Do you want to engage your students by selecting a video for 5EH01 'English Today' reading? In this update, the Principal Moderator advises on how to approach videos.
To ensure that GCSE English and English Language reflect the full range of situations in which English is used, and to engage students, we include digital texts in the selection for study in unit 1 of 5EH01 ‘English Today’. While teachers often report wanting to use videos with their students, they sometimes request guidance on how to approach the analysis of video in this context. Below, the Principal Moderator for this unit offers some suggestions about how to approach the analysis of video.
The Principal Moderator writes:
In previous series of Unit 1, very few students have analysed the videos provided for reading such as the Red Bull Project Air video in Extreme Sports or the School Meals Telegraph video on the Inner City School Dinner Case Study. Students should be reassured that they are being assessed on the same skills when analysing and comparing a video (or indeed any digital text) that they are when comparing paper texts.
In analysis of video, as with other texts, students need to be aware of time constraints and manage their time to focus on purpose and audience as well as analysing language and presentational features. Students should ensure they are aware that digital texts can have more than one audience and more than one purpose.
For example, the Telegraph video’s audience could be considered to be school children as well as adults in education with responsibility for school meals. Some students struggle because they try to ‘pin down’ one audience in a text, resulting in superficial comments such as ‘children do not wish to listen to lots of people speaking as they have short attention spans'.
The key to successful comparison is the selection of two comparable texts, and many schools rightly recognise that it is important to consider the interests of students when choosing texts for comparison. This is even more important with digital texts, especially video.
A text selection such as the School Meals video from the Telegraph was difficult to compare with the school menu, and students struggled to find points of comparison. With a digital text such as a video, it's often easier to compare with another digital text as the very nature of its being intended to be read onscreen creates an immediate starting point for comparison.
Students who compared the Telegraph video to the School Food Trust webpage found some helpful points of comparison (see the extract below). It's also possible to compare the video to the Times article as both are presented by a broadsheet newspaper, with different perspectives on healthy food in schools.
Comments can be made on language, image and presentation, and perspectives and ideas. For example, one student made some interesting comments on the perspective of the School Meals video, such as, ‘Having the camera level at the same height as those speaking adds to the video’s overall positive vibe that convinces you that a change can be made and encourages you to be part of it’.
It's not essential for students to be trained in the use of media terminology in order to comment on a video text. Students will not be penalised for not discussing images using technical terms like 'angles' or 'shots'. The section of answer quoted below does not use complex media terms but does comment on perspective, images and language:
"The writer of this text includes images of inner city London to start the video, such as tower blocks and concrete buildings. This helps to set the scene that the headteacher talks about when she says "in an inner city context". The text "All children can take part in growing food" appears on screen with a green background to show health and growth.
"The video is filmed so that the person recording it is at the same height as the schoolchildren, which shows that it reflects their positive perspective on growing their own food and their enthusiasm is shown when they cheer and smile at the camera. This reflects the same colouring as the School Food Trust webpage as the writers have similar perspectives on the importance of healthy food and nutrition for youngsters. The video is different however as it is informative as well as persuasive."
The lack of media terms does not impact on the quality of the answer and the full answer achieved the bottom of Band 4. It could have achieved a higher mark but the comparisons were not sufficiently detailed and specific.
In this section of an answer the student comments very well on the writer's perspective in the video:
"The writer used the images to place the audience in amongst the action and moves them in from the outside area into the school playground and garden. The writer is trying to use close up to make the audience feel how urban the surrounding area is and how closed in the school is. This then links with what the speakers say in the video about the children not having gardens at home and contrasts green space with concrete space."
Such comments could be compared with the School Food Trust webpage in the following way:
"In comparison, the writer of the webpage uses their images to show their direct meaning, healthy school food, rather than showing a contrast between urban and green. The pictures of young people enjoying food at school (they are wearing school uniform), recipes and menus show that the immediate perspective of this writer is that school food is to be healthy and nutritious. While the video suggests that schools have to find creative ways to provide healthy school food, the webpage is offering help to do it."
Layout features in a video that students can comment on are music, sound effects, words on screen, voices speaking, background pictures or colours. Again, there is no need to know terms like 'non-diegetic' as it is the comparison of ideas and perspectives, language, images and presentation and examples that is important.
I hope you find this helpful. If you have any comments, please do post them on the English forum. I hope this guidance encourages you to select video texts and that your students enjoy them.