Video production in the classroom Learners behind the camera

Producing their own videos for lessons motivates learners.
Producing their own videos for lessons motivates learners. | Photo (detail): Rasulov © Adobe Stock

You must have incorporated a video into your lesson at some point? But have learners ever produced videos of their own in your classroom? These tips and tutorial film clips will help you to try this out in lessons.

Smartphones make it possible to produce audio and video simply and at minimal cost.  Anyone can produce videos and share them via platforms such as YouTube and Vimeo, or apps like WhatsApp. Participation in the sense of being involved in public debate is easier as a result.

But what does it mean for GFL teaching? Whereas up to a few years ago teachers mainly used videos and films in combination with receptive tasks or as a means of motivating students to speak, it is now possible for learners to produce video content for the classroom themselves. So learners are potential media producers. This potential is huge for collaborations, independent learning and project documentation – all teachers need to do is address video production specifically in lessons and offer appropriate guidance.

Why do we have videos in language lessons?

In addition to the aspects stated above, there are further advantages of working with videos in language classes:
  • You can use videos to work receptively and productively with learners at all levels. As with all teaching activities, it is important to have internally differentiated planning.
  • Videos are popular. This means that students are motivated to engage with their content or even produce their own films.
  • Teachers can use videos to adopt a learner-centred approach to their lesson planning: when selecting popular videos, learners can base their choices on their own interests, and they can incorporate their individual preferences into the creation of their own productions too.
  • Video production is a good way of linking informal and formal learning.
  • The option of repeating individual film clips supports learning at the students’ own speed.
  • Video subtitling can be used as a lesson activity. It’s a good way of practising both pronunciation and listening comprehension.

Two classroom scenarios

Consolidation of phrases and vocabulary through recording given dialogues
Sound familiar? The lesson content is important, but the learners are getting bored with the exercises given. They urgently need to learn vocabulary and phrases, but they aren’t doing this. At this point you have the opportunity to make the lesson less formal by setting tasks relating to an existing video or getting them to create their own – and at the same time this will help them achieve the learning objectives more effectively. You can find a specific example of how a lesson (Level: B1 / course section: people / subject: job applications) is linked with low-threshold video work here:
Subtitling to improve pronunciation and listening comprehension
This often happens as well: learners produce a video, but it’s difficult to understand. To ensure that learners are careful to make their formulations comprehensible, they can subtitle their fellow learners’ videos as an exercise. Find out how you can work with the YouTube editor (which is freely available) here:

Tips for video production

Audio: The easiest way is for learners to use the built-in microphone on the mobile device. With this approach, background noises are often picked up on the recording too. To prevent this, recommend that the learners film the video in a quiet environment.

Framing and panning: Here, less is more. The larger the frame, the higher the visual input. The background can then quickly start to look chaotic. For this reason, the frame area should focus on the main characters. To achieve this, the camera should be held as straight as possible without too many interruptions and adventurous panning during filming. This can be irritating for viewers. One-Shot videos are ideal for introducing learners to video production.

Lighting: A mix of natural and artificial light is ideal for video productions using mobile devices. Extreme light contrasts should be avoided.

Story: A video always tells a story. The structure of the story is key – outsiders need to understand it as well. Learners should have that at the back of their minds as they film.

Over/under challenging: Teachers tend to aspire to ambitious video productions. To ensure that learners have a successful experience, you should start with simple productions rather than attempting complex video projects – because that would call for a lots of creativity, technical expertise and teamwork. In GFL teaching, there is the additional language aspect. For this reason, video productions should be oriented towards lesson content. In order not to over or under challenge the learners, you can suggest different variants to them – ranging from reading out existing dialogues or changing dialogue settings, to an improvised dialogue.

Teacher as coach: You should advise the learner groups regarding the planning and implementation of the video production, and give them feedback. If the group loses sight of the task’s purpose, you should also intervene at a contact level.

Copyrights: Young people in particular often want to add well-known music as a backing track to a video they have made themselves, or insert film clips. However, only material that is self-produced or can be obtained licence-free on the internet may be used. To minimise the risk of copyright infringement, you could also use the Adobe Spark software to work with students. Licence-free content is offered here.

Beware of mobbing: Remarks from within the learner group as well as anonymous user comments on video productions can quickly have a destructive effect on the learning process. To avoid this situation, you have the following options:  
  1. Don’t have people appearing in the video.
  2. You can decide whether the videos can be viewed by the public and the comment function is enabled, with the learners’ agreement of course.
  3. The videos are only uploaded in secure spaces, for instance via a closed learning platform.
Have you ever produced videos in the classroom? You can use the comment function to share your experiences with us!