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The role of television and televisual literacy in
language teaching and learning
by Dr Richard Kiely
- 1

Part one in the three part series

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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)

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Introduction

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.

Definition

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:

  • data for comprehension is presented visually and aurally;
  • it is grounded in and reflects a contemporary social and cultural context;
  • comprehension is facilitated by television literacy from another language context.

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