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Collection: Video and Captioning

purple arrow (1137 bytes) Captioned Video and Vocabulary Learning: An Innovative Practice in Literacy Instruction

REFERENCES: Koskinen, P.S., Wilson, R.M., Gambrell, L.B. & Neuman, S.B. (1993). Captioned video and vocabulary learning: an innovative practice in literacy instruction. The Reading Teacher, 47(1), 36-43.

CONTEXT: The addition of captions to commercial and public television programs provide many opportunities for screen reading. Captions are available on hundreds of broadcast and cable television programs, home videos and educational videos (usually indicated by "closed captioned" or "CC" in a newspaper's television listings). In order to see the captions, which are encoded as data and hidden in the video (hence the term "closed captioned"), a viewer needs a decoder. Since July 1993, all television sets 13 inches or larger have decoders built in; viewers can also access captions through set-top TeleCaption Adapters.

Captions were originally developed for viewers who are deaf or hard of hearing. However, educators of students with normal hearing have found that captions can turn television into a moving storybook. Captions put words in a motivating environment where the audio and video context help viewers understand printed words they might not know how to read.

DESCRIPTION: Several studies indicate that below-average readers are motivated to read captioned television and that reading captions enhances their reading vocabulary and comprehension skills. One study conducted with bilingual students found that those who viewed captioned video performed significantly better on word identification, word meaning, and content learning assessments than students who viewed the same videos wihtout captions. These studies support the theoretical notion that simultaneous processing (audio, video and text) enhances learning.

Research has also explored teachers' skill in developing and implementing well-structured vocabulary and comprehension lessons with captioned video materials. Seven teachers involved in one cited study reported that captioned TV was well suited to the development of vocabulary skills. These teachers also suggested a variety of other skills for which captioned video is well suited, such as prediction, character analysis and sequencing. In addition, teachers' ratings of students' on-task behavior and interest were exceptionally high.

Of the many uses of captioned video in the development of literacy skills, vocabulary learning appears to be one of the most valuable. Captioned video provides a semantically enriched context where the visual and audio lend meaning to the printed words on the screen. A major problem for below-average readers is attending to the reading task. The motivational qualities of captioned television in the classroom can help students overcome a tendency to avoid reading. It is reported that students "want to watch captioned television and are interested in reading associated printed text."

The article describes a fourth-grade classroom that carried out a science and language unit around a two-minute video clip from the public television science series 3-2-1 Contact. Pre- and post-viewing activities are described.

The article offers suggestions for teachers using captioned video for the first time. These include:


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This material was developed by the National Center to Improve Practice (NCIP), located at Education Development Center, Inc. in Newton, Massachusetts.  NCIP was funded by the U.S. Department of Education, Office of Special Education Programs from October 1, 1992 - September 30, 1998, Grant #H180N20013.  Permission is granted to copy and disseminate this information.  If you do so, please cite NCIP.   Contents do not necessarily reflect the views or policies of the Department of Education, nor does mention of trade names, commercial products, or organizations imply endorsement by NCIP, EDC, or the U.S. Government.  This site was last updated in September 1998. 

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