How to Use Videos for Language Therapy

Often, getting our students to engage with reading-based therapy tasks can feel like pulling teeth- both for students and therapist! Our school clients often present with co-morbid reading and learning disabilities that make reading a daily struggle, and so it’s no wonder they immediately deflate when we put an article in front of them.  My experience is that even if the subject is high-interest and even if the text is read aloud to them, most middle and high school students find it hard to overcome their deep-seated aversion to anything reading-related.

That’s why educational videos are such an important tool for therapy.  They allow our students to target many oral comprehension and vocabulary goals just as well as with any reading therapy task.  Students still need to comprehend complex sentences, identify and possibly look-up new vocabulary, use context clues, and engage in “active reading strategies” such as questioning.  Students still have the opportunity to identify main idea, answer questions about details and make inferences.  Videos also require many of the same compensatory strategies that a student would use for a higher-level reading text; students may need to “re-read” (well, rewind) when they do not understand or recall an important portion of the video.  I always leave the subtitles on as well so students have them as an additional support to follow-along with the video and so they can look back at key words and vocabulary during replays. Students can identify affixes and root words in vocabulary, attempt to use context clues to identify a new word’s meaning, or simply use strategies like looking up a word on google search or on a preferred online dictionary.

So where do we find the perfect educational video? I personally love these free Ted-Ed videos.  They cover a variety of interesting topics in science, mathematics, history, etc.  They also come with great animation that helps the student follow the narrative when some of the vocabulary or sentence structure is above their academic level.  Finally, a discerning SLP can create thematic lessons plan by carefully selecting a playlist of videos that all revolve around one topic such as “Holidays” or “Outer Space Phenomena”.  Thematic instruction is heavily-supported by research; it allows students to more easily retain and apply their concept and semantic mapping knowledge.  Below are some videos I recommend:

  1. History vs. Christopher Columbus– this is nice video discussing the history of Christopher Columbus and the holiday of Columbus Day.  It directly address many myths student may have heard or even learned in school about the historical figure and discusses the pros and cons of celebrating him. This could be a good video for a “Holidays” theme in therapy.
  2. Could the Earth be Swallowed by a Black Hole? This video gives over some basic information about what black holes are and how they function, then goes on to discuss the likelihood of the earth being swallowed by a black hole.
  3. Who Won the Space Race? This gives a quick history of the Space Race and the resulting technological advances that came from it.  This is another great one for an Outer Space themed unit.

Some tips for using these videos:

  • Make sure to pause the videos frequently, ask questions, and check for understanding.
  • Model for students how to self-advocate by requesting a rewind or pause.
  • Don’t feel pressured to use the questions that comes with the lesson.  They may be too easy or too challenging for some of your students.  Feel free to come up with your own questions and your own list of targeted vocabulary from the video.

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