Is the use of video in ESL/EFL classes inherently motivating?
You know what? I really have no idea.
(Half-hearted apologies for not defining “motivating” or “inherent” but I am using the lay-person meanings here)
As usual, (?) I have a few stories that I would like to share. Hopefully they will help me come to grips with this question while hopefully entertaining you a bit and giving you something to think about.
“Find the right clip”
It was a few years back and I was doing a day-long workshop on lesson planning for foreign teachers who had just completed the first half of a year-long contract teaching in public schools around Daegu, South Korea. As the workshop progressed I heard something I found quite interesting mentioned a few times. This was the belief that an (the?) essential part of lesson planning was finding the right clip on youtube. I got the sense that the “right clip” should be vaguely related to the topic of the lesson and the funnier the better. I did not hear anything about the clips relating to target language or specific tasks for students to do while watching the clips. I wondered what beliefs this idea that we *should start class with a clip rests on.
I suppose an argument could be made that funny and interesting clips lower affective filters. Fine. I also suppose that we could say that showing a clip related to the topic might activate schema. Sure. I guess we could also say that we can learn culture from videos. Ok. What else?
What I found most surprising was the notion (as I interpreted it) that the default mode for starting a class is to show a semi-related clip for motivation. Is video the only way to create interest in a lesson? Is it the best way? Is video inherently motivating?
“A model lesson”
Just yesterday, while “researching” a future blog post, I came across clip of a demo (“open class”) lesson. [Please email/DM/add a comment if you’d like the link]1 In the clip, which I gather is a model lesson for teachers to follow, the first 5 minutes of the lesson (after students read the objectives aloud) are spent watching a some scenes from Home Alone 2.
After students watch the clip the teacher asks, “Did you enjoy the video?” My assumption here is that the video is offered as motivation for the lesson that is to come (along with perhaps schema activation as mentioned above). It is possible that I am reading too much into it but…since the teacher asks if the students enjoyed it I am guessing it is important and expected that they do so.
After students say that they did enjoy watching the clip the teacher asks some comprehension questions what they saw. I can’t be sure if they were given the questions before watching but it doesn’t appear that way.2 My training and beliefs tell me that asking questions after watching such a clip can make it more of a memory challenge than a listening/understanding challenge. But if the point is motivation I am not sure how much this matters. I also wondered if watching a clip for 5 minutes without a task might make it a bit difficult for students to focus their attention. I don’t have much proof of this being a problem because I couldn’t really see the students in the clip (I could just see lots of Macaulay Culkin).
“The video motivated me”
Two weeks ago, I was watching a teacher peer teach some fellow Korean English teachers. She introduced the topic and shared a video. I think her instructions were, “Please enjoy the video.” This caught my attention and somewhere in the back of my mind there was someone screaming, “That is not a task! ‘Enjoy’ is not a task!! What is the task?!” Anyway, after the session one of the “students” (who, again, is actually teacher by trade) said that the video really motivated him. He said that he wasn’t sure where the lesson was going and then when he saw the video his interested was piqued and he was motivated for the class.
So here was a student saying exactly what I didn’t expect to hear! It sounded like the act of watching video itself motivated him for the lesson. My only interpretation here is that for this student video is in fact inherently motivating. Do you have other interpretations to share?
I can’t help but think that I have been taking the “must have a task” thing a bit too far. I wondering when/if “just enjoying” is ok?
I am also wondering if perhaps there is a cultural element at play here? Have Korean students come to “expect” a video and has this turned into making using video clips the “default mode” to start classes for both Korean and foreign English teachers?
Another thing that comes to mind is that Korean students are typically accustomed to teacher fronted classes (read: lectures) so perhaps videos are a great break from this which makes them
I am still wondering if videos are inherently motivating. What do you think? What am I missing?
1 Special thanks to my friend for arguing with me that one time about using such clips in training. If not for this I would have linked to the clip here. Our conversation gave me something to think about. Much appreciated.
2 Since this is an “open class” it is highly possible that the students were heavily prepped for the lesson. “Open classes” and the culture of such classes are perhaps rants for another day.
3 If you have not seen the “Gangnam Style” music video yet I strongly recommend it. It might be motivating.