For students: We hope this guide sharpens your reading skills and deepens your understanding.
For teachers: We encourage reproduction and adaptation of these ideas, freely and without further permission from AramcoWorld, by teachers at any level.
Common Core Standards met in this lesson: RL/RI.7 (see details below).
—The Editors

Do you have comments? I'd be pleased to hear from you at [email protected].
—Julie Weiss

"A House for the World"

"A House for the World" tells the story of Aramco's new cultural center, Ithra, in Dhahran, Saudi Arabia. Online, the article is accompanied by an eight-minute video that shows what the article describes: the center's mission, the people involved in its creation, the building and the programs Ithra sponsors. This activity focus on the video—the information it conveys, how it does so and how it compares to the written word. By the time you complete it, you will be able to:
  • Discern the outline of the video, identifying how it is organized and how that organization is shown;
  • Recognize visual techniques used in the video and explain how they affect the way you understand the subject matter;
  • Compare and contrast a video and a written text, evaluating benefits and drawbacks of each medium.
Begin this activity by reading "A House for the World." As a class, list on chart paper the most important points in the article. When you identify an important idea and share with the class, explaining why you think it is important. Then, watch the video. You will watch it several times, but for this first time, just watch it to learn about the topic.


Watch the video again. Look this time for how it's organized—its structure. It begins with a preface—a brief introduction before the title, "A House for the World," appears. What segments of the video do you see after that? Hint: Look for the titles that appear on the screen at different times. They will show you how the sections of the video fit together. You may need to watch the video more than once more to identify the sections, but once you've got them, make an outline that shows how the video is organized. Leave space to fill in notes about the content of each section. Then watch the video for a third time, and fill in the important information.

Visual Techniques

Now that you've got a handle on the organization and the content, turn your attention to the techniques that make the video interesting to watch. Many of these will be familiar to you from other videos you have seen, but here you will be "unpacking" them. One that's used at the start and elsewhere is having the camera move slowly over a still object, such as Ithra's building. Discuss these questions with your classmates: Why do you think the videographer uses this technique? How does it affect you as a viewer? As you watch other videos in your daily life, look for other instances where this technique is used. Bring them or post them to share, and talk about how the impact in other sources is similar to and/or different from the impact in the Ithra video.

What other visual techniques do you notice? How, for example, does the video make it interesting to see "talking heads"—people who are presenting information to viewers? How does it make it interesting to look at a map? At different stages of the architectural planning process? Share your observations with your classmates, and generate a list of techniques that make the video interesting to look at. Again, keep an open eye for these techniques in other videos you see.

Audio Techniques

In addition to the voices of the people involved in Ithra, the video includes music throughout. Perhaps this, too, feels so familiar an experience you might hardly notice it was there. But you know how much music can affect how you feel about something, so how would you describe the music in the video? Listen for when it's louder or softer; when it changes. How does it affect your experience of watching the video? How does it affect how you feel about Ithra?

The Video and the Article

To wrap up, how does the video compare to the article? Start by thinking about the content: What information is present in both? What is present only in one of the media? What does the video emphasize? How does that compare to what's emphasized in the written text? Why do you think they differ? What do you like best about each medium? Least? Write an essay that answers the question: Which do you prefer, the article, the video or both together? Why? Be as detailed as you can. 

This lesson meets this Common Core Standard:

RL/RI.7 Integrate and evaluate content presented in diverse media and formats, including visually and quantitatively, as well as in words.