Creating an Online Video Dictionary (made by kids)

Those of you clicking this link based on the ambitiousness of the title, please know that this is very much in the idea stage. Like many international school teachers, I have several students who speak English only while in school (or with only one parent). While all of these children have the advantage of bilingual or even trilingualism, their English vocabulary often needs to be developed in school.

bringing words For several years, my preferred method of vocabulary instruction has been based on the book Bringing Words to Life by Beck, McKeown, and Kucan. Through “robust vocabulary instruction,” students learn, practice, and apply vocabulary until they have internalized the new words.

I highly recommend this resource to other teachers–I have seen the success of its methods time and time again as my students develop their understanding and use of new words. Up until this point, however, my approach to vocabulary has been almost technology free. I have a google spreadsheet of Tier 2 words with kid-friendly definitions, but everything else has been on paper and pencil.

When Coetail Course 3 emphasized Visual Literacy, I felt comfortable with the topic, especially when dealing with video. Around this time last year, my students created digital stories for the first time, and we made non-fiction documentaries later in the Spring. On the teaching side, through tutorials, I have made digital stories on a weekly (if not daily) basis.

Now it’s time to put vocabulary development and digital storytelling together (along with the Alan-November-inspired quest for a “global audience”). By having my students create vocabulary videos, I am aiming to:

  1. Develop students’ vocabulary.
  2. Develop students’ cooperation and communication skills.
  3. Develop  students’ technology skills.
  4. Motivate students with a global audience.

Created with Doodlecast Pro on an ipad mini, here is our first vocabulary video:


I think it turned out well and can serve as a template for future videos, but I have plenty of questions and reflection points:

  • For the first video, even though the students were narrating, making examples, and creating pictures, I was the one who made the script outline, wrote the words on the ipad, and walked them through Doodlecast Pro. If I turn a bunch of third graders loose, will they be able to do most of the process on their own?
  • Speaking of writing the words on the ipad, one of the biggest drawbacks of Doodlecast Pro is the absence of typing. It takes time to neatly write out the words, definitions, and examples. On the other hand, maybe the handwritten words give the videos a dash of homemade, kid-created charm.
  • Do I have the proper tool? I need to check out other screen casting apps (explain everything, screenchomp, educreations) and decide if they would be better options for my students. I’d be interested to hear opinions about which tools or apps you think would work best for this project.
  • Pictures in color would be nice.
  • Should we include opposites in the definitions? Is there anything we can do to add to or enhance the instruction within the videos?
  • I need to see if there’s a way to get rid of the Doodlecast plug at the end.
  • We cranked out this video quickly (15 minutes), but I’m curious how much time it will take to create others once the students are working independently.

The next step is to plan out new videos, teach students the technology, and see what they create. There is no shortage of vocabulary words to explain. And once we accumulate a significant number, it will be time to think about the online, kid-created dictionary. I have lots of ideas about that; so many that it will probably morph into my final project, so I will save those until later.

In the meantime, I’d love to hear your thoughts on vocabulary instruction, the video (before we start making more), and the project in general. Thanks!

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7 Responses to Creating an Online Video Dictionary (made by kids)

  1. Clare Demnar says:

    Love the idea Jeff. I think the kids will remember the meaning and spelling of their particular words indefinitely. I was thinking about your request for suggestions at the end. I thought maybe to put a time limit on each one, say 60 sec? And it would be good if you could get rid of the plug at the end. Also I think the sentences are good but I would also like to see them written somewhere on the screen for new English speakers. The addition of antonyms might be useful but you have to think of the time limit. Maybe the contributing students could just have their names flashed up at the end?
    This project may take some time, but once the students are adept with the technology and find it quick and easy to do, I think they could build a great bank for themselves. And what if it continued throughout their elementary years? What a great dictionary they would be have to be very proud of. It may also become a project for the whole school. You may have started something!

    • Jeff Lewis says:

      Wow, Clare, that’s exactly the type of feedback I was looking for. I can address all of your suggestions/comments:

      We’ve since made several more videos, and all of them are under a minute. I think that’s a good limit.

      I figured out how to get rid of the promo (it’s an option in the Doodlecast settings). For the video already published, I used youtube editor and cut it out. Using the annotations part of the youtube editor, I also was able to add the sentences (you should be able to see them if you watch the video again). The next step here is to teach the students how to do this.

      I also think that flashing the names at the end, without the students reading them, would be good for the sake of brevity. But I also want to give students credit and keep them motivated, and it only takes a couple of seconds, so for now we’ll keep that part in.

      And for your last suggestions to keep going after this year and even get the whole school involved, we’re already on the same page. I’m trying to start small though and build out from here. Thanks again for all of the feedback…I’ll keep you posted on how it goes.

  2. Clint Hamada says:

    I like Clare’s idea of a dictionary for the whole school. It would require a bit of management but I would imagine that after a few years you would have a pretty extensive library of words for students to look up!

    • Jeff Lewis says:

      Yes, Clint, that’s a good way to go. Once the dictionary is established, it would be cool to open it up to contributions from kids all over the world. I’ve done some research and haven’t found anything like this. That step is far away though, and it would require quite a bit of learning on my part (setting up a website, learning some code, etc.).

  3. Mariko Jungnitsch says:

    Hi Jeff,

    Thank you for sharing how you integrate what we learn in COETAIL to your lessons. All the questions you’ve asked are challenging to answer. I’ll try to respond to some of them here.

    From my experience, I can assure you that grade 3 students are highly capable of using tech. They are also able to use it independently, of course, with the right tool. When I taught grade 3 EAL last year, students had to incorporate what they have learned about signs. There were three big vocabulary words to learn including their functions and structures. After lots of practice with different examples, it was time for them to apply their knowledge by creating a poster with different signs in their own situation.

    I like to use Photobooth because students just press a button and start talking. They can upload the video on Youtube on their own (after approval) by pressing the “share” button. Sometimes old school methods work best: I let them hold up their poster as they talk. It’s one less step from Doodlecast Pro and you can see the speaker. If that’s a concern, you may want to tell the kids to hide behind the poster. Students could rehearse what they’d say before recording, but there was no script allowed.

    Learners are still at developing stage so it is important to “let go” of producing a perfect piece. I used to cringe at students’ mistakes because I was more concerned about what people think about my teaching. I was scared to be judged.

    Now I look at students’ work in video format as the best way to give feedback and really show a student’s stage of language development. Having this information allows me to move them forward. It’s like being a sports coach doing a video playback for athletes. They see how they performed in a game and then the coach gives them tips on how to make their play better in the future. Looking at the videos this way freed me up mentally as a teacher and helped me focus more on student learning instead of teaching. Learning is a journey and when students see how they have improved through consequent videos, isn’t that real achievement?

    My tip: let them loose! 🙂

    Here are two examples you might want to check out: (the first one is by an upper intermediate EAL student exited at the end of the year and the other one is developing third grader who spoke very little in grade 2 but was very keen to share in this video)

    I hope this helps!

    • Jeff Lewis says:

      Hey, Mariko, it’s been a while, but I just wanted to say a quick thanks for your lengthy response. I’ve taken a lot of your advice and we’ve already created more than 30 videos. It is hard to “let go,” but I’ve done that, and like anything else, practice and repetition have greatly improved the quality of the students’ work. Thanks!

  4. Pingback: Unleashing 3rd Graders with Youtube Video Editor | Student Centered Technology

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