Four short videos to help your language students improve their fluency

I’m planning to do a 4/3/2 fluency activity in an ESL class of mine in the near future.

If you’re not familiar with the 4/3/2 technique, the idea is that students first watch a short film or examine a comic strip, preferably without any dialog, and then tell the story in their own words three times. The first time they narrate it, they have four minutes; the second time, they have three minutes; and the third time, they have two minutes; hence, 4/3/2. (You can also do 3/2/1, 2/1.5/1, or anything else like that, as long as the time limit decreases from narration to narration.) The goal is to help students improve their fluency by forcing them to compress their narration.

I polled my PLN to get suggestions for short, silent narrative videos. After watching several, I picked out four as being especially appropriate for this activity, and I want to share them with all of you!

Ellie and Carl’s Relationship from “Up” – 4:21

This video is almost the best of all worlds. The length is perfect, it’s packed full of concrete, memorable, and reportable details, and it’s considered to be a short film masterpiece. However, it’s also famously poignant and bittersweet- it’s not unusual for people to shed some tears in watching it- so be sure your class can handle it. I know that at least one person in my current class would not be able to handle it, so I’m keeping this one on the shelf this semester.

For the Birds – 3:23

This one is a short, funny, unobjectionable, cross-cultural video which is easy to interpret with a limited vocabulary and which has many discrete, reportable, concrete events. It’s short enough to watch twice before beginning the narration portion of the activity. This is what I plan to use in my class.

Pear Stories – 5:54 (Sorry, direct embedding is disabled for this video, so I can only link to it!)

I believe that this video was specifically designed for eliciting narratives from people in the course of linguistics/SLA research. It’s very concrete and easy to understand, and students shouldn’t have trouble providing a narration. Honestly, though, it’s boring. I’ll probably use it in my class as a follow-up activity if the first activity with “For the Birds” is a success.

Paperman – 6:33

This video is a bit more difficult and abstract. At 6:33, it’s also quite long. It may be appropriate for higher-level students. I’m personally uncomfortable with the way it romanticizes the aggressive and heteronormative trope of man-chasing-down-mysterious-woman-after-brief-public-encounter, but it seems like 99% of people see it as nothing but a sweet and cute story, so I’ll try not to let ideology get in the way of pedagogy!

Do you have any suggested videos? Share them in the comments!

February 12, 2014Permalink 1 Comment

One thought on “Four short videos to help your language students improve their fluency

  1. Pingback: 4/3/2 in the 21st Century: Formative Assessment of Fluency through Digital Recording

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