Monday, November 20, 2017

Netflix is Your High Interest and Low Cost Authentic Language Learning Resource by Huy Tran

by Huy Tran
Educational Technology Columnist

Bio: Huy Tran is a Global Education Designer who trains ALTs, JTEs, and teaches ESL learners how to harness the powerful tools of the 21st Century. He received his Bachelors of Science in Education from the Rossier School of Education at the University of Southern California. He was a math, science, and English JHS teacher for LAUSD for seven years. He then founded a private tutoring company online during the very early days of e-learning while testing out the potential with VOIP software as a teaching tool. After seven years, he realized he missed the living classroom and desired to see how an education system outside of the United States functions. Initially, a one year break from Los Angeles city life turned into eight years, a wife, a five year old, and his own private English school in the rural town of Yamaga. He has been introducing active learning, group project based learning, computer assisted learning, and other innovations into the Japanese education system of teaching English. First as an Assistant Language Teacher with Interac, then a direct hire by the local Board of Education to train and mentor new ALTs. He now devotes his time as an educational consultant to private schools, BOEs, and teachers on 21st Century, globalized, active learning strategies through workshops and presentations. He is an active member of JALT (the Japanese Association of Language Teachers) and conduct workshops, presentations and demos on the benefits of Skype in the Classroom, computer assisted learning, and autonomous learning. He has presented at conferences in Japan, Korea, and Vietnam. As a Microsoft Innovative Educator, he has mentored, trained, collaborated and connected with over 30 teachers in over 14 countries in the past five years. He firmly believes that the next 20 years will see an educational transition in methodologies, and that 20th Century institutional learning will be completely transformed.

The Dream as Reality

              As an English teacher, it would be a dream if you could buy a book or set of flashcards from a publisher, use it for a month with all of your students and then return all of those resources free of charge if all of your students did not like them one bit. That dream exists in today’s 21st Century language learning classroom. Netflix has thousands of high-interest English speaking content that is easily delivered across computers, tablets, and smartphones. Depending on the title, authentic English entertainment can also be viewed with dubbed Japanese, Chinese, Korean, Spanish and French voices, as well as, a selection of foreign language subtitles.

The Content

              There are thousands of titles in all genres to fit the tastes and interests of any language learner. The separate Kid Category even breaks down content from pre-k to pre-teen. Some excellent high interest content at the kid level (or just kid at heart) are Curious George, The Magic School Bus, Camp Lakebottom, the now retro Full House and its descendant, the rebooted Fuller House. All of the aforementioned titles feature Japanese and English audio and some also have subtitles in both languages. Jim Henson’s Word Party takes basic reading and phonetic skills to an interactive level that works well with a touch screen device or high speed computer. The cute animal characters ask questions in a variety of languages and the student(s) must listen carefully to select the correct answer. This Netflix Original show is a particularly useful way to monitor students’ listening comprehension, and pronunciation skills.

The Language Learning Activities

              Once a high interest movie or TV series is chosen, the skill building can begin. Streaming content can be used as a pre-knowledge exercise, and in parallel with key language lessons and skills, or used to model speaking rhythm and natural intonation, and even as a reward for completion of reading, writing, or test taking skills. Here are just a few effective activities:
l  Read the classic children’s book, The Polar Express and then view the film.
l  Watch episodes of Full House, first in Japanese audio with Japanese subtitles and then re-watch with English audio and subtitles.   
l  Watch scenes of books adapted to film such as The Hunger Games, The Little Prince, and A Series of Unfortunate Events before reading each chapter.
l  Have students listen carefully to documentaries such as Cosmos, and then have them brainstorm and write questions about each episode, as well as, practice interviewing each other with student generated comprehension questions.
l  Have students take dictation to lines of dialogue and then have them check for accuracy by turning on the subtitles after writing.
l  Have students turn on the English subtitles, copy down their favorites scene and then have them      act out the scene. (read this article about a JTE that does this with success)
l  Have students sing along to the titles to musical films and live concert shows by turning on the English subtitles.

The Cost Breakdown

              A one month free trial and a cancel anytime policy makes Netflix an extremely cost effective way to bring real English language tools for less than the cost of a new instructional DVD, workbook, or evening of kaiten-zushi. All levels of monthly membership include basic services of “Unlimited movies and TV shows, Cancel anytime, and First month free”. The Basic Level of service of 650 yen per month limits your classroom to only one screen for viewing at a time, no access to HD or Ultra HD quality content.

The Caveat, and its Caveat

              The price point is definitely not the make it or break it aspect when it comes to using this almost limitless English learning resource. In fact, too much content may have a paralyzing effect on some teachers since it will be up to the teachers themselves to sift through, check for appropriate age level content and curate what their students will find most interesting after a viewing or two. Lastly, despite having a large amount of Japanese entertainment such as kid friendly shows, dramas, anime, and NHK programming, the majority of which is only available in Japanese and without English audio or subtitles. Just like computer literacy, cinema culture or movie literacy, depends strongly on the personal preferences and activities of each students’ particular family. Yet, if the teacher knows their students’ skills well and their personal interests even better, then it takes just a few simple clicks to find or switch content that the students will happily wish to focus on during every lesson.


              Did this blog post inspire you? Or are you still in need of ideas? Perhaps you don’t have a lot of time to prepare: post your comments, questions and lesson plans on this topic on the ALTTO Facebook group.

-          A note from ALT training online’s David Hayter

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