Sound and Vision

USING MUSIC VIDEOS IN THE EFL CLASS

This is a post I was looking forward to writing because it is about an activity I do in class which combines music, one of my greatest passions, and videos. So, you can be sure, that day I’m as happy as a lark.

I have always been very interested in the language of music videos and how the performance and footage convey what seems to be described in the song. Most clips have a clear advertising focus, so there is a lot of “star factor” involved to make the artist reach the consumer more easily. But still, pop/rock culture has been the cradle for iconic music videos with enormous aesthetic value.

In my view, music videos can make very good material for an EFL class because:

  • They resemble short films in terms of length. They are typically from 3 to 5 minutes long.
  • There is a great diverstiy of themes that go from a typical love story to relevant social issues today.
  • There are two types of media texts in videos that can be of particular interest in an EFL class (1) Narrative. You can easily spot a main character, often played by the star, who is developping part of the storyline. (2) Conceptual. These clips are often very interesting too, as they are based on metaphors and give place to multiple meanings.

SOUND AND VISION – PROBLEM SOLVING GAME

I suggest using clips to create a problem-solving game, which combines the many advantages of jigsaw or information gap activities. I find really it very engaging, it usually works well and it is not too time-consuming to prepare. Level: Intermediate and above.

Bring an odd number of music videos to class -in my experience, a good number is 5. I recommend choosing clips from independent musicians, and drive away from mainstream music as students are likely to be familiar with them. You can spot great music on soundcloud or follow scoop-it accounts, or suscribe to YouTube channels.

Students work in pairs. One is the viewer and the other one is the listener.

STAGE 1 Viewers and listeners work separately

Viewers

They watch 5 videos, or extracts (A, B, C, D, E) without sound.  What story was being told? What was happening? Is there any character? Where are the musicians? Are they playing any role? What is the dominant atmosphere?

Language focus could be set on:

  • verb tenses and adverbials for sequencing actions
  • useful phrases and vocabulary for describing people or places
  • describing emotions.

Listeners

They will listen to 4 songs, or extracts (1, 2, 3, 4)  but in a different order. Theirs is the most demanding part, as it requires comprehension. But they should also pay attention to the mood and what feelings it inspires apart from

  • key words or phrases
  • general meaning.

STAGE 2 Viewers and listeners work together

Students are paired up again and have to complete a grid trying to match which video (A, B, C, D, E) matches the lyrics (1, 2, 3, 4). They work together towards completing the task sharing the information they have.

What I like most about this kind of activity is that however challenging it is, students are usually task-oriented so fluency usually benefits.

I like eliciting some words to each group for them to teach their partner and also give them enough feedback after they have watched and listened so they feel more comfortable in the speaking task that follows. I would also narrow some of the language they can use and remind them of the grammar or lexical focus of the activity -if there is any-. The activity works well anyway for improving fluency and negotiation language.

Somehow they teach each other, and subsequently learn from each other. I find language sticks more in a context like this one. I have used the same approach with film trailers, although that variation is more suitable for level B2 and above.

What do you think of the videos on this post?

 

FUTURE CHALLENGE

I intend to carry out the same task in the future, but asking a pair of students to choose the songs and prepare the activity themselves for the rest of the class -they would manage and organize the task.

When I create the blogging community in class music is topic that they could write about and share, maybe having our own youtube channel, too.

 

 

 

Optical illusions. Open your eyes and see?

Problem-solving activities and games always work incredibly well in class. Students concentrate on finding a solution, so it is not only a purely linguistic outcome what is expected. I know there is nothing new about using games in the EFL classroom, after all, they are one of the traditional activities of a communicative language teaching environment. But with the interactive whiteboard we can expand the way we traditionally “play” in class. And I like that.

I love optical illusions and mind tricks, so whenever I have the occasion I will inevitably bring them to the classroom.

There are many websites that display scores of optical illusions to use. I often choose a few and ask the groups to work out what is going on. They usually turn out to be very engaging activities because students really need to struggle and challenge their senses to find out the answers.

I recently tried other alternatives to the traditional optical illusions. I bring to class examples of street art like the spectacular works by Jamie Harkins, or Pejac, who create 3D images on streets and walls and make the fine line between real life and fantasy really difficult to make out.

I show their works on the IWB and use tools for zooming or hiding certain areas of the artwork  to get the students predict what the “big picture” will be.

I recommend having a classroom pinterest account for pinning these artworks and optical illusions -the same account can be used for infographics, too.

Lots of fun and laughter guaranteed. The whiteboard offers many possibilities because it can easily break down the limits of space and promote trying alternative ways of playing and managing groups. If you ever try, please let me know how it worked.

Some Fun with the Interactive Whiteboard

origin_75288585If I had to pick one of my favourite tools for the EFL class I would definitely choose the interactive whiteboard, and not only because I am feeling much better since there is no chalk around. No more sneezing my way to the end the class!

I confess I don’t always use it to its full potential, and most times I just end up using the software we have available, which is really practical as it is. It is of great help to focus on specific content and incredibly eye-catching for students. But whenever I have some time I really enjoy exploring the additional resources it has to create activities to get the students stand, play and use their senses to explore the language we don’t always have the chance to.

