EnhanceTV’s active viewing strategies for video

video literacy

As our conceptions of literacy expand beyond traditional notions and begin to include an expansive range of communication modes, so too do our ways of teaching. Multiliteracy and multimodal literacies are increasingly becoming the norm as demands on students to interact with and produce multimodal texts increase. 

When reading and viewing texts, students engage in complex decoding processes. With reading, we take note of the stylistic choices made by the writer to communicate to their audience.  Similarly, a filmmaker makes distinct stylistic choices with audio-visual modalities to effectively communicate a message to their audience.

Teaching active viewing strategies is about explicitly teaching of the ways multimedia texts make meaning so that students become more adept at identifying and decoding the ‘visual grammar’ of a multimedia text. 

Discover EnhanceTV’s active viewing guide, created to help you and your students critically engage with video texts. This framework can also be used to guide students when creating their own videos, as they learn about the composition of a video text type, its purpose, construction and key message. 


See an explanation of the key components of each phase below:  

1. IDENTIFY: Text, purpose, audience

Before viewing

This phase engages students in predicting what a video will be about based on the video text type. The genre of a video text often indicates its purpose and intended audience and will help students develop their knowledge on how text structure impacts intended meaning. We can also draw students’ attention to the key ideas and messages they should be looking out for, this helps students to sift through the information presented and identify the purpose of the video. 

Identifying the purpose of a video text is the most important aspect of this phase. Here we consider whether the text was created to inform, persuade or educate the viewer. The genre of the video text will often reveal a text’s intention ie: a documentary, to educate and inform, an advertisement is often created to persuade. It’s important to note that video text-types can often genre blend and have multiple purposes; however, by being able to identify how genre and meaning interact students will be able to build awareness of when genre and meaning are being used for a range of meaning-making purposes. 

Questions to prompt text engagement before viewing:
  1. Based on the title of the text, text-type, and imagery, what do you think this text will be about? 
  2. What type of text is it? Video-clip, trailer, advertisement? What are the features of this text type? 
  3. Identifying the audience and purpose of text type. 
  4. Purpose: was the text made to educate, entertain or to inform the audience?

For more ideas on how to bring critical thinking and creativity into the classroom read EnhanceTV’s Screen Smart Tips.

2. ANALYSE: Pause, Observe, Question 

During viewing

Pause, rewind and observe to develop comprehension of key messages and techniques. 

Here students participate in active viewing. Firstly, watch the video from start to finish without pausing so that students can build a holistic understanding of the video, then rewatch to pause, rewind and draw students’ attention to key ideas, techniques and features. By consistently modelling active viewing strategies in the classroom students will hopefully apply active viewing strategies outside of the classroom and apply them to all of the multimodal texts they engage with and are exposed to on a daily basis, supporting the development of their critical and digital literacy skills. 

Lesson ideas: 

Filmmaking tips and techniques:

Discover Creative Content Australia’s Useful Filmmaking Resources on how to make a movie. 

Access free filmmaking resources designed by media educator Brett Lamb. These resources have been designed to support your teaching as students start out on their journey as budding filmmakers. 


Whether it’s a newsreel, film or advertisement, no matter the topic, all texts use a range of narrative devices to convey a story. 

Explore the narrative arc with students and during or after viewing get students to identify key stages of narrative development while watching. 

3. REFLECT: Compare, Contrast, Critique

After viewing

The reflection stage helps students build critical thinking around the messages and perspectives communicated in multimodal texts and how they were communicated. Engage students in a discussion that encourages students to summarise and retell what the video was about. Drive the discussion towards the key ideas explored and the techniques used to communicate them. This stage helps students join the dots and understand the value of before, during and after active viewing strategies. 

Lesson ideas: 

Who am I?:  Create an anonymous profile of a character or key participant in the video and get classmates to guess which person from the text is being described.

Hot seat: Have students take turns in the ‘hot seat’ to play the part of one of the characters or key participants in the video, fellow classmates ask the person in the ‘hot seat’ questions and they must answer from the perspective of that character or person.

Glossary: Create a glossary of words used in the video particular to the topic of the video. 

Compare a range of text types on a topic and analyse the range of perspectives. 

Create a storyboard that documents the narrative arc of the video watched. Rearrange the storyboard and have classmates put the storyboard back in the correct order.

4. CREATE: create, communicate, Collaborate

After viewing 

As students build knowledge and understanding of how video is created, students themselves can create a video for a range of purposes and audiences. As they develop their understanding of the medium they themselves can use their creativity to create multimodal texts that communicate to a wide range of audiences. 

Lesson ideas:

Students create their own video on the topic being studied. 

Collaborate and create a video together as a class on an important topic or issue being studied. 

Immerse students in the invention process. Student’s come up with their own unique invention and document with video the various stages of the invention process, i.e: identifying a problem or need, ideating resolutions, trialling different ideas and selecting the best option. 

Get inspired by Aussie Inventions that Changed the World and explore with students the ingenuity and creativity that is a part of the invention process.    

Whether it’s a news headline, video program, clip, or an advertisement, multimodal texts use a range of audiovisual devices and techniques to capture the attention of viewers and to communicate a unique message. 

As with active reading strategies; active viewing strategies occur before, during and after engaging with a text. Effectively implementing active viewing strategies is about explicitly teaching the specific thinking processes that occur at each viewing phase (before, during and after.)

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