Maximizing Vocabulary Instruction Through Screencasts

Earlier, I mentioned that I was looking forward to presenting on the topic of screencasts (What is a screencast? This is a screencast!) at TESL Toronto. That time is almost here! Below is a brief introduction to my session. I would love to hear how you handle vocabulary instruction.

Here’s a number that quite frankly scared me the first time I heard it: According to Nation and Newton (1997), a student must know between 95 and 99 percent of the words in a text in order to comprehend it. Clearly, teachers and students alike have their work cut out for them when it comes to vocabulary instruction and learning. Giving students a word list to study at home is a great start, but I have found that my students learn best when they are able to actively use the vocabulary, either in speaking or in writing. In fact, study after study has suggested that tasks with a high involvement load—requiring students to look up the vocabulary word or phrase, evaluate its meaning, and then use it correctly—correlate with better learning of these words or phrases.  The difficulty of implementing this kind of student-led, student-initiated vocabulary use is that students still want explicit vocabulary instruction. An active use lesson can often turn into an off-the-cuff lecture on the meaning and use of the vocabulary items. To deal with this problem, I turned to screencasting technology, available for free online, to deliver explicit, multidimensional vocabulary instruction outside of class, and it has worked!  My students say they like being able to watch the video over and over again, going back to the parts they didn’t understand. They get to hear and see the words in context. When we play vocabulary-based games in class, they often surprise me by using clues from the video: “Remember? Kate said the is silent in this word? She said an example is Hawaii?” In my session at TESL Toronto, I will explain how to use screencasts to give yourself and your students more time to focus on using the vocabulary, not just memorizing it.


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