These two activities are thought for the whole class to do together as a group, but there may be other ways of managing the students to do the same.

#1  The Body Language Challenge

One or two students stand in front of the class with their backs to the IWB, which shows pictures of  people with a specific body posture or gesture. The students who can see the image have to interpret their body language and use English to express any of the following:

  • what the person might be thinking (a great excuse to practise modals of deduction and speculation).
  • describing how the person might be feeling.
  • report what the person is saying.

While the class are describing,  the “actors” represent with their own body language what their partners are trying to express. Not without an extra challenge. The actors can’t use any kind verbal communication, so the rest have to try hard to get their message through by decribing body parts, correcting, requesting or giving examples. Amazingly, it doesn’t take too long for them to come up with the exact body posture or gesture.

Although the most passive and shy students might be unwilling to stand in front of the class and start posing, but they eventually may want to give it a try after seeing how it works.

This body language challenge has usually turned out to be fun and a great activity for practising oral skills and learning or consolidating functional language or certin grammar structures.

Interactive drag and drop or matching activities could follow or precede the activity to consolidate the lexis or grammar.

#2   Optical Illusions: Open your Eyes and See?

Problem-solving activities and games always work incredibly well in class. Students concentrate on finding a solution, so it is not only a purely linguistic outcome what is expected. I know there is nothing new about using games in the EFL classroom, after all, they are one of the traditional activities of a communicative language teaching environment. But with the interactive whiteboard we can expand the way we traditionally “play” in class. And I like that.

I love optical illusions and mind tricks, so whenever I have the occasion I will inevitably bring them to the classroom.

There are many websites that display scores of optical illusions to use. I often choose a few and ask the groups to work out what is going on. They usually turn out to be  very engaging activities because students really need to struggle and challenge their senses to find out the answers.

I recently tried other alternatives to the traditional optical illusions. I bring to class examples of street art like the spectacular works by Jamie Harkins, or Pejac, who create 3D images on streets and walls and make the fine line between real life and fantasy really difficult to make out.

I show their works on the IWB and use tools for zooming or hiding certain areas of the artwork  to get the students predict what the “big picture” will be.

I recommend having a classroom pinterest account for pinning these artworks and optical illusions -the same account can be used for infographics, too.

Lots of fun and laughter guaranteed. The whiteboard offers many possibilities because it can easily break down the limits of space and promote trying alternative ways of playing and managing groups. If you ever try, please let me know how it worked.

 

photo credit: Tim Morgan via photopin cc

Using Infographics in the EFL classroom.

Infographics have become one of the most effective ways to deliver facts and statistics to readers. They are visually very carefully designed to represent complex information very quickly, and that’s probably why social media is full of them.

There are online sites that offer free tools to create them yourself and, as fas as I can see, they are becoming more and more popular among teachers who see in this new form of visual representation a fantastic way to promote critical and creative thinking. Learners have the chance to represent information and create connections between ideas, just as they would do with graphs or mind maps. So, I understand why they should be playing a relevant role in classrooms nowadays. Go to Infographics in the classroom to find some ideas.

But why not use them the other way round? I propose using the infographic to produce language and express the ideas it communicates.

I think if you choose the right visual you have the media to get students using specific grammar points, vocabulary or functional language you want. Here are some ideas.

INFOGRAPHICS FOR PRACTISING LINKERS

Most visuals contain enough facts and figures to practise how to:

TAKE TWO INFOGRAPHICS ON THE SAME TOPIC AND COMPARE INFORMATION

There are many infographic websites to visit where you can choose visuals for the classoom. So, you might even come across the same content described either in a different way, or not using the same facts or figures. This means you have a great resource to use in the EFL classroom for students to compare and discuss.

CULTURAL AWARENESS ACTIVITIES

There are also infographics about festivities that we celebrate all year round. I propose giving students either individually or in groups the chance to tell each other about a specific event or holiday, or even giving a short class presentation with the visual aid of the infographic in the background.
Oktoberfest - 180 Years of Celebration

Filed at Infographicsposters.com in Holiday Infographics

REVISE VOCABULARY OR COLLOCATIONS

Show the visual on the interactive board and cover key words you want your learners to revise. Get them to guess the word or explore collocations.

GUESSING GAME

Creating a guessing game is not too demanding and might make a good warm-up to start a new content area. I would use the same mehtod as with revising lexis, but instead, it would be preferable to choose a visual that contains fun facts for learners to guess the missing information.

The advantages of using infographics.

I recommend using infographics because they are visually very powerful and perfectly adapt to the needs of an EFL classroom.

  • It is a kind of media that, unlike video or audio, easily adapts to a variety of levels.
  • It is relatively easy to find infographics for almost any topic, which means you will always have input available.
  • The language outcome is easily predictable. So it is perfect for training a specific grammar point.

The main downside to using them is that sifting through the numerous infographics available can be time-consuming. But it can help to follow sites that design and distribute infographics and keep a collection.  Also, if the class has its own pinterest account the visuals could be pinned and tracked down more easily by teachers and students.

Have you ever used infographics in your EFL classroom?