Vocabulary Videos

One new idea for this coming school year involves having my students create vocabulary videos. While I have yet to formally think everything through, the gist is that every week or so, students - working in groups of two to four - would create a one-minute video on a given vocabulary word, Latin or Greek root, or literary term.

Each video would contain certain ingredients (a brief history of the word, its usage, parts of speech, synonyms, antonyms, appropriate background music, use of props) and would be uploaded to a private YouTube account which only students in the class could view.

Students would be given one or two class periods to do research on their word, strategize for their video, film, and edit. What they didn't accomplish in class would be homework. Then, on "viewing days," I would pull up the class's YouTube page, provide each group with a critique sheet, and we would watch the videos. Each group would be assigned to assess another's video. The assessment sheets would ask students to think about the required video "ingredients" and ask them to observe if they were absent, present, or exceptional (or something like that).

The idea is that if the video had all of the required pieces and conveyed the meaning of the word in an accurate, entertaining, and creative way, the group would get an "A" for the video. Points would be deducted accordingly for videos that didn't meet the various criteria. Students would be shown sample videos and given an opportunity to assess them before actually grading each other's. This way, students would hopefully be "calibrated" and have a grasp of what constitutes a complete and well-crafted project.

After all the videos were viewed, students would share their rating sheets with the respective groups whose videos they evaluated. This would give students an opportunity to discuss with each other the strengths and merits as they saw them. In the event a disagreement arose about a group's rating, I would step in as mediator and help the students work things out. In the end, I will have the final say about what each group gets for a grade, but I'm optimistic that the students will be fair and accurate evaluators of each other's work. When I've done peer assessments in the past, I've found students to be as - if not more - critical than I. The key is getting students to look for strengths as well as weaknesses. 

The creation of these videos will serve as a substitute to more traditional vocabulary quizzes. Too often I've seen students cram for vocabulary quizzes, get the necessary information into their short-term memory, do well on a quiz, and then fail to use the words later on in their speech or writing. My theory is that by producing something and being actively engaged in "meaning-making," they'll retain the words and their meanings better (and hopefully use them more frequently).

The nice thing about uploading the videos to YouTube is that they'll be available for viewing later on. Then, maybe every four or five weeks, I'll have some kind of written assessment where students have to use the words in sentences or fill in the blank or match or write an antonym or something. In order to review for the written assessment, they'll be able to cue up the YouTube page and peruse the videos of the words they don't know.

While I'm sure there will be some kinks to work out and quirks I won't have planned for, I'm confident we'll be able to overcome them.

As for the technological end of things, I've been able to acquire a number of computers for my classroom over the years, and, thanks to websites offering educators steep discounts, I have a handful of Flip video cameras I can lend to students. They'll also, of course, be able to use their own devices to create and edit the videos should they so choose.

Look for me to post my own vocabulary video(s) in the coming weeks. Also, if you've ever done something like this before, or know of any possibly helpful resources, feel free to drop a note in the comments section. Thanks!

Video camera image by chelzdd

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