Guest blog: Video for ELT review by Michael Harrison

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Review

DLA: Advanced

I employed the advanced video, Hannah’s mobile house, with a Spanish C1 advanced student taking a four-day intensive course. It was our first classroom session after the introduction and evaluation session. 

The video came over as an authentic documentary with the clear diction of the narrator contrasting with the natural speech of the protagonist. As expected, my student understood the narrator and had more difficulty with the natural speech and diction of the protagonist- certainly as far as the questions I asked.

Since a first objective of the course was for the student to become more confident with natural speech, this worked well. We discussed some of the vocabulary used by Hannah, taken largely from the worksheet suggestions, then played the video again, engaged further discussion and then ran another play-through to note progress. We finished the session with a play-through using the subtitles to check the vocabulary and to illustrate that the language in natural speech is generally not complicated, but made difficult by idiom, rhythm and cadence. 

At the end the student felt very pleased with his progress and confident that he could learn quickly.

A student’s objective is to communicate in ordinary situations as they do in their own language.

At this level (C1), the common frustration is that after many hours of lessons, great success with the drills, gap fill questions and knowledge of grammar, students find that outside of that they only understand half of it. They remain a lot less comfortable than students who learnt English from an early stage. I understand, the same happens to me with my French. Thus, the teaching resources used in the classroom sessions have to be easily connected to the language heard outside of the classroom. This video did pass this basic test well, my sceptical student was engaged and the first lesson set an optimistic tone.

There is very little of this stuff around. I quite often scratch around with news videos (I am wary about saying where) because, by definition, coursebook videos are always an afterthought to the main lesson. The videos in the Life series (National Geographic Learning and Cengage) are the best of the bunch. My courses are all one to one, all homestay. It is an expensive option, students choose it, among several reasons, because the school classroom lessons have not worked for them. So any classroom materials I use need to be fresh, not seen before and related to the circumstances we meet in ordinary discourse. I was pleased to have the chance to try out the pilot.

Michael Harrison

18th January 2018


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Michael Harrison has been working in English language learning for nine years. He has tutored with Pilgrims Language courses, Canterbury and Living Learning English, Bristol. Michael is a founding Director of one of East Africa’s oldest Swahili language schools, KIU Training Services which offers courses in Kiswahili and English. The company has been working with diplomats, business people and NGOs for over 25 years and publishes well respected textbooks and audio. In English language learning he specialises in intensive one-to-one coaching for students.

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