Educational Vocabulary Videos Bring Words to Life

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Kinetic Media produces hundreds of educational videos to teach students vocabulary words in fun and unique ways.

How would you visualize the word “pressure” or “collapse?” Not too hard. But what about “nevertheless?” Not so easy. An educational video vocabulary series produced by Kinetic Media ( and the William H. Sadlier publishing company actually does it. It’s a rap song that reinforces – in a hip and visual way – that nevertheless means “in spite of” or “however.”

The “nevertheless” video is just one of nearly 900 educational videos produced by Kinetic Media of Hartford, CT, for Sadlier’s new Vocabulary for Success textbook series ( The series, designed for middle school students, takes a multimedia approach to learning. The books present the research-based word meanings for 870 words and incorporate an audio program, online dictionary and interactive games and quizzes, in addition to the 10- to 15-second videos.

Sadlier – a New York publisher best known for its rigorous educational materials for college-bound kids – decided last year to expand its repertoire to target struggling middle-school students and English language learners. Working with educational experts, Sadlier decided on a multimedia approach that would engage students and provide an alternative teaching strategy for educators.

“Each video includes the definition and usage of the word, as well as a short skit or activity or example of how that word gets used,” said Michael Ferejohn, Sadlier’s director of digital media. “These videos are humorous and relevant and encourage kids to say, ‘Oh, yeah, that’s how that kid is using that word. I get that. I could use that word as well.’”

One of the keys to the success of the program was the use of kids themselves – their ideas and their acting ability. Kinetic Media worked with students at the Hartford Children’s Theater, who got the opportunity to use their budding acting skills on camera.

“You get a connection when kids see real middle school kids who are having fun interacting and being playful with vocabulary words,” Ferejohn said.

Kinetic Media, which specializes in corporate and educational video, was challenged with developing unique ideas for the 870 words. “Sometimes, I’d be lying awake at night wondering what we were going to do with a word like ‘circumstance,” said Rosemary O’Neill, producer for Kinetic Media. “Then, you’d get ‘haphazard’ and you’d have it immediately.”

The videos were shot quickly – sometimes 30 skits in a day, at various locations, with props from party stores, consignment shops and the attic at the children’s theater. “We had a budget and a timeline,” O’Neill said. “And neither would move.”

Once the shooting was completed, the videos were edited together with original graphics, music and a professional voiceover narrator. For some words that just couldn’t be illustrated with a skit, Kinetic Media chose stock footage or a graphic.

“One of the great lessons here is that you can produce large volumes of professional videos that have a big impact, at a reasonable cost,” O’Neill said. “You just have to have a good idea, a solid plan and a little creativity.”

The Vocabulary for Success series has been positively received by educators since its introduction this school year. Florida’s Pinellas County adopted the program district-wide to help its large population of English language learners.

“Vocabulary can be a really dry topic,” Ferejohn said, “and this might be the first time students and teachers have been able to have some fun with it.”


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Katie Warchut
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