ERIC Identifier: ED321623
Publication Date: 1990-08-00
Author: Spanos, George - Smith, Jennifer J.
Source: Adjunct ERIC Clearinghouse on Literacy Education for
Limited-English-Proficient Adults Washington DC.
Closed Captioned Television for Adult LEP Literacy
Learners. ERIC Digest.
Closed captioning is the process by which audio portions of television
programs are transcribed into written words that appear on the television
screen at the same time as the program. Captions are similar to the subtitles
used for foreign language films, but differ in that they can be received
only through the use of an electronic decoder, or "black box." In addition,
live programs, such as the evening news and sports events, can be simultaneously
Closed captioning technology was originally devised for the benefit
of the deaf, but there has been recent interest on the part of reading
and literacy specialists in the use of closed captioned television (CCTV)
with hearing audiences as well. A wide variety of public and commercial
television programs of potential use in reading instruction are closed
captioned, including news, documentaries, dramas, movies, sitcoms, and
advertisements. The major networks (ABC, CBS, NBC, PBS, and the Fox Television
Network) offer more than 400 hours of captioned television per week. Almost
100 percent of all major network primetime programs are closed captioned,
as are a large percentage of sports and children's programs. Thus, educators
may choose from an abundant supply of programs of potential use with language
learners of all ages and interests.
According to guidelines approved by Congress in 1981, non-profit educational
institutions are permitted to record and use television programs for instructional
purposes so long as certain conditions are met:
- Only public and commercial programs may be used;
- Individual teachers (not media librarians or other support personnel)
must initiate the recording;
- Recordings must carry the copyright notice;
- Recordings may be used for instructional purposes only;
- Recordings must be used within ten consecutive school days of the
time the recording was made;
- Recordings may be shown only once within this ten-day period although
the showing may be repeated once if required for instructional purposes;
- Parts of programs may be shown, but these may not be edited to produce
- Tapes must be erased within 45 days of the original recording.
EDUCATIONAL USES OF CLOSED CAPTIONED TELEVISION
Educators have begun to investigate the use of CCTV as a language and
literacy learning tool. Studies to investigate the potential uses of CCTV
in teaching reading to members of the hearing community have been commissioned
by organizations such as the National Captioning Institute (NCI) in Falls
Church, VA, and the Caption Center in Boston, MA. These studies have focused
on students learning English as a second language (ESL), students in remedial
reading programs, students who are learning disabled, and adults who are
Probably the most widely used educational application of CCTV is with
students learning English as a second language. In many school districts,
ESL students are taught in special classes until their test scores indicate
their potential to succeed in the regular classroom. Educators are seeking
innovative approaches that will enable ESL students to participate in mainstream
content classes while continuing to develop their English language skills.
Video technology provides just such an innovation. People of all ages
and educational backgrounds seem to be attracted to television, and numerous
captioned television programs and tapes can be used in conjunction with
specific curriculum topics and objectives. For example, CCTV has been found
to improve the sight vocabulary of adult literacy students (Bean &
Wilson, 1989), and to provide reinforcement for new vocabulary in the second
language class by providing a context for its use (Gillespie, 1981). CCTV
has also been shown to facilitate listening comprehension and the acquisition
of native-English speech patterns in ESL learners (Price, 1983). Studies
also report the motivating influence of captioned television, and extremely
positive attitudes on the part of students toward this medium (Bean &
Wilson, 1989). The use of closed captioned primetime television programs
with high school ESL students and students in remedial reading programs
increased the students' motivation, and resulted in an improvement in their
English vocabulary, reading comprehension, and word analysis skills (Goldman
Other studies that cite the benefits of captioned programming and films
for nonnative English speaking and remedial students are Maginnis (1987);
Parlato (1985); Koskinen, Wilson, and Jensema (1986); and Huffman (1986).
CCTV FOR ESL ELEMENTARY STUDENTS
A study conducted with fourth- through sixth-grade ESL students in Prince
George's County, MD (Center for Applied Linguistics, 1989), revealed a
variety of potential benefits of CCTV:
- CCTV provides speech, writing, and supportive visual context simultaneously,
making lessons accessible to students who use different types of learning
- Second language learners generally like CCTV and demonstrate a strong
sense of achievement when they are able to comprehend the information presented
- CCTV can be used with heterogeneous groups of students. Less proficient
students may be able to understand individual words from either the audio
or visual track, while more proficient students may be able to process
language from both tracks, perhaps even noticing discrepancies between
the two, and thereby becoming more conscious of language use and form.
- Language use in CCTV classrooms is rich in terms of the variety of
speech acts generated by the students. One observer noticed, for example,
that students were eager to initiate questions and comments about the CCTV
Classroom teachers involved in the study identified a number of other
advantages provided by CCTV, including the following: a variety of language
and literacy activities; increased opportunity for students to read; visual
reinforcement of word/image associations; a challenge to read quickly and
to pick out key words; an opportunity for auditory discrimination through
comparison of captions and audio; an opportunity to study the correspondence
between spoken and written language; a means of checking or reinforcing
listening comprehension; and novelty, which serves as a motivator.
Evidence of the effectiveness of CCTV instruction with the students
included the following: increased oral participation on the part of the
students; increased awareness of language as evidenced by requests for
clarification; and the regular use by students of expressions learned from
the videos, such as "Get out of here!" and "Happy landing!" from Sesame
CLOSED CAPTIONED TELEVISION FOR ADULT ESL LEARNERS
A recent action research project conducted by Smith (1990) investigated
how CCTV could be used to help teach ESL to adults enrolled at the Arlington
County, VA, Refugee Education and Employment Program. This program serves
students from all over the world who speak a wide variety of native languages.
