Music Videos in the Classroom - Young People Exploring the World

Seminar Paper 2009 15 Pages

English - Pedagogy, Didactics, Literature Studies


Table of Contents

1. Introduction

2. Didactic analysis of the topic
2.1. Music videos in foreign language teaching
2.2. Learning possibilities
2.3. Employing the New Media for this topic
2.4. Requirements for the students and for the learning objectives

3. Comments on the individual lessons
3.1. Lesson 1 - propaedeutics part 1
3.2. Lesson 2 - propaedeutics part 2
3.3. Lesson 3 - propaedeutics part 3
3.4. Lesson 4 - propaedeutics part 4
3.5. Lesson 5 - start of the presentations


Process plans for the lessons

Lesson 1 - propaedeutics part 1

Lesson 2 - propaedeutics part 2

Lesson 3 - propaedeutics part 3

Lesson 4 - propaedeutics part 4

Lesson 5 - Start of the presentations


1. Introduction

Music videos are an important part of the lifestyle of many youths, they have been spread over the whole world by the television channel MTV (Music Television)1 and they have become an essential aspect of the popular culture. Obviously, the Hessian curriculum has realized the importance of music videos: The topic "Young People Exploring the World" ("Jugendliche und ihre Welt") for 11th grade includes the sub-topic "Culture and Media" ("Kultur und Medien")2. This sub-topic deals with all sorts of pop culture, (music, videos, literature, advertisements, fashion, sports, etc.).

Music videos are excellent for matters of foreign language education, they provide authentic material3, which is a welcome variation for many pupils who are only used to artificial learning materials, and they are very interesting for pupils because they are part of their everyday life. Therefore, music videos provide a brilliant opportunity for the pupils to discuss and analyse. Through thorough analysis of music videos, the pupils will become aware of how music videos are made and which impact they can have on us, and also which ethical values they propagate (as well by the lyrics of the specific song as well by the composition of the video itself) or in which ways they reflect our society.

It is important that the pupils are allowed to choose their own music videos, because then they will be more motivated as if the videos were selected by the teacher. However, the teacher should become acquainted with the specific video before it is presented to the class by the pupil because there are, of course, music videos, which are not suitable (for example, because the content could be too violent or sexual to be presented in the classroom or the video could be too long, it should not exceed 5 minutes for obvious reasons).

For a fruitful analysis and discussion, the pupils need to do a bit of theory, the teacher should give a brief introduction to the basics of video-making, e.g. camera perspectives, cutting techniques, etc., so that the students understand that in a music video (just like in a movie) everything has a purpose and a certain effect on the spectator. Equipped with this fundamental knowledge, the students are enabled to analyse their specific music video on their own and to present them to the class, and the rest of the class can discuss or add aspects which the presenter may not have found. In this termpaper, I will present an exemplary teaching unit about music videos: At first, I will do a didactic analysis of this topic, including the learning possibilities and the skills that should be conveyed to the pupils. The second part will be the composition of the teaching unit with a plan for every single lesson. The process plans for each lesson and some of the required learning materials can be found in the appendix.

2. Didactic analysis of the topic

2.1. Music videos in foreign language teaching

"(...) Media culture is part of the popular culture in which students interact. Quite frequently, there is a serious gap between the pedagogical experiences provided by formal education and the audiovisual world we live in (...). In the classroom, teachers officiate a liturgy of the past, exhaustively analyzing lessons locked in books, whereas students belong to a generation that cannot find its place at school. It is a generation of video games, multimedia, DVDs, and a participative digital society interconnected through the internet. One of the most serious problems educators should be reflecting upon today is the contradiction that exists between the educational system and the sociocultural environment into which new generations of students are born into and in which they grow up" (Funes 165-166).

This statement of Virginia S. Funes is absolutely true: It is often the case that the pupils are confronted with artificial learning materials instead of authentic materials. A permanent exposure to typical school- learning materials can result in a growing demotivation of the students. Therefore it is important to provide the class also with authentic material, for example music videos. Music videos have the advantage that they are part of the lifestyle of many youths, many young people are fascinated by this medium and they like to talk about the newest videos of their most favourite musicians; this can be a big advantage in foreign language education: It seems probable that students are more willing to talk about a music video than about an ordinary, mostly rather boring schoolbook text, even when they have to talk in another tongue. In 1985, Ellis proposed the axiom that the learning of languages is usage of languages (Rüschoff 54). Music videos are therefore very useful for the learning of languages because when they are used in foreign language education, they can induce many students to speak in the target language.

2.2. Learning possibilities

Music videos are interesting authentic materials for the students. Most of them will like it to present their favourite videos to the class and afterwards discuss them with their classmates. This is the most important aspect: Music videos can encourage the students to speak in their foreign language, therefore, the first learning possibility is a fluent speech in the target language. The second learning possibility is the improvement of the general presentation skills of the pupils, they probably will become more confident during reports and presentations.

In the third place, students should learn how music videos are composed (e.g., cutting techniques, camera perspectives, use of colour, "split screens, simultaneity and a fragmentary narrative" (Steinberg 92) and the aesthetic effects of them), which emotional impact they can have on us and how they can be interpreted in terms of their cultural meaning as a special medium (e.g. that "music videos recycle the society´s pictorial memory, ranging from the altarpiece to the press photo (...). Independent from content, everything in pictorial form is used and can be used. Rythm and cut merge even the incompatible into a new metamorphosis " (Steinberg 91-92).)

It should be made clear that music videos are a highly important aesthetic phenomenon and that they "contribute to the international expansion of youth culture styles, and they lead to national variants as well as to a homogenizing of scenes" (93). The students should also become aware of the fact that the visual emphasis of music videos may restrain the musical dimensions, because three quarters of sensory information is perceived by the eye (Shuker 167-168).

Another aspect of music videos, which is quite important, are the stylistic differences for different music genres, for example, "heavy metal videos make a considerable use of wide-angle lens and zoom shots in keeping with their emphasis on a "live concert" format (168) and hip hop videos feature low camera perspectives "to express the respect of the gangster" (Steinberg 94), or are reduced to black and white pictures to produce "an authentic touch of the videos" and to indicate "the hard reality on the street" (94).

Fourthly, since further elements of the New Media (like blogs, email, youtube) will be used for research or to publish the results and enhance the exchange of information between the class and the teacher, there is the learning possibility of a better skill in the usage of the New Media, which must not be undervalued because good competences in the New Media are very important in our present information society and also later for the jobs of the pupils (Rüschoff 160).


1 "Within a matter of months MTV became one of the most powerful forces operating in the music and entertainment domain. In only a couple of years MTV took over radio´s longstanding role as the medium that moved acts from oblivion to celebrity status. Since videos sold records, music companies began coughing up huge sums of money to make the films hipper and more chic. (...) MTV not only exerted a major impact on popular music but also on cinematography and other aesthetic forms. MTV-inspired handheld cameras and quick-cut editing soon revolutionized TV and movie-making (...)" (Steinberg 84, 87).

2 The Hessian curriculum can be found at: http://lernarchiv.bildung.hessen.de/lehrplaene/gymnasium/englisch/index.html

3 For more information about the importance of authentic learning materials, see Rüschoff 62.


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University of Marburg – Anglistik
music videos young people exploring the world new media foreign language teaching lesson plan




Title: Music Videos in the Classroom - Young People Exploring the World