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Vol 32 No 2, April - June 1994
Page 28

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ISRAEL 


You Don't Need a Video!

by Elaine Hoter and Laureen Rabbe


We live in the age of communication. However, because of technical and bureaucratic considerations, we are not always able to use modern technology in our classrooms. "Video?" you might say, "Great! but I have to book the audiovisual room weeks in advance (if the school has one in the first place!), and it's such a hassle moving the students." But do not despair: we can help you see the light.


Today most students have a television at home, and - in most parts of the globe - there are news broadcasts in English on the television at least once a day. We teachers can take advantage of this advance in world technology in our teaching of English as a foreign language.


What we would like to present to you are various ways of utilizing the field of communication in our classes through homework television assignments that are followed up in the communicative classroom. In this way we teach new strategies to develop both listening and speaking skills and at the same time help the students to become critically aware of what they see on television.


This article will give concrete examples of how to introduce media studies into the English classroom. It includes: the suggested level, the aim of the task, the home assignment, and the classroom follow-up (pair work, group work, and class discussion).


Activity 1


Level: beginners


Aims:


  • to view and listen for specific information
  • to practice the present simple tense
  • to learn where towns and countries are in the world and how to pronounce them in English
  • to learn the names of different languages in English


Procedure:


Home Task. The teacher sets a specific television channel, day, and time when all the students are told to watch the news broadcast and carry out the listening/viewing assignment.


The students are asked to list the names of all the places mentioned on the news.


Classroom follow-up:


Pair Work or Group Work. The students fill in the chart below, using information from their home assignment and their knowledge of English and the world.


Place

Country

Language


The students are asked to come up to the map and put a pin in the correct place on the map for each news item. They are then asked to form a sentence using their chart, e.g., Madrid is inSpain. In Spain they speak Spanish.


Activity 2


Level: intermediate


Aims:


  • to identify the speaker on the news
  • to practice reaching a consensus
  • to categorize information according to specific headings
  • to practice presenting an oral report to the class
  • to achieve some degree of critical awareness of the media


Procedure:


Home Task. The teacher sets a specific television channel, day, and time when all the students are told to watch the news broadcast and carry out the listening/viewing assignment.


The students are told to write down the names of all the people who appear on the news program (anchormen, interviewees, politicians, etc.).


Classroom follow-up:


Group Work (46 students). The students are asked to combine the names to form one list. Students should be encouraged to use such expressions as: Are you sure? What do you think? I don'tremember. . . .


The teacher chooses to concentrate on one of the topics below, and asks the groups to categorize their combined list of names accordingly:


  • anchorman, interviewers/general public
  • in/outside the studio
  • male/female
  • national/international news
  • well-known/unknown personalities
  • under 40/over 40
  • positive news/negative news


Class Discussion. A representative from each group presents the group's findings to the entire class, and then the class discusses the findings and their implications. For example, if you chose to look at the topic of men and women on the news you could ask the class:


  • Is it important that men and women have equal representation on the news?
  • Are you influenced more by male or female presenters?
  • Is there a connection between the number of people in a news report and the importance of that report?


This task can be repeated using a different news report, where each group is given a different topic to categorize.


Follow-Up Homework Assignment. Ask the students to watch the English news during the week to see if the findings from this exercise are true.


Activity 3


Level: intermediate


Aims:


  • to identify subtopics in the news
  • to practice reaching a consensus
  • to practice phrases and expressions for agreeing and disagreeing
  • to practice presenting an oral report to the whole class
  • to achieve some degree of critical awareness of the media


Procedure:


Home Task. The teacher sets a specific television channel, day, and time when all the students are told to watch the news broadcast and carry out the listening/viewing assignment.


The students are asked to write down the topics discussed on the news.


Classroom follow-up:


Pair Work. Students compare their list of topics with their partner.


Brainstorm. Discuss with the class factors determining the priority of a news item. What are the criteria for deciding what should be presented first? (This provides the language foundation for the rest of the activity.)


Group Work. The group pools their information to form the list of topics in the order presented on the news and then discusses whether the topics were presented in their correct order of importance.


In their discussion they are encouraged to use such expressions as: I can't agree with you, There's a lot of truth inwhat you say, but. . . . , and I agree. A representative from each group then presents the news headlines to the class using their combined information.


Class Discussion. As a follow-up activity the teacher could lead a class discussion on some of the following issues:


  • Which topics are of national importance and which are foreign news items?
  • Which topics are accompanied by on-the-spot coverage?
  • Which topics are ongoing - e.g., a war - and which are new?
  • Which topics include coverage of different points of view and which are one-sided?


A variation on this activity for a more advanced level could require the groups to present the news headlines for a different audience - for example, a regional news broadcast. They would then have to change the order of the news to suit the specific interests of their public.


Activity 4


Level: intermediate-advanced


Aims:


  • to view and listen for a specific topic
  • to develop vocabulary around a theme
  • to provide a summary both orally and in writing from information viewed on the news


Procedure:


Home Task. Each group is given or chooses an ongoing news topic. This, of course, can vary from country to country and according to the time of year. Examples we have used successfully include war, poverty, economics, the monarchy, crime, politics, the Olympics or sports, and the weather. The groups are told to "cover" their topic on the English news over the following fortnight. They are then expected to give an oral and/or written report on their findings.


In order to prepare themselves for the home task, the students are asked to first form a "bank" of core vocabulary for their topic. For example, if their topic is crime, they would need:


NOUNS: kindnapper, thief, robber, bank, safe, etc.
VERBS: attack, burgle, stab, steal, etc.
ADVERB: brutally, cruelly, etc.
ADJECTIVES: accused, ruthless, uncouth, etc.


The groups meet during the two-week period to compare notes and prepare their oral and/or written presentation.




Conclusion


News either played back in the classroom or, as presented here, as home assignments has become a major component in our English classes. Through the methods described in this article we have been able to use authentic listening with all levels of students. Our experience has shown us that through using televised news assignments our students have practiced and improved their level of speaking, writing, and listening proficiency. The other advantage to using news in the classroom - aside, of course, from the high interest level it generates - is to make the students more aware and thereby more critical of what they see on the television news.


Elaine Hoter is head of the English department at Talpiot Teachers' Training College, Tel Aviv. She is presently working towards a doctorate on content-based learning at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem.
Laureen Rabbe is director of the Open University Language School in Jerusalem, and a teacher trainer at David Yellin Teachers Training College. Her current interests are video in the language classroom and self evaluation.

 

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