Beacon Lesson Plan Library

What Is the Language of Television?

Lisa Meltzer
Miami-Dade County Schools


In this lesson, students explore the language of moving pictures. By creating and understanding the basic building blocks used to form a video sequence (wide shot, medium shot and close-up), the student will discover how communication is enhanced.


The student understands ways the tools of graphics, pictures, color, motion, music, and computer technology affect communication across the media.


- Video camera, for each group
- Video tape
- Tripod, for each group, if possible
- Television
- Handout describing Wide Shot, Medium Shot, & Close-up (see attached file)
- Checklist for Evaluation (see attached file)


1. Gather materials for activity
2. Charge all camcorder batteries
3. Make copies of handout
4. Make copies of evaluation sheet
5. Setup videocamera and hook up to TV


Note: This lesson covers only the tools of pictures on video-taped communication.

1. Have a video camera, attached to a television monitor, set up and rolling as students walk into the classroom. Students will see themselves on TV.

2. Have students give examples of non-verbal scenes that convey meaning. These scenes can be from any movie or TV show. They will vary based on individual student experience. The important part is to stress how the pictures are affecting the message. One great example: “How can you tell, in a movie, that someone is being followed?” Answer: “The camera can be seen following the subject. The subject may look back, but no one is there. Then the camera continues to follow behind.” You might choose to have filmed this example previously and view it with the class.

3. Discuss that different types of shots are the “words” or building blocks used to create a good video sequence. How the “words” are chosen affects the message that is communicated.

4. Distribute the handout that explains each shot type, its use and purpose. Discuss. Explain that the different shots (words) combine to create a video sequence (sentence). Explain the use and purpose of each shot. Discuss the effect that each shot has on the message. Have students give some examples. (One example: “Which is more affective? A wide shot of a girl crying or a close-up?”) It is a great idea to add that there are many other descriptions for shots, used in television, such as: Extreme Close-up, Medium Close-up, Two Shot, or Three Quarter shot. All of these shots affect the message that is communicated. During today’s lesson you will use only these basic three. It is also a good idea to tell students the following: “There are many rules to learn in film and television, but you will find, that many times the rules are purposefully broken. This is done to affect and enhance the producer's message. Once they are learned, the rules serve only as a guideline.”

5. Have students come to front and use the video camera to demonstrate appropriate Wide Shot, Medium Shot, and Close-ups.

6. Divide students into groups. Ask students to create a sequence with their groups. Students should use one of each type of shot, with an appropriate angle change. If time allows, each student is to devise and film his/her own sequence, with the other members of the group acting out the scene. These are to be very simple sequences: For example – a student takes a drink from the water fountain, a student takes a book from the library shelf, a student breaks his pencil while taking notes, a student looks upset (or happy) when the teacher hands him a paper. Give each student a copy of the evaluation checklist and review expectations.

7. Students share their sequences with the class. They discuss the reasoning behind each of the shots that they chose and how this choice affects communication.

8. You may use the evaluation sheet and leave comments for each sequence and/or students may use the sheets to give each other feedback.


Note: This lesson covers only the tools of pictures on video-taped communication.

Students share their sequences with the class. They discuss the reasoning behind each of the shots they chose and how this choice affects communication.

Use the attached evaluation checklist to formatively assess the students’ understanding of how using a variety of basic shots will enhance communication in television.

Note: Circulate and formatively assess students as they use the technology tools. Provide assistance for students who are experiencing difficulty and monitor accordingly.


For groups that are new to using a camcorder, you may want to include an additional day for teaching camcorder operation.

For groups with more time, a modification would be to have the students film the sequence using only a wide shot. Then have them film the same sequence using different shots. Compare and contrast the message.

This lesson can be extended to cover more on the language of moving pictures, such as filming from different angles, or using graphic and motion vectors to name a few. Television textbooks by Herbert Zettl are an excellent resource.

Web Links

Cybercollege is an excellent web-site resource for TV Production in general.

This page has some specific information on different shot types. Scroll about halfway down the page to see the picture that describes and delineates shot types. Note: At times this site can be difficult to access. Be patient, it is worth the trouble.
Shot Types

Attached Files

The Basic Shots handout and the Evaluation Checklist.     File Extension: pdf

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