The Video Recorder Controls


Plays the video tape. Note on some machines you press PLAY to release PAUSE. On others you press PAUSE again.



Stops the video tape. The picture switches off.

The TV may revert to a blank screen or to a TV channel. We advise leaving the TV set on a blank channel, or on a video channel if there is a seperate button.

It is also advisable to locate a minor control on the TV or video which switches between LINE (the video only) and TUNER (which tunes in the TV channels). If you select LINE the TV should display a blank screen when you press STOP. Alternatively, where the TV is only ever used for video work you may choose not to connect it to a TV aerial.



Pauses or freeze frames the video tape. Note on some machines you press PLAY to release PAUSE. On others you press PAUSE again. This is one of the most important controls on a video for classroom use. Ideally, you should be able to operate this function with the remote control. Freeze frame will not harm the videotape. All VCR's are designed to release the freeze frame automatically before any damage can be done. Freeze frame is the most important feature on video players in the classroom, and should be the main criterion in selecting a particular make of machine.

A remote control is probably the next most important item.

Most modern machines (i.e. post 1989) have near perfect freeze frame, so look out for names like SUPER STILL, or PERFECT STILL on recorders. If there is picture wobble, the still picture quality can be changed by adjusting the TRACKING control on the video player.

Older machines have pictures which may wobble when paused and have white lines. The irritation of these can be alleviated by pressing the freeze frame control once or twice, moving the white line to a less important part of the picture. A few light taps on the machine will often move the white line on older machines.



There are two types of REWIND (<< ) and FAST FORWARD (>>) on most machines. The ones labelled REWIND /FAST FORWARD will normally blank out the picture.

Ones labelled CUE/ REVIEW or PICTURE SEARCH will enable the picture to be seen at speed during rewinding and fast forward operation. Apart from being useful for finding the place, these facilities can be used to remind students of parts of the story.



Video tape in the PAL (UK, Germany, Europe) or SECAM (France, parts of Eastern Europe and Latin America) formats has 25 pictures (frames) per second. NTSC tape (in the USA, Canada, Mexico and East Asia) has 30 frames per second. Still Advance allows you to move the video on by one frame at a time. This is vastly more accurate than simply pushing PAUSE. Note: You may find that several frames have almost no movement, while others are dramatic changes of picture.


This is an editing facility which can be found on more sophisticated videos and it is a rotary control which enables you to move the picture forwards or backwards as if by hand at various speeds. If this control is fitted, it is extremely useful in the classroom. It is well worth seeking this facility when purchasing new equipment. However, note that it is only available on the remote control of more expensive machines.



This control is situated on most TV remote controls (note TV control, not video control). It immediately removes (or ‘mutes’) the soundtrack. By pressing it again, you restore the sound at the preset level. Because its effect is instant, it is much easier to use in the classroom than the volume control for the TV.


>Locating the place on the tape

There are three or four sections in each episode. The sections are labelled on the Transcripts pages.

The Student Book assumes that your video has a "minutes and seconds" counter. The timing is noted for each episode in the section headings. You will have to zero the counter at the start of each episode. There should be a RESET or ZERO COUNTER button on your video or remote control to enable you to do this.

Press RESET as soon as the video begins. You can use a watch or a clock where the video does not have a minutes and seconds timer.

You may wish to record the counter number (or time reference in minutes and seconds on newer video machines) for the beginning of each video on the contents pages.

If you have an older three or four digit counter, record the numbers for each section of the videos in your copy of the Student Book.

If your machine has MEMORY REWIND (or REPEAT), you can reset the counter at various points in the lesson. This control will rewind the tape as far as zero whenever REWIND is selected.


Teaching with video: Some Techniques


>Silent viewing activities

Silent viewing means turning off the sound on the TV or monitor and making use of the visuals on their own. This is most easily accomplished with the MUTE control (see above). Silent viewing will be a PREDICTION technique when students are viewing for the first time, and a REPRODUCTION technique when they have already seen and heard the section being used for silent viewing.


a) Prediction

Students can talk about EVENTS ( What's happening on the screen?) or DIALOGUE (What are they saying?)

They will be able to predict dialogue, i.e. guess what people are saying, throughout the course.


b) Reproduction

Reproduction (or ‘retelling’) can also be divided into REPRODUCTION OF DIALOGUE and REPRODUCTION OF EVENTS. Reproduction of dialogue might be most effective where there are useful formulas, fixed expressions and points of intonation or pronunciation. Reproduction of events tends to focus on narrative tenses, and on sequences.


c) Random sound down (Close listening)

This may be done at any time, but is particularly suitable when viewing the whole episode again. Turn the sound down or mute the sound at random intervals asking students to fill in the missing dialogue.



>Sound only activities

You can play a section of one of the videos with the picture turned off so that they hear the dialogue but are unable to see the action. This can be done by using the brightness controls on the television, by unplugging the picture connectors (BNC or yellow phono leads, on sets where sound and picture have separate leads) or most simply by placing something in front of the screen, such as a jacket or a sheet of cardboard.

