How can we teach English and also develop these critical thinking skills?  A technique I’ve found to be effective is using video vignettes in the classroom. You can exploit a short (1-2 minute) video vignette of a social or workplace encounter for many levels of learning and skill development.

The Key to Using Video Vignettes:  Multiple Viewings
Once you have chosen an appropriate video, you can show the video multiple times for different outcomes.  Each time, focus on a particular aspect of the video and follow the viewing with classroom activities to develop students’ language and critical thinking skills.

1.  Focus on Content     Slide1

Develop these skills: comprehending language in context; summarizing; reporting information; and evaluating information.

Classroom activities:

  • Answer comprehension questions, wh-questions, and true/false statements based on the video content.
  • Listen for details to identify who says what or complete closes.
  • Create activities around disappearing dialogs, retelling the information in the conversation, and reenacting or reconstructing the conversation.

2.  Focus on Language    Slide2

Develop these skills: grammar, vocabulary, intonation, and pronunciation.

Classroom activities:

  • Identify the language point (listen for it or highlight it in the video script).
  • Practice the language point (with cloze activities; substitution drills; pair read-alouds; dictations; audio-recording of student work).
  • Apply the language point to new contexts (practice new conversations using  conversation frameworks and using language point in discussions).

3.  Focus on Pragmatics  Slide3

Develop these skills: making inferences; analyzing language usage; supporting generalizations with evidence; identifying conflict; and solving problems

Classroom activities:

  • Listen for or highlight language in the video script.
  • Generate and practice alternative language to accomplish same purpose.
  • Perform role plays and problem solving scenarios.

4.  Focus on Social Communication Slide4

Develop these skills: recognizing and using body language, register, and conversation cues to effectively communicate

Classroom activities:

  • Perform and video-record role-plays.
  • Analyze student videos for social communication.
  • Write conversation exchanges.
  • Apply similar communication styles to other contexts.

5.  Focus on Culture Slide5

Develop these skills: recognizing workplace and social expectations and standards; making evidence-based generalizations using details; identifying cultural values and assumptions; and communicating on diverse teams

Classroom activities:

  • Do Quick Writes to uncover cultural assumptions.
  • Analyze language in video to support generalizations.
  • Write formal paragraphs supporting a claim with evidence.
  • Explain values in oral or poster-board presentations.
  • Perform role plays and problem solving scenarios.