Friday 18 April 2008

Iconic teen video

Using video clips with teenagers can be enormously motivating for them, IF you get the right content. Getting the content right involves taking a look into the lives of our students and finding out what kind of things they are watching.

One of the most high profile examples of this is LonelyGirl15.
LonelyGirl15, which became a Youtube phenomenon, depicted a young teenage girl talking to her camera and discussing some of the intimate, bizarre and often incredibly trivial issues of her life. The ‘show’, a series of 2 -4 minute clips, was soon attracting audiences of millions and it soon emerged that it was a ‘fake’ and that the LonelyGirl15 was an actress working with a small film crew and script writer.
Since then the show has transformed into a sort of on going thriller. there is now both a UK version, KateModern as well as the original LonelyGirl15 series.
For more information on the plot and background see: LG Pedia

These two shows provide a huge potential source authentic language as teenagers in the UK and North America speak it. It’s also wrapped up in a context and genre which teenagers / 20-somethings can identify to. Though using this material isn’t without its pitfalls and drawbacks.

What I like about it
  • The clips are short, but self contained and will download quite quickly.
  • They really show the way that English is being used by young adults.
  • The clips are quite enigmatic and the story is inferred and implied rather than depicted, so the material can be useful for developing students thinking and deductive skills.
  • Many of them deal with young people’s issues and attitudes
  • The characters seem like very ordinary people
  • The clips can be very engaging

Here’s a just a couple of examples, from a collection of hundreds of clips which I think could well be usable.

From LonelyGirl15: Boy problems

From LonelyGirl15: Parent problems

From KateModern: A proposal

From KateModern: The order

Some ideas for using this material with students
  • Students to watch a single clip and make deductions about the story, what’s been happening to the character, what the relationships are to other people mentioned etc.
  • Students to watch different clips then build up and exchange character information and try to decide what the relationships are between various characters
  • Students view the clip without sound and make deductions about the topic and mood of the person
  • Create gist or specific information questions
  • Get your students to watch and then write questions that they would like to ask the character
  • Get your students to create and video their own response to one of the characters in the videos
  • Get your students to watch for cultural information and look for things that would be different with their own culture (clothes, household objects, way people interact, gestures etc.)
  • Get students to watch and compare a clip from the UK and the North American series and identify differences in the use of language.
  • Get students to watch and compare a clip from each series without sound and look for cultural and environmental differences between UK and North American culture
  • Create discussion classes around some of the issues touched on in the clips
  • Students create their own localised version of the series.
What I'm not so sure about
  • Some of the clips contain violence and bad language and show young people drinking. This is something you might actually ant to deal with in class, or avoid altogether, so be careful which clips you choose.
  • You might have to be prepared to defend your use of this kind of material if your students go home and start watching it in front of their parents
  • Much as I find this view into the world of 'young people today' (Did I really write that?) quite intriguing I also find it slightly disturbing
Anyway, whether we like this kind of content or not, it does seem to be the kind of thing that is becoming increasingly popular as internet entertainment, and if we really want to engage with our students and engage them in our classes, I don't think we can afford to ignore it.

I would also love to hear from anyone who has been using LonelyGirl15 or KateModern with your classes, so please post a comment and share your experience.



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