Students can be asked either to predict what is happening visually, or to use the dialogue as a memory spur to recall what happened visually.

See 'Random Sound Down' above. A parallel activity can also be done by obscuring the picture with card at random intervals.


>Freeze framing (still picture) activities

Freeze framing means stopping the picture, using the FREEZE FRAME, STILL or PAUSE (II or > I <) control.

FRAME ADVANCE or STILL ADVANCE is a very useful control found on some modern machines, moving the still picture forward one frame at a time. It can be used to explore the nuances of an event or of a facial reaction.


a) Prediction (What next?)

Prediction occurs when freeze framing is used during the initial viewing of a section. You can freeze frame and ask about either EVENTS (What's going to happen?) or DIALOGUE (What are they saying? / What are they going to say next? ). See Silent Viewing above.


b) Reproduction

When students have already seen a section, they will be using memory to reproduce either what is being said, or to describe what is happening, or what has just happened.


c) Using the background

Video contains 25 pictures per second (or 30 in NTSC areas), and there is a wealth of detail in the background of the pictures which can be exploited by freeze framing. Teachers can often find something new even when they have done a particular lesson many times. The background also gives access to material about British life and culture.

One of the main differences between videos designed for educational broadcast and videos designed for classroom use lies in the presumption of the teacher's ability to use freeze frame to explore and exploit background detail. The camera does not need to linger on things in the background, they can always be singled out later with the freeze frame control.


d) Thoughts and emotions

Video gives us an additional dimension of information about characters' body language, facial expressions, gesture, stance, reaction and response. This information can be exploited in the classroom. Freeze frame and ask about feelings and emotions. In some activities Students can deduce further information about the characters, based on what they have picked up from the video, but requiring the use of their imagination.



>Paired Viewing Activities

Paired activities take more effort in setting up, but the results justify the trouble.


a) Description

In this activity one student in each pair turns their back to the screen. The other student faces the screen, and the video is played silently. The student who can see the screen describes what they can see to their partner.

Both students will wish to hear the dialogue later.

The 'passive' student in each pair will be motivated to see what they have missed as well! It is worth making sure that the partners swop roles, or that the activity is done twice, with different sections so that each partner gets a chance to perform the 'active' role.


b) Narration

This is more difficult to organise, as it involves sending half the class out of the room while the remaining half watch a section of a video. When they return they are told about the video in pairs by those who saw it. (See the note above about swopping roles.) In school situations, this can be done by team teaching, and working with two parallel classes at the same time.


c) Split class: Description / Narration

Half the class is sent out. The remainder watch a section silently. Then the two halves swop places. The ones that were outside now listen to the same section with the picture covered (see: Sound only, above.) The students are then paired off. One student in each pair has SEEN the video, but hasn't heard the dialogue. The other student has only HEARD the dialogue. They work together to piece the story together.

In all of these activities, the sixth page of each video unit, Tell the Story, can be used as a prompt.


>Role plays

Students can be asked to role play sequences they have seen in any videos.

We have found it more interesting to get them to role play things which are NOT seen in the video, but which they can guess from having seen the video.


>The video classroom

 We have found that most video equipment in schools is linked to TV sets or monitors by the simplest method, using the aerial sockets. This is a pity when most modern equipment has either separate video (BNC or YELLOW PHONO) and audio sockets (RED AND WHITE PHONO or DIN), or in much of Europe, a 21 pin SCART connector, or (with Hi-Band machines, such as S-VHS machines) special S-VHS connectors for picture.

The use of these connections should almost always bring about a significant improvement in both picture and audio quality, try it! See the manufacturer's handbooks for your equipment. A copy of these should be kept with the equipment in case of problems. Incidentally, the most common difficulty we have found is that many of the latest TV sets revert to Channel 1 when they are switched off, often making it necessary to reselect the video channel. This does not matter when the VCR is connected by means of a SCART connector.

Another common irritation is noise, and white lines on the blank screen when the VCR is stopped. This can be eliminated by selecting LINE or AV on the VCR rather than TUNER. There will then be no need to switch the television off between activities.



 You should always pay attention to sight lines in the classroom and ensure that everyone can see the screen well. This may seem stupidly obvious, but the authors have done video demonstrations where someone has complained (always afterwards) that their view was obscured! In many classrooms, reflected sunlight can cause problems.

Video equipment should be positioned so as not to expose it to chalk dust. The ink dust from marker pens is less intrusive, but still harmful if the board is right above the video machine.

Video tapes store their signal magnetically. They can be damaged by exposure to extremes of temperature (such as being left on a radiator, sunny windowsill or in a hot car) and by magnets and electric fields. The speakers in TV sets contain magnets, and the tubes generate an electric field. The video may be damaged by leaving it on top of a TV set or external speaker.



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©Peter & Karen Viney 2004