They provide a remarkably diverse laboratory for investigating the effects
of any educational innovation focusing on adult learners of English. Smith
found corroboration of many of the findings of the elementary school study
discussed above. She found that students were immediately attracted to
the CCTV technology. They paid rapt attention to the screen and worked
hard to decipher the language. They spontaneously wrote down the unknown
words they saw on the screen. Thus, the captions enabled students to identify
the written forms of familiar vocabulary, and reinforced the meaning in
an audio and video format.
Students often repeated phrases from the captions over and over to themselves
while watching. On subsequent viewing of a program, they paid greater attention
to the captions, anticipating the spoken text by saying the phrase aloud
as soon as it appeared on the screen, even before it was spoken on the
audio track. In addition, students used vocabulary from the program in
follow-up discussions and written exercises. Smith hypothesized that seeing
and hearing the words used repeatedly in the context of a coherent story
with video cues made them appear more real--words students could actually
use in everyday conversations.
Smith concluded that CCTV has great potential for teaching adult ESL
students. Captioning transforms the seductive medium of television into
a literacy and language learning tool and helps introduce newcomers to
an important conveyor of culture and information. Smith warns, however,
that care must be taken in identifying suitable programming. Students approach
programs with varying degrees of linguistic proficiency and familiarity
with the cultural contexts involved. Because many of the captioned programs
most suited for classroom use, e.g., Sesame Street, 3-2-1 Contact, and
Reading Rainbow are intended for young viewers, special preparations are
necessary to avoid insulting adult learners, if such programs are to be
used with that population.
IDENTIFYING, SELECTING, AND ADAPTING CCTV MATERIALS FOR USE WITH
ADULT ESL LITERACY LEARNERS
Parks (1986) urges that teachers exercise care in the selection of CCTV
programs for classroom use. Both suitability and familiarity of subject
matter need to be considered, and the level of difficulty of both the captions
and the audio must be taken into account. In developing exercises and lesson
plans, Parks recommends that the teacher do the following: - Prepare manageable
tasks that match students' ability levels; - Promote active and full participation
of students; - Control the length of the lesson to ensure maximum concentration
and interest; - Provide for student control of the presentation by giving
students opportunities to operate the television and VCR; and - Give students
ample opportunities to review.
Koskinen, Wilson, and Jensema (1986) provide ideas for developing reading
lessons using captioned materials with adults, with lesson outlines and
sample lesson plans. Ideas for lesson plans are also provided by Parks
(1986) and Parlato (1985).
The Caption Center has developed CC Writer, for creating closed captions
and subtitles, and CC Jr., which produces open captions using an ordinary
videocassette recorder, an IBM PC, a standard word processor, and a specially-modified
adapter. These products make it possible to develop tailor-made texts for
video programs, matched to the specific proficiency levels and needs of
particular groups of students.
FOR MORE INFORMATION
The Caption Center, 125 Western Avenue, Boston, MA 02134, (617) 492-9225.
The Center for Applied Linguistics, 1118 22nd St. N.W., Washington,
DC 20037, (202) 429-9292.
The National Captioning Institute, Inc., 5203 Leesburg Pike, Falls Church,
VA 22041, (703) 998-2400.
The Arlington Refugee Education and Employment Program, Wilson School,
1601 Wilson Boulevard, Arlington, VA 22201, (703) 358-4200.
Bean, R.M., & Wilson, R.M. (1989). Using closed-captioned television
to teach reading to adults."Reading Research and Instruction, 28(4)," 27-37.
(ERIC Journal No. EJ 394 997)
Center for Applied Linguistics. (1989). Evaluating the benefits of closed-captioned
TV programming as instructional material for ESL students. Washington,
Gillespie, J. (1981). The role of television as an aid in foreign language
teaching. Urbana, IL: University of Illinois, School of Humanities, Language
Goldman, M., & Goldman, S. (1988). Reading with closed captioned
TV. "Journal of Reading, 31"(5), 458. (ERIC Journal No. EJ 367 170)
Huffman, D.T. (1986). Soap operas and captioning in the ESL class. Paper
presented at the International Conference on Language Teaching and Learning
of the Japanese Association of Language Teachers, Hamamatsu, Japan, November
22-24. (ERIC Document Reproduction Service No. ED 281 392)
Koskinen, P.S., Wilson, R., & Jensema, C. J. (1986). Closed-captioned
television: A new tool for reading instruction. "Reading World, 24"(4),
1-7. (ERIC Journal No. EJ 319 746)
Maginnis, G.H. (1987). Captioned video cassettes: A source of reading
material. Paper presented at the Annual Meeting of the 32nd International
Reading Association. Anaheim, CA, May 3-7. (ERIC Document Reproduction
Service No. ED 291 063)
Parks, C. (1986). A manual for closed-captioned television in ESOL instruction.
Upper Marlboro, MD: Prince George's County Public Schools.
Parlato, S.J. (1985). Re-discovering films with captions. "Teaching
English to Deaf and Second Language Students, 3"(1),17-20. (ERIC Journal
No. EJ 320 019)
Price, K. (1983). Closed-captioned TV: An untapped resource. "MATSOL
Smith, J.J. (1990). Closed-captioned television and adult students of
English as a second language. Arlington, VA: Arlington Refugee Education
and Employment Program.