Power of Film & News in Language Learning.

Education & Technology

Lost in a cloud of resources?

When people think about learning or teaching a language, the first thing I consider is content, materials, or curricula. In the past, this mostly meant published language learning books, cassettes, or cds for audio input. Times have changed and we now live in an exciting age. But, are teachers fully utilizing the resources at their disposal for the well-being of their students?

Learning outcomes
This post describes how I bring together complementary resources for brain-friendly learning. Part of my work lies in exploring media-rich content and blending it together in such as way as to maximize learning outcomes. Sometimes, I focus on music, sometimes, on story-telling. On other occasions, I focus on games or creative writing. Today, I’m going to focus on film and news.

I believe that film and news can incorporate multi-sensory experiences in learning. Although I’m focusing on news today, in practice all of my courses are a subtle mixture of multi-media and creative methodologies, whether the courses are for exams, business, or general fluency.

News and environment
With the WizIQ classroom at my disposal for live online sessions and moodle as my learning management system, I can manage group courses for fluency building very easily. This is extremely important for the types of courses I’m about to describe and recommend. I am referring to the flipped classroom, autonomous learning, and getting the best out of amazing resources online. So, I’ve got the environments and I’ve got the resources. What are they and what is it all about?

Asynchronous with Moodle
Fun preparation and exploration before class
I help my students on WizIQ to register with English Addicts online course on WizIQ, my website of choice for autonomous learning in a traditional news style format.

Basically, the students can easily log in and become immersed in an attractive news environment with excellently written world news articles at three levels; easy, medium and difficult. These levels match English Language Teaching (ELT) distinctions for elementary, intermediate and advanced English. Students can choose accents they want to listen to for the podcasting lessons and they can do interactive vocabulary exercises. Beyond that, there is a detailed speaking section for the teacher to use in class and get students to activate what they have learnt. There are very interesting Webquest challenges and teachers have their own tracking management systems such as Moodle so they can track all students who are using the courses under their school account.

It is not just this attractive functionality which is important. What I feel is that students need to increase their world knowledge in general to perform well in speaking and writing. All international exams, and published course books have certain topics students need to cover. Reading news articles is the best way to deepen their knowledge of these topics naturally, and it exposes them to real English. They can assimilate expressions, collocations, and develop more articulate writing styles; not to mention becoming citizen journalists of this exciting new digital age.

Blending resources
In my film and news courses, I choose a list of topics that will prepare students for exams or other specific learning objectives. This means finding articles from English addicts that correspond with Film clips or courses from English Central.

English Central is a famous site that I like to use because students can get speaking practice when they are not with me. They watch movie clips and then the voice recording software allows them to practice and test their pronunciation. It is very effective and great fun as students can choose from among many film clips, documentaries or popular Hollywood movie clips.

Therefore, students have a course of film & news topics that will empower them to study ahead of class and have fun getting deeper into the language. The topics correspond accurately to their learning objectives, whether the they’re business, academic, or social.

Live online.

There are more challenges with activities in the virtual classroom to consolidate what students learn. Firstly, there are YouTube movie clips for many types of lessons or speaking interactions which are designed to activate the precise knowledge that has been mapped out on their courses. There are many communication games that can be played or role play scenarios that are helpful for fluency, exams and business presentations, negotiations or meetings etc. For more ideas on how to teach with movies, I recommend “ELT goes to the movies” by Maria Brumana Methologia and Monica Segura.

Breaking news and breakout rooms
Although I have chosen to use English Addicts and English Central for my flipped class approach, I’m really sharing what’s best online when it comes to news and learning. So, for live online classes, you can access Breaking English News by Sean Banville, one of the most famous ELT sites of all time, with pdfs and mp3s for teachers and students who are only using live online sessions. The reason I have associated Breaking English News with breakout rooms is because I have Sean Banville’s great book ‘1,000 ideas’ – it’s full of teaching tips that can also be adapted for guessing game scenarios and implemented in creative ways via break-out rooms.

The breakout rooms on WizIQ allow us to separate students into groups. This helps to change class dynamics mid-stream and increase interactivity. It’s a set-up conducive to using more language games or creating TV style chat shows. I have many ideas for this and after some experimentation will write about various activities to use in the breakout rooms.

Last but not least is the BBC learning English. This website has everything on it, from serious news to edutainment. It is suitable for both live online classes, the flipped classroom, or even fully asynchronous moodle courses.

If you need to focus on Amercian English, you can access the Voice of America. There are many resources online beyond what I’ve mentioned, but these are the most important and most practical for me. I’d love other teachers to comment here and say what their favourite film and news resources are.

Beyond and beyond Film and News, of course, you can use comics, animation and graphic novels….etc…..stay tuned for more.

Sylvia Guinan

is an online English teacher, writer and blogger who facilitates professional development online. She uses brain-friendly techniques to help students and teachers around the world. She designs educational materials, develops courses, writes resource papers and publishes ebooks. Her work is the result of much research into the psychology of learning, as well as hands-on experience with multi-media technology.

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