Being Watched

Posted on September 27, 2012


Your students are being watched! You know it, they know it, but for some reason coursebook writers don’t seem to know it! Here’s a lesson to redress the balance.

Topic : CCTV cameras, surveillance society and the right to privacy.
Level : Upper intermediate to Advanced | B2 to C2
Activities : Video, roleplay, discussion, writing letters of protest, explaining photographs taken by students.

Step One : Lead-in discussion

Show your students the images below and do a bit of open-class discussion on the increasing use of CCTV surveillance cameras in public spaces (Possible prompts: Where are they found? How do you feel about being filmed without your consent? Do they help to reduce crime and unsocial behaviour? Explain the irony in the central image … etc etc). Students will discuss similar questions in smaller groups in Step Four.

Step Two : Camden resident video

  1. Explain to your students that they are going to watch a video of a local resident (Jim Jepps) complaining about the installation of CCTV cameras near his home in Camden, London. Ask them to identify how the cameras shown in the video are different from the normal cameras we see in our streets..
  2. Think up some comprehension questions and show the video again. Here’s a few suggestions:
    1. What does the camera say? (or gap-fill it: “S___! T___ i_ a r_________ a___ and y___ p_________ h__ j___ b___ t____. W_ w___ u__ i_ t_ p________ y__. L____ t__ a___ n__!” – this is clearer on the manufacturer’s website, see 3 below)
    2. How do the local councillors contradict themselves?
    3. How does Jim Jepps feel when he walks past the cameras?
    4. What worries him about the effect CCTV cameras might have on community life?
  3. Your students might be interested in seeing the website of the company that manufactures the camera shown in the video. Ask them for their reactions.

More stuff : Text on the “Jim Jepps versus Camden Local Council case” | Jim Jepps’s website with including his video protest to Camden Local Council | Video of Mansfield city councillors defending speaking CCTV cameras

Step Three (Optional) : Roleplay

Set up a Jim Jepps versus Camden Local Councillor roleplay. I don’t think this needs much more explanation really, just give them time to prepare and off they go!

Step Four : Coca-Cola Video

In this TV advert titled Lets’ look at the world a little differently, Coca-cola cleverly turns the concept of surveillance on its head. Rather than crime and anti-social behaviour, what the CCTV camera footage in the ad captures is ordinary people from all over the world committing horrendous acts of kindness to each other. You may find it either life-affirming or yucky … show it to your students and ask them what they think.

Step Five : Conversation

Ask your students to discuss the following questions in pairs or small groups (I usually project these documents on the screen in full-screen, it saves on photocopies).

Step Six : Writing (with Flickr photos)

  1. Ask your students if there are any examples of uncivic behaviour or public authority abuse which particularly annoy them. Give them time to think, then put them in small groups to share their ideas.
  2. For homework, suggest they write a letter of protest to their town council or local newspaper outlining their displeasure and proposing possible solutions.
  3. Optional idea : If your students have smartphones, why not set up a class Flickr account so that they can share photographs of the things they would like to protest about? Once they have downloaded the Flickr app to their phones you will need to give them the sign-in ID and password in order for them to start uploading. Here’s an example of what a shared class Flickr account might look like, Dear Councillor, I would like to protest about…. The idea is that each photo accompanies either a letter done for homework or an oral presentation given in class. Once your class Flickr account is set up, you can obviously use it for other project work throughout the rest of your course.

A few extra bits and bobs

Hope you find this lesson useful!

Posted in: Video Lessons