Watching videos in the French classroom is, as you know, a wonderful activity.
Well, maybe I should say that it CAN be a wonderful, engaging, and empowering activity.
It all depends, of course, on how well you prepare your video lesson.
It also depends on the mistakes you avoid.
Mistakes Teachers Make Using Video in the French Classroom
Mistake #1: not setting a goal for the video watching activity
Why are your students watching the video? What is the purpose of the activity?
If you can’t answer these questions or if your answers are ONLY “because it’s fun” and “to expose students to real, authentic language”, you might be in trouble, not because they are bad goals, but because they’re too vague.
There are two kinds of goals: your goal in giving that lesson and the goal you set for students.
They are related, for sure, but they’re not necessarily the same.
Your goal, among many others, might be to:
- increase their vocabulary
- improve their listening skills
- work on their inference and/or prediction skills
- assess their extensive comprehension
- assess their intensive comprehension
Their goals might be to:
- answer extensive questions, which in general terms means general comprehension questions
- answer intensive questions, which require more attention to details and “extra thinking”
- make lists of words they hear/see and sort them out
- make lists of words they believe will be in the video and check that list agains the actual video
- retell the video
- and many more
Video watching activities are as meaningful as the goals you set for students.
The simplest way, but not the only one, to set quick and easy goals is to make questions.
Before playing the video, ask students 1-2 extensive comprehension questions that can only be answered by watching the video – that will give them a reason to watch the video.
I usually avoid writing down the questions and I make sure students repeat my questions aloud a couple of time so they know exactly the information they’re looking for.
Again, make sure that you’re asking extensive comprehension questions.
You want them to answer general meaning questions the first time they watch the video.
After playing the video, follow up by asking students to give you the answers to your questions.
To sum it all up, don’t just play the video.
Mistake #2: not ACTIVELY watching the video before using it in the classroom
Well, watching the video is part of the lesson plan prepping, of course, but I don’t mean just watching the video, I mean actively listening to and watching the video.
As you’re watching and listening, pay attention and consider the following:
- do images support understanding?
- are there any images or words that you might need to introduce BEFORE playing the video?
- are there any spoken words that might be particularly hard for students to catch because of pronunciation or speed?
- could you play the images with no sound as part of a pre-task activity? For example, you could ask kids to predict some of the words they believe will be mentioned in the video.
- could you play the sound with no images as part of a pre-task activity? For example, you could ask kids to predict some of the images they believe will be in the video.
It might be hard to beat the curse of knowledge, but you have to watch the video as someone who’s not fluent in French and has never seen that video before.
Mistake #3: not using Safeshare to play Youtube videos
Safeshare removes all Youtube ads and also prevents the “suggested videos” from popping up.
It places the video on a neutral background that lets your students focus on the video better.
Just enter the Youtube video url on the Safeshare home page, click “generate safe view”, click “submit”, and that’s it!
Now you can copy the Safe share url if you need to use it later and you don’t want to do everything again.
Click to see what a video looks like on Safeshare: https://safeshare.tv/x/m4g7o-98ybE#v
By the way, I have no affiliation with Safeshare. I just think it’s a very useful service 🙂
It’s free and you don’t even have to sign up.
Mistake #4: turning video watching into a reading activity
Yes, there’s a place for using subtitles in the classroom.
No, subtitles shouldn’t be used every time you play a video.
If students are reading, they’re not watching.
Images are not mere amusement.
You want students to grasp meaning from images and sound.
That’s why you’re using videos.
Mistake #5: expecting students to understand every. single. word. in the video…
… and playing the video over and over again until they do!
This is a mistake regardless of students’ level of proficiency in the language and the level of difficulty of the video.
Not all your students will understand everything. Maybe not even your brightest.
How much are they supposed to understand?
I say enough to achieve the goal you set up at the beginning of the activity.
Besides, students will pick up on your expectations and feel frustrated for not understanding everything instead of feeling accomplished for understanding as much as they did.
Mistake #6: believing you have to play the video in its entirety
You don’t have to play the entire video.
I’m not saying you shouldn’t.
I’m just saying you don’t have to.
Select the parts that make sense to be used, or break down a longer video into smaller segments.
When breaking down a video into shorter segments, approach each segment as a stand-alone video. In other words, there should be a lesson plan for each part.
Mistake #7: not having a plan B in case the video can’t be played
We should always check the equipment before a video lesson.
However, it’s not always possible because, for instance, the equipment is not in our classroom.
And sometimes the equipment is working, but the internet (in case you’re using Youtube) is down or slow on the day you need it.
That’s why you should have a plan B!
Mu suggestion is for the plan B to be a listening activity so that your students can still work on skills that don’t involve reading.
Mistake #8: believing that the theme of the video is always enough to justify its use in the classroom
It’s Easter, so let’s play Easter-themed videos!
It’s Halloween, so let’s play Halloween-themed videos!
And it’s Christmas… ok, I think you get what I’m saying 🙂
But you might be asking: “Lucy, don’t you love creating posts with links to themed videos?”
Well, if you read the subheading carefully, you’ll see that I wrote that the “theme is NOT ALWAYS enough”.
Sometimes, though, it is enough. If you’re using videos to review key vocabulary or practice new words, the theme is enough.
However, we should find ways to integrate as much of what is being taught in the classroom into the video lesson as possible.
I’ll give you an example.
Let’s say you’ve been teaching kids how to ask for and give directions in French and it’s Halloween time, so you want to show Halloween videos to your students.
Find a Halloween-themed video that integrates with what you’ve been teaching.
Take, for example, the video “Chanson d’Halloween”, which you can watch in my Halloween freebies and videos post.
The post-task activity for that video could be a role-play between two students, in which one asks for directions to get to the house where he/she can get the best candies! It could also be learning the best itinerary to avoid running into a candy-stealing witch 🙂
Not only will students be listening to Halloween vocabulary by watching the video, but they’ll also be practicing directions.
Mistake #9: the video activity ends with the video itself
In other words, there’s no post-task activity.
Now, there is something I should have mentioned at the beginning of this post.
My whole teaching training was based on TBL and that’s how my teaching brain has been wired: pre-task, task, post-task.
The video is the task. If you stop there, there’s something seriously missing.
I plan on blogging more about TBL and give you suggestions for using the framework for creating lesson plans, but I’ll share a few ideas here.
Below are a few suggestions for post-task activities. They should be related to the topic of the video as much as possible.
- simple writing prompts, like writing a text message as if they were one of the characters in the video
- re-enacting the video
- creating a new voice-over narration for the video
- filling out an exit ticket with a couple of words and expressions they learned and how that vocabulary will help them out in the real world
- making one drawing that represents the whole video
- creating a poster (like a film poster) for the video
The same way that we shouldn’t just play the video (mistake #1), we shouldn’t just stop when the video ends.
Well, that was a lengthy post!
Hope you never make these mistakes teachers make using video.
I know I’ve made a couple, but learned my lesson… eventually 🙂
QUESTION: what other mistakes would you add to this list?
Leave me your answer to the question or any other comments below!
Thank you for your time! Merci!
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