Wednesday, August 03, 2016

Using Crash Course World History Videos for IELTS Listening

(TESOL Worksheets--IELTS, IELTS Listening)

Google Drive Folder HERE

1. The Agricultural Revolution
2. Indus Valley Civilization
3. Mesopotamia
4. Egypt
5. The Persians and the Greeks
6. Buddha and Ashoka
7. Chinese History
8. Alexander the Great
9. The Silk Road
10. The Roman or Republic
11. Christianity from Judaism to Constantine
12. Fall of The Roman the 15th Century

I stumbled upon Crash Course videos a while back (in the course of my usual mindless Internet surfing) and I have found them to be both entertaining and educational.
I'm not the target audience for these videos--the target audience is high school students cramming for an exam--but, whatever, I enjoy them anyway.  Judge me if you will.

I thought these videos were entertaining enough that they would be of interest to my IELTS students.  I also thought it would be good practice for IELTS listening part 4.

Granted, it's not a perfect match up.  I'll admit right up front that by using these videos in an IELTS class, I'm trying to force a square peg into a round hole.
 The videos are longer than IELTS Listening part 4.  And the speed at which the information is delivered is slightly faster than the IELTS test.  (IELTS part 4 is designed to be at a natural speed, but the fast rate  at which the host John Green races all through the information is actually probably faster than natural speed.)
All of that makes these videos more difficult for the students than the actual IELTS test.
On the other hand, there are a lot of things that make these videos easier than the IELTS. The images and visual aids of the video can help students to infer meaning even when they can't catch the words.  The video doesn't contain the various misdirects and distractors which the IELTS test is so famous for.  And the worksheets (which I've borrowed from this website here) do not contain the synonyms and paraphrasing which the IELTS test uses.

So...yeah, I'll admit that it's questionable whether these videos are really suitable for an IELTS class.  But I've been using them anyway.  They're interesting, they're informative, they help to build the students' vocabulary, and they help to accustom the students to listening to academic lectures in English--but in a really fun and lively way.

I'm hoping the added difficulty of the increased rate of speed, and the added helpfulness of the visuals, may cancel each other out, and in the end the total cognitive burden will be similar to the IELTS test.

In addition, I'm hoping the added historical knowledge will help my students out on the other sections of the IELTS test.
One of the dirty little secrets of the IELTS test is that it's not simply testing English proficiency.  Background knowledge about any of the academic topics in the reading or listening sections will greatly aid comprehension, and a strong background in the social sciences is a big help to Speaking Part 3 and Writing Task 2.

(Sidenote: This is arguably unfair, and it's one of many problems I have with the IELTS test--I've already commented on the cultural bias of  some of the Writing Task 2 questions in a previous post.  But I'll save my full rant on all the faults of IELTS for another post.  In my day-to-day teaching, I just accept the IELTS test as something I can't change, and just focus on trying to help my students do  the best they can within the flawed system.)

The rationale for using these videos in class, including the benefits of studying the social sciences for speaking Part 3 and Writing Task 2, are all given to the students on the Slide Show for the first lesson.

A typical lesson follows this pattern:

1). Introduce a pre-listening strategy
2). Introduce 5 new vocabulary words.  (For each video, there will be tons of vocabulary that the students won't know, but I limit myself to 5 as a reasonable number of vocabulary for the students to learn in one lesson.)
3). Play the video, students answer the questions
4). Give out the transcript of the video.  Students use the transcript of the video to help them answer any questions they might have missed.
5). Exploit content of the video for some IELTS Speaking Part 3 type discussion questions
6). Exploit content of the video for some IELTS Writing Task 2 type essay questions.

I also think these lessons could be used with some English for Academic Purposes programs--depending on the goals of the program.   (For example it was my experience in Cambodia that some EAP programs were designed to simply ease students from general English into reading and listening to English with slightly more academic content, and these video lessons would fit nicely into that type of program.)  In that case, these lessons could just be adapted by deleting anything that was only relevant to the IELTS test.

The lessons are designed to be used in order.  (Video 1 first, then video 2, etc).  The first slideshow sets up a lot of introductory information that is not repeated in the second ones.  And the inventory of pre-listening strategies are gradually built up throughout the series.

However, with some adaptation (selective deleting of certain slides, or adding certain slides) these lessons can of course be used out of order.

Unfortunately the length of the school term did not allow me to work through the complete playlist of Crash Course World History videos.  But I did create lessons around a handful of them.
I'll be posting my lessons for those handful of videos over the next several weeks, and indexing them at the top of this post.
In the meantime, all of my material is available on Google Drive here.

In creating IELTS style questions to accompany these videos, I've been greatly helped by some of the work other people have done before me.  I used the worksheets on this website here as a basis, and then adapted them as needed to make them more suitable for an IELTS listening.  (For example I moved several of the blanks to the end of the sentence instead of at the beginning of the sentence, to make it easier for the students.  And I deleted any blanks that relied on outside knowledge or inference.  And I got rid of most of the blanks that relied on proper names, since the IELTS listening seldom test students on proper names without providing the spelling)  I've also found the transcripts on this website here to be useful.

Quizlet quizzes used to supplment the lessons are below--and in this folder here.

Crash Course World History #1: The Agricultural Revolution
Crash Course World History #2: The Indus Valley
Crash Course World History #3 Mesopotamia
Crash Course World History #4 Egypt
Crash Course World History #5: The Persians and the Greeks
Crash Course World History #6: Buddha and Ashoka
Crash Course World History #7: Chinese History
Crash Course World History #8: Alexander the Great
Crash Course World History #9: The Silk Road
Crash Course World History # 10: The Roman Empire or Republic or...Which Was It?
Crash Course World History # 11: Christianity from Judaism to Constantine
Crash Course World History #12: History Fall of the Roman Empire... in the 15th Century

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