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Using Authentic Video in the Language Classroom

Jane Sherman
Cambridge Handbooks for Language Teachers,
Cambridge University Press, 2003, 277 pages
ISBN: 0-521-79961-9

Using film (on video or DVD), television and webcasts in the language classroom is commonly recognised as valuable, as is the use of any authentic material, but teachers are often unsure of how to use the material effectively, tending to use it occasionally and as an entertaining departure from routine activities.

Using Authentic Video in the Language Classroom, then, is a welcome guide to using such material, providing a rationale, a categorisation of types of material available, and a wide variety of activities which can be used again and again with new and different clips, sequences or whole features.
Notwithstanding the title, the book applies to the use of all visual formats, and examines both drama and non-fiction. In the first category full- length feature films, other forms of video drama including sitcoms and soap operas, and short drama clips and comedy sketches are discussed, while documentaries, news, talk and game shows and sports programmes are considered in the second.

Of greatest value, however, is the collection of more than 150 activities, preceded by a useful section on comprehending video. Each activity has a clear aim, a ‘minimum’ level is stated, materials and preparation are described, and an easy-to-follow procedure is outlined. Variations are often suggested.

Inevitably, teachers using this book will need to take into account how well their learners have been trained and how often they have been exposed to this kind of activity, since video based activities involve listening, watching and often writing or performing a task at the same time and the difficulty of seemingly straightforward tasks is often underestimated. However, teachers should not be discouraged by the apparent difficulty of authentic material since it is the task rather than the text which needs to be appropriate to the level. This book provides appropriate tasks and should encourage teachers to make video part of their regular teaching repertoire. An extremely useful addition to any resource collection.

183 February/March 2005