). Video Studios: The language labs for the 1980s. Cross Currents, 7. (1). 45-48.

Hill, J. K. (1987). The recording and use of off-air French television programs with advanced learners. Audio-Visual Language Journal, 16. (2). 81-84.

Kerridge, D. (1982). The use of video films. In M. Geddes & G. Sturtridge (Eds.), Video in the Language Classroom (pp. 107-121). London: Meineman.

Lonergan, Jack. (1992). Video in Language Teaching. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Nunan, David. (1992). Designing Tasks for the Communicative Classroom. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Shareman, Jane. (2003). Using Authentic Video in the Language Classroom. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Stempleski, Susan. (1987). Short takes: Using authentic video in the English class. Paper presented at the Annual Meeting of the International Association of Teachers of English as a Foreign Language (21st, Westende, Belgium, April 12-14, 1987).

Stempleski, Susan & Tomalin, Barry. (1990). Video in Action: Recipes for Using Video in Language Teaching. New York: Prentice Hall.

Tomalin, B. (1993). Teaching young children with video. In Stempleski, S. & Arcario, P. (Eds.).

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About the author:

Dr. Samir M. Rammal is an Assistant Professor of English Department of Languages & Translation Birzeit University in Palestine.

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