Deepen Word Learning with Vocabulary Videos

It appears there is no stopping the amount of interest in creating videos particularly among teenagers. Vocabulary Videos (Dalton & Schmidt, 2015) draws upon that interest and ties it into word learning.

The goal of Vocabulary Videos is straightforward – students demonstrate their understanding of specific words by creating 15-45 second skits. The emphasis is not on following a script but rather improvisational and designed to tell a quick story to help others understand the meaning of a word. In terms of accountability, students are held responsible for learning all the words presented in the videos.

6 Simple Steps

  1. Students select a word for their video. Teachers can provide a list of words from which students choose or the word can be self-selected. The words can be academic vocabulary from a specific content vocab videosarea or Tier 2 words such as serendipity and turncoat.
  2. Students explore the meaning of the word. Using print or digital reference resources such as the Visual Dictionary Online or Lexipedia , a visual thesaurus, students develop their understanding of the word. Students use this to create a large sign with their word on one side and the definition on the other. At the end of the video, students display the sign to connect the target word, the definition, and the skit in the video.
  3. Students brainstorm how they want to illustrate the word in the video. They can also determine roles (script writer, actor, videographer, etc.), but the overall goal is to help students remember the word through their brief skit.
  4. Students record the skit several times. After filming, they review the clip to check for sound quality, facial and bodily expression, and the impact. Primarily, they’re trying to determine if the short skit will really help students understand and remember the word. Finally, they choose their best video to share with classmates.
  5. Students present their video to the class. It is easiest to download all the videos to a folder, and project them from a laptop onto a large screen or whiteboard. Students provide feedback to their peers following each video, and ask for clarification around word meaning if needed.
  6. Students publish their videos. Depending on student privacy issues, the videos can be published to a classroom blog, YouTube, school website, or wiki.

Benefits of Vocabulary Videos

  • Creating vocabulary videos require students to think deeply and demonstrate their understanding of words in a unique format.
  • Teachers reported that students understood words at a more nuanced level than compared to more traditional methods of learning words.

View Vocabulary Videos

  • Recently, the Learning Network (a part of the New York Times) sponsored a contest in which students created vocabulary videos using the same premise as this strategy – demonstrate word meaning through a video-taped skit. In this case, students were limited to creating a 15-second video. Entries included words such as serendipity, turncoat, and bifurcate. And, after watching a number of the videos, we think students were not only creative but clearly demonstrated their understanding of these words.
  • View the student winners of the 15-second Vocabulary Videos videos here.


Dalton, B., & Schmidt, K.M. (2015). Bringing Words to Life Through Student-Created Vocabulary Videos. In T.V Rasinski, K.E. Pytash, & R.E. Ferdig (Eds.) Using Technology to Enhance Reading. Bloomington, IN: Solution Tree Press.

My new book co-authored with @drangelapeery, Blended Vocabulary, expands upon these digital tools. We’ve devoted an entire chapter to Blending Word Learning with Digital Tools as an integral part of meaningful instruction and practice.

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Kimberly has been a teacher, administrator, and literacy consultant who worked in districts across the country to improve student literacy achievement. She currently serves as an Educational Specialist with Solution Tree and project manager for large-scale PLC implementations. Her new book, Blended Vocabulary: Harnessing the Power of Digital Tools and Effective Instruction, was recently released in February, 2017.