The role of television and televisual literacy in
This is a series of three articles on the use of television as a source of material and activities for the language classroom. This article looks at some background issues, and presents a methodological framework for using television material for developing comprehension skills, analysing language forms in interactions, and more widely, exploring televisual literacy – the skills we use to identify TV genres, programme types, and cultural narratives.
The next article illustrates the application of these principles in the use of 3-minute extract from The Royle Family (a BBC situation comedy programme) in a range of lessons over a two-year period. (To appear in early October 2005)
The third article examines some research issues in the use of television in the classroom. It sets out sample enquiries which teachers can develop to understand the impact of television material in their classes, and thus inform both cognitive and socio-cultural perspectives on language learning. (To appear in early November 2005)
Technology has changed the life of the language teacher. It has increased the range of resources which teachers can use; it has facilitated display of these resources in ways which eases the task of the teacher; and it has facilitated access to these resources in a way which means that learning can take place beyond the classroom.
Two areas of technology have received a lot of attention in the English as a Foreign Language (EFL) methodological literature and in the research which is gradually informing teaching practices. First, the tape recorder has brought sound to the classroom for nearly half a century: as a mainstay of audiolingual approaches, audio recordings have become a TESOL institution, a companion to any serious coursebook, and a focus of teaching skills in initial teacher training courses. Second, the computer is a more recent development, and, although there are still many questions about ways to harness its potential, is fast becoming an essential tool of the trade. Television, a technology which combines sound and visual information and presents language use in rich social and cultural contexts, has not had the same impact as these technologies. The aim of this article is to explore the potential of television and set out a framework for using television material in language learning and teaching.
In this article I use television to refer to clips, programmes and other material made for television. Such material typically includes advertisements, and programmes such as news, drama, game shows and reality TV. Also included might be films, and home or student made video material. The typical material is particularly relevant to language teaching and learning as it builds on knowledge of popular culture, and develops tele-visual literacy. Film and amateur video also have particular qualities which make them relevant to the language teaching task, and to a large extent the same principles relating to use in the classroom apply. In brief, television materials has three features:
Television (and video generally) as a technology has not had as strong an impact as the tape recorder and the computer in language teaching and learning. In social life more generally however, the advent of television has had a strong impact, changing how people live their lives in ways comparable to the development of radio/recorded sound, and of digitised information technology. There are a number of possible reasons for this lack of impact on TEFL practice:
Many of these reasons for the lack of uptake of television in TEFL practice are historical or accidental. Four aspects of recent developments of television service provision have increased the likelihood that television can be a useful resource:
Television and authenticity
Thus, the nature of the resource and the facility of access to it suggest that television can be a rich source of data for language learning, beyond as well as within the classroom. Where learning goals are related to communication skills, the authenticity of such data is an important consideration. Television affords authenticity to language learning in three ways:
Some teaching principles
Language learning from television is not the same as television viewing. Some principles need to be observed to ensure that the use of television in the classroom provides rich opportunities for language learning.
The table below has a range of activities which the language teacher might experiment with or develop further. The focus in the three columns relates to
The focus here is the development of listening comprehension skills, particularly the skills required where aural data is augmented by visual data in ways which both facilitate comprehension and present information overload challenges.
The focus here is the phonological, lexical and grammar (morphology and syntax) forms of the language. Typically, in a communicative teaching framework, the focus on forms is developed after the comprehension stage.
Activities in this column explicitly exploit televisual literacy, instinctive understanding of the purpose and context of events such as sports interviews, interactions in drama programmes, and politeness (or increasing, absence thereof!!) in game shows. The learning derives from analysis of language to understand how intentions are realised and identities are performed. The three rows in the table present three contexts of language teaching and learning:
Theses are not wholly separate contexts: rather, they represent classroom organisational perspectives for the teacher, which become organically blended as activities develop and learning journeys progress.
Television material represents an embarrassment of riches for the language teacher. It provides an extensive range of material, which always involves language in a social context. Comprehension activities can be based narrowly on the language used, or more broadly, engage understanding of the social and cultural issues which our shared televisual literacy increasingly facilitates. Television material can be a mainstay of a course, especially where the learning goals relate to intercultural learning and communication skills, or an occasional activity, supplementing a coursebook-based programme. Either way, it is likely to ne most successful where some consensus to work with television data is forged in the learning context;
© R.Kiely August 2005
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