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Using DVD in the EFL Classroom
Alexandre Foch S. da Silva
Cristina M. Pescador
Lisiane Ott Schulz

It was after our eyes were caught by an article about the advantages of using DVD’s in our classes (Frade, 2001), that we had the idea for our workshop at the 8th BRAZ-TESOL National Convention. We challenged ourselves to present something that would be appealing to our students in the sense that they would be eager to be part of our project and help us build up the material for our workshop. With that in mind, we started doing our homework. First of all, we had to get acquainted with the equipment since we had just been introduced to this new technology. We then began developing and designing all kinds of activities aiming at the exposure of our students to real, authentic, contextualized video material. Funny thing is that we didn’t even have DVD players in our classrooms! So we had to take a laptop computer with DVD-ROM to our classrooms so that we could pilot the activities with the students.

We are aware that much has been said about the advantages and disadvantages of using authentic material in our EFL classrooms. Anyway, until very recently in Brazil, whenever we wanted to create lessons or activities with authentic video materials, the issue was a lot more related to where and how we could get the authentic material than to what kind of activities we would devise with them. There was always some good authentic reading material, but audio-video input used to be much more complicated. In fact, before the advent of the Internet and the cable or satellite TV is was almost impossible! Or else - it was extremely time-consuming and many times rather expensive. Quite often we would even manage to import some audio and video material in order to have the original audio and eliminate captions and subtitles in Portuguese. But we had had to pay for such “imported goods” in dollars.

We had been using videos in our classes for a long time - both published language teaching video materials and film videos with original sound and no subtitles in Portuguese (close-captioned in English). As soon as we started using the DVD’s some differences became quite obvious (see chart). Besides, there is another factor contributing to students’ motivation and interest: DVD is still rather new and not so many people have one at home.

Why would we be willing to use DVD’s and other original film videos in our classes? Just because we knew that authentic images and sound can be more motivating. As Ward & Lepeintre (1996) (apud King, 2002) say It’s “A film with a story that wants to be told rather than a lesson that needs to be taught.” Or as Braddock (1996), Mejia(1994), Stempleski (2000) and Wood (1995) (apud King, 2002) say “The realism of movies provides a wealth of contextualized linguistic, paralinguistic and authentic cross-cultural information, classroom listening comprehension and fluency practice.”

Now here is another challenge. How would our students react? How can we enchant our students and avoid scaring them away? We know students can be apprehensive and anxious and that this will activate all their emotional filters when they know they’ll be exposed to this kind of situation. However, we do believe the way students react depends a lot on our ability as teachers to help students face authentic material and provide opportunities for them to build on their confidence by realizing they know much more than they think they do. So, it is our responsibility to get students’ interest when providing them with realistic listening practice. We have to bear in mind that students need to have fun while they learn, otherwise they can feel it as a torture. Most of all, as Susan Stempleski claims “teachers need to lead students to an appreciation of video as a valuable tool for language learning and help them to develop viewing skills which they can apply to their video and television viewing experiences outside the classroom.”

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