Fun Audio Substitution Lesson Idea

I have always followed a quote given by the Ukrainian pedagogue Vasily Sukhomlinski: “A child will strive to work when the work gives him joy” (“Ребёнок стремится работать тогда, когда труд даёт ему радость”). With that, you will see that most of my advice/help/teaching style is predicated upon that philosophy: entertaining to teach. So, with that, let’s have some fun!

Group projects have always been the bane of my academic existence. As an introvert, it was never something I looked forward to. Then I became an instructor (teaching Russian to U.S. military students), and realized how important and valuable group work could be. I thought back to my days in the student seat and tried to come up with ideas on how to make it fun and entertaining, while at the same time accomplishing my goals for the class. After discussion with colleagues, as well as hitting the right seminar at the Digital Stream Conference at California State University Monterey Bay, I was able to come up with a solution: audio replacement in movie scenes.

In my case, it meant the students would watch an appropriate clip from a movie of their choosing, and then generate a new script for the clip (in the target language, in this instance). In all, it took the students about an hour or so to create a new clip with the new dialogue. This, of course, may vary from class to class. At the end of the day we watched all of the new clips and had a great time with it.

Now, you are probably wondering how this applies to you or your class. Well, to be honest, not all classes will be able to use this method. But, a lot of you can with a little effort and help from me, your friendly Instructional Media Design Specialist. The basic instructions that should be followed are:

  • The video clip should have the same amount of actors with speaking role as  the amount of students in the group;
  • Every student in the group should have a role in the new clip;
  • The video clip chosen only needs to be about two minutes long. This is just a guideline, but be aware of your time restrictions if it is an in-class project. Also, Fair Use practice dictates that the clip is either 10% of the whole movie/show/etc. or 3 minutes long, whichever is less.

Back then we used Windows Movie Maker for our projects. It generally doesn’t come preloaded with Windows anymore, but it is available for download (depending on your version of Windows) ( iMovie, for those Mac folks out there works just as well. Adobe Premiere is another good example. If, for some reason, any of these programs doesn’t work for you, I can assist in finding alternatives. Also needed are microphones connected to a computer (one microphone per student group is sufficient). For recording and mixing of the audio, I recommend the free Audacity program ( Support from IT folks with administrative privileges may be necessary.

The process for creating these clips are as follows:

  1. Find the right clip and save it. This could be you, or you could allow the students to find their own appropriate clip.
  2. In a movie editing program, get rid of the audio track.
  3. Let the students watch and generate ideas about a dialogue. The will then script it out and practice it while watching the (silent) clip.
  4. The student will then record their dialogue while watching the clip.
  5. Add the new audio into the video clip.
  6. Sit back and enjoy the good times.

Here are some examples for some core classes I have thought about:

History: Take a scene from any historical movie. Better yet, it could be anachronistic, because that’s just crazy and fun (and students will remember something like that).

Math: A scene from a movie that shows a complex mathematical problem being discussed, with the replaced dialogue talking about a simple algebraic formula. The juxtaposition of the complex math on the board makes this interesting and entertaining.

English: Grammar points (my favorite!) could be addressed in so many ways here, using a wide variety of video clips.

These are just a few examples. If you have a favorite movie that is pertinent, use that. It actually really doesn’t matter what the movie is, or who is in it. The key is having the scene filled with dialogue, and not dead time. YouTube is an excellent resource for finding clips you may want or need. Fair Use policy for educational purposes allows you to use short clips for this lesson.

As I mentioned above, if you come across any issues, or need some guidance or assistance in trying this, please let me know and I will be glad to help out. I always invite, and greatly appreciate, any feedback you want to give, both negative and positive… as long as it is constructive.


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