Making sense of moving images

Moving images like films and video clips are a rich resource for the geography classroom. Research suggests the following benefits of using moving images in teaching geography (Durbin, 2002; Kriewaldt & Dyson, 2017):

  • Bring distant places to the classroom.
  • Enable people's views to be heard, even if they are short sound bites.
  • Explain a difficult concept or process using a combination of images, graphics and commentary.
  • Relate the location of a place to a wider region or even the world, through a series of 'nested' maps and aerial images.
  • Give a visual impression of change over time concerning various geographical phenomena.

However, televisual resources may not allow students to dwell on things or explore details. This is because it is difficult for televisual resources to:

  • communicate detail on maps and specific locational knowledge
  • convey complex geographical data
  • give subtle and complex viewpoints about an issue
  • allow enough time for the viewer to absorb complex information (adapted from Durbin, 2002).

To harness the potential of televisual resources, students need to adopt active viewing strategies. Teachers should provide clear instructions on what to focus on in the film/video, and provide tasks before, during and/or after the clips. Time must be given for students to think and respond to the clips (Durbin, 2002). Like photographs, it is also important for students to consider the purposes of the films/videos so they can be more critical about what is seen and what is not seen.

5W & 1H

The 5W & 1H (what, why, who, when, where & how) strategy can be used by teachers to encourage students to actively view televisual material. This questioning strategy helps students to actively process the information they watch. The 5W & 1H is a simple but useful scaffold for discussions during and/or after viewing clips. Besides drawing out factual information, teachers can also extend the discussions by having students discuss the range of emotions they felt while watching the clips. Again, this strategy supports students to collect, record and analyse data and geographical information (VCGGC102, VCGGC104, VCGGC130, VCGGC132).

​5W & 1H ​ Lead students to form questions such as
​What? ​What happened? What do you see?
​Why? ​Why did it happen?
​Who? ​Who is involved?
​When? ​When did it happen?
​Where did it happen?
​How? ​How did it happen? How did it make you feel?

The following is an example of how a student used the 5W&1H to record his responses to a video on the 2011 Tohuku tsunami.

5W & 1H The 2011 Tohoku tsunami


What happened? What do you see?

Tsunami. A lot of seawater came in and destroyed everything. Moved entire houses and cars. Earthquake felt as far away as in Tokyo.


Why did it happen?

9.0 earthquake off the coast of Sendai


Who is involved?

The Japanese people who live in the area


When did it happen?

11 March 2011


Where did it happen?

Worst hit were prefectures of Hokkaido, Fukushima, Miyagi


How did it happen? How did it make you feel?

Really sad. Those affected wept as they watched their homes being swept away.