Lisa Weiss’ lesson

Lesson Plan Rationale

Creating a lasting product, such as a short video, can contribute to language learning because it is an authentic task that focuses on meaning. The forms that are taught — past tenses — are not used in isolation but rather in the context of narrating a story that students create. Mobile technology allows these goals to be reached in the classroom because mobile devices are often equipped with cameras and applications to make videos with an interesting look — stop motion — that can take student work beyond the usual amateur level videos and make them into something students can be proud to present.

The activities in this lesson concentrate on the output component of second language acquisition. The assumption is that the students have acquired the past tenses and know how and when to use them. Vygotsky’s Zone of Proximal Development is at play here, as the work that the students produce also helps other students to further acquire or practice the language. In the second stage of the lesson, the students write narratives to videos similar to the ones they will be making later in the lesson.

The role of the teacher here is as facilitator. The bulk of the work is done outside of class. The teacher curates the example videos that the students use for the first stage of the lesson — writing a narrative to what is seen. By using a mobile application to make a video, students are creating, using the highest order of tasks on Bloom’s taxonomy. This avoids the “one step forward for the technology, two steps backward for the pedagogy” (Mioduser, Nachmias, Oren, & Lahav, 1999, p. 233) axiom that has been applied to MALL.  By making creation the central focus, this lesson avoids falling into a trap of behaviorist drills that do not place the taught forms in context. Of course, a lesson like this serves to show a student’s presentational communication  competence — where learners present information, concepts, and ideas that have been rehearsed or edited — (Clementi & Terrill, 2013) once the forms have been learned. It is intended to be a capstone of a unit where the past tense/aspect combinations have previously been taught.

Grammar practice is probably the most important affordance of the use of MALL in this lesson. Students learn syntactic forms necessary to narrate a story in the past. Speaking and writing are the key skills that students practice in this lesson. The students’ linguistic competence will be measured by a rubric to ensure that they have used the target structures.

As such, this lesson takes its place at the end of the second language acquisition continuum. The emphasis here is on uptake and output. It is assumed that the learners have internalized the structures already in the earlier lessons in the unit.  Previous MALL research suggests that collaborative speaking and listening activities can be supported by mobile devices but most of the research has been done on asynchronous communication activities where there is a delay caused either by a time difference between the two collaborators (for example, two students of English in different countries but working on the same project) or a breakdown in technology (Kukulska-Hulme & Shield, 2008). In this lesson the collaboration occurs within the classroom.

Human collaboration is aided by specific technology. The students use mobile phones or tablets first to collaborate on a created narrative for an existing video and construct a Google Doc, then to create their own videos.  Another part of the technological ecosystem necessary for a successful lesson is Internet connectivity for the parts of the lesson where students are writing a narrative for the example videos as well as for those of their fellow students. It is also necessary so that students can download the LapseIt application. A projector, either connected to a computer or with the appropriate connector for a mobile phone or tablet. Special tripods to hold the tablet or mobile phone steady as the students shoot the video

In the institutional ecosystem, administrators and teachers need to decide whether students bring their own devices or use technological resources present in the school. Because the students complete the work outside of class, a BYOD approach might work best. Only one device is needed per student.

In the sociocultural ecosystem, it is hoped that students will learn that their mobile devices can be used for purposes of creation, not just passive consumption of content. Students may feel motivated to share their products on social media, adding value to the class they are taking when their peers can see what they have learned.

This activity is a modification of an existing activity. Making videos for a language class is nothing new. The stop-motion technique is nothing new. But previously stop-motion was a laborious and time-consuming process. By using a mobile device to make a stop motion video, students have an opportunity to use an application with a very gentle learning curve to create something new. The LapseIt application is free and is supported on iOS and Android. (although users can purchase the ability to render the video at a higher resolution) It is much easier and less expensive to use stop-motion technique with this application than with video-camera and computer setup. This lesson can work even if there is no Internet connection if students can project their videos directly from their devices.

Homework:  self-quiz on past tenses.
Time What students are doing What the teacher is doing  Materials What this activity accomplishes
5-10 minutes Working in groups of three to five, each learner selects an appropriate photo from their mobile phone and tells an anecdote about it for 30 seconds. Monitoring groups, giving feedback, minimal error correction Mobile phones, A warm-up to get students talking and introduce them to storytelling.
5 minutes Watching examples of stop-motion videos without dialog Computer, projector Models the activity for students
15 minutes Choosing one of the videos and work in groups of three to five to write a paragraph that narrates the story Monitors and gives feedback. Mobile phones or tablets, Gives students practice in storytelling using past tense/aspect combinations.
10 minutes Students present their narratives on a Google doc. Gives feedback Mobile phones or tablets, Google docs. Enables students to read and compare their results with others
10 minutes Trying out the LapseIt app as the teacher models it. Models stop-motion movie making with LapseIt. Mobile phones, small everyday objects. Shows students how to use a mobile app to produce something original


5 minutes Listening to instructions for storyboarding and filming their project Giving instructions on how to storyboard and film their project. Computer, projector, Google doc or printed instructions and rubric Clarifies the teacher’s objectives and grading criteria
For homework students, in groups of three or four,  create their stop-motion video with a narrative or dialog that goes with it. At the next class, the students present the video without dialog. Each group chooses another group’s video and writes narration or dialog. The groups then compare their narration or dialog with the narration the group that made the video wrote for it

Setting: U.S. or overseas university ESL or EFL class with young adult students, A2-B1 level of English, learners represent a wide variety of majors.

Context:  This is the end of a unit reviewing ways to speak about the past.

Lesson objectives: Students will be able to narrate using a variety of past tense/aspect combination, work cooperatively to produce a video and create a story with a beginning, middle and end.


Clementi, D. & Terrill, L. (2013). The keys to planning for learning. Alexandria, VA: ACTFL

Kukulska-Hulme, A., & Shield, L. (2008). An overview of mobile assisted language learning: From content delivery to supported collaboration and interaction. ReCALL : The Journal of EUROCALL, 20(3), 271-289. doi: