Help Everyone with the Press of a Button

A valuable but often overlooked tool in every classroom is the T.V. remote’s closed captioning button. When using a video or movie clip in class, enabling the captioning helps every student in the room in some unexpected ways.

I first started this practice when I was assigned a student with significant hearing loss. At first, I thought the captioning might be a bit of a distraction for the rest of the class, but I framed the practice with a positive spin, saying a lot of the actors mumbled in this clip and the captioning would help clarify and reinforce the scene we’d just read.

Closed_captioning_symbol.svgThen an interesting thing happened. Everyone was focused, especially my students who are learning English as their second language. Hearing and seeing the words at the same time triggers multiple learning paths in the brain and, researchers have concluded, enriches the academic experience for all students, not just those with hearing loss.

The folks at Read Across America agree and encourage parents to turn on closed-captioning whenever their kids watch T.V. at home. After what I’ve seen in my own classroom, I’m convinced we should do the same in our schools.

Six Benefits of Adding Closed Captioning to Teens’ Viewing:
• Another opportunity for students to interact with text. Yes, they’re going to have to read quickly, but they’re still reading.

• Greater clarity for students. Didn’t catch what that mumbling actor just said? (Yeah, Marlon Brando, I’m talkin’ ‘bout you.) Couldn’t hear because your neighbor was whispering to her friend? No problem – just read the caption.

• Impress parents and administrators by going above and beyond most IEP accommodation lists.

• Help students with a variety of learning styles engage with the material.

• Students who haven’t yet been diagnosed with hearing loss (those earbud-blasting kids, perhaps?) may realize the captioning is a valuable study tool for them, too.

• Enjoy happy teacher-neighbor relationships because you’ll no longer need to blast the volume at the highest level.

Note: I tend to avoid showing full movies in my classes because a well-chosen clip often gets a lesson’s point across without eating up so much instructional time, but I do use two full films in my junior-year curriculum to help students learn to “read” a movie, just as we read text. I feel justified in using those two films because I have some great poetry, literary analysis, and non-fiction materials that complement the viewings. During my Transcendentalism unit in the fall, I use these lessons with Dead Poets Society. During my wrap-up of Post-Modernism in late spring, I use these lessons with a viewing of Steven Spielberg’s Artificial Intelligence.

Happy teaching, everyone!


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6 years ago

I personally love closed captioning, and I always put them on when I watch something (if they’re available). They’re great for Crash Course videos as well, since the Green brothers talk so quickly and sometimes stumble over words. I’ve only recently learned that they can help littles learn how to read better, since it’s literally someone reading to them all the time! When we watched clips of The Crucible last semester when I was student-teaching high school, I always put captions on, otherwise we would’ve needed to blast the volume, as you mentioned. It worked well and I didn’t have anyone complain.

My 11-month-old will be growing up with captions when the time comes, and my students will learn to appreciate them too!

Laura Randazzo
6 years ago
Reply to  VictoriaH

Yup, Victoria, that little baby of yours will be one of the strongest readers in his/her class. An English teacher mama and years of closed captioning? Strong reading skills are pretty much guaranteed! 🙂

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