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Lesson Plan

Descriptive Video: Using Media Technology to Enhance Writing

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Grades 3 – 5
Lesson Plan Type Standard Lesson
Estimated Time One 45-minute session
Lesson Author

Helen Hoffner, Ed.D.

Helen Hoffner, Ed.D.

Ridley Park, Pennsylvania

Kathleen Benson Quinn

Philadelphia, Pennsylvania


International Literacy Association



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From Theory to Practice



This lesson helps students improve their writing abilities and their attention to details while experiencing a new technology called Descriptive Video. Also known as described programming, Descriptive Video refers to programming with an additional audio track that narrates a film's visual elements. Students watch the opening scene of the standard version of the Disney film The Lion King and write a description of it. They then watch the same opening scene with the descriptions and captions available online at the National Center for Accessible Media. They will write another descriptive summary on this scene. Students share their two writing samples aloud and compare their pre- and post-audio descriptions.

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  • Compare & Contrast Map: Students can use this tool to map out their response to similarities and differences between the two summaries of the scene from The Lion King.
  • Venn Diagram: This tool allows students to easily organize the similarities and differences between the two summaries of the opening scene from The Lion King.

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Hoffner, H., Baker, E., & Quinn, K.B. (2008). Lights, cameras, pencils! Using Descriptive Video to enhance writing. The Reading Teacher, 61(7) 576–579.

  • Descriptive Video (also known as described programming) is a technology that was developed to help individuals with visual impairments enjoy films and television programs. A Descriptive Video program has an additional audio track that can be activated by using the Secondary Audio Program (SAP) feature on a television, videocassette recorder (VCR), or DVD player. This additional audio track contains narration to explain a film's visual elements such as an unusual costume, an actor's gestures, or a car chase scene.

  • Although Descriptive Video technology was developed to assist individuals with visual impairments, it can be used to help all students build their vocabulary, comprehension, and writing ability.

  • Teachers can use Descriptive Video technology to differentiate instruction. Described programming gives students models of highly descriptive writing. Some students are able to use these models and improve their writing with relative independence. Other students require greater scaffolding.

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