I loved using videos in my vocabulary classes. No, not like during the last few days of school back in the late 80s and early 90s where the teacher would pop in a BETA or VHS tape and nap while you and your friends giggled and talked through an old movie.
I loved using short videos because they
- break up the routine
- get students listening to a voice that is not my own
- introduce students to new vocabulary in an authentic context
Of course, sometimes I came across a longer video that was just a MUST-WATCH/LISTEN for a particular group of students. I just broke it into sections and showed them one part at a time, spread over a few classes. What about those students who love/prefer to read? Many videos include the scripts, so I just made sure to have a few copies on hand for the students who wanted one.
Do this if you want to show videos in your vocabulary classes.
Thankfully, it’s not the 80s or 90s any longer, and even if it were, you want to be better. Same here. I didn’t just pull up the video, hit play, and sit back. I liked to set things up a bit first. Here’s what you should do.
First, build some background.
If you just start the video without any kind of warm-up, your students will be torn in numerous directions and won’t be able to focus well on anything. They won’t even notice the vocabulary because they’ll be too busy trying to figure out what the video is about and why they are even watching it.
Write the video’s name on the board and have students discuss:
- What they think they will see
- What they think the purpose of the message might be
- How that message might be skewed by who the speaker is
- Who they think the intended audience is.
Next, preview some key vocabulary.
They’re about to be bombarded with new vocabulary; setting up some supportive structure will help their engagement and understanding.
Choose 5-10 words from the video that are part of the video’s topic, write them on the board, and have students discuss in groups what they think the words might mean.
Eliminate passive viewing.
You don’t want your students to sit there, eyes glazed over. You also don’t want them frustrated because they could just watch a video at home. They need a framework to work within. So, follow these steps:
1. Start gently; don’t shove them in the deep end.
First, have them watch it without taking any notes. Then give them a few minutes to discuss the message and what the speaker’s purpose in giving that message could be.
2. Play it again, Sam!
Now have them watch it and take notes. Vary the purpose of the notes. Sometimes I ask them to write new/interesting words. Sometimes I have them write what questions they feel are unanswered. Again, group them to compare notes.
3. Interrupt and discuss.
The third time I play it, I stop it at key points to either ask the class a question that they must discuss together or to have THEM come up with a question. I don’t mean a comprehension question; I mean a question involving the vocabulary used. For example: “When the speaker uses the word _____, is she/he trying to shift the focus away from ____?”
Finally, remember all that building background discussion you started with? Revisit those questions with your students and see if their perceptions were proven true or if they have changed their minds based on new information.
Read more about teaching vocabulary in adult ESL!
- 12 Ways to Use TED Talks with Adult ESL
- Two Engaging Multi-Level Vocabulary Games for Adult ESL
- Learning New Vocabulary: 3 Reasons Adult ESL Students Struggle
- Not sure how you got here or where Part 1 is? 2 Powerful Techniques to Increase Student Engagement with Academic Vocabulary Part 1
I usually chose videos based on what I knew about my students and their interests, skills, and goals, but if you are starting a new course and don’t really know your students that well yet, subscribe to my newsletter and grab my hyperlinked list of TED talks related to vocabulary that you should check out and maybe share with your students.