The Story Behind the OPD Tell the Story Contest

Years and years and years ago, (22 to be exact), Norma Shapiro and I wanted to create videos based on the pictures in the *New* Oxford Picture Dictionary.  Our vision was of  OPD pictures dissolving into live action scenes that would engage learners and demonstrate the OPD vocabulary in use. At the time, the New York office of Oxford University Press (American English Language Teaching) was not in a media frame of mind. (Roy Gilbert, head of OUP-AMELT at the time, did like the dialog balloons we gave the cover characters during workshops - but we just couldn't "sell" the video concept. 

Soon after we made our video suggestion, Bill Bliss and Steve Molinsky came out with Side by Side TV and Norma and I put away our video dreams for a while. We brought
the idea up again during work on the 1998 edition of OPD, but at the time the resources were directed towards the OPD interactive and the learning curve for including video was a bit  steep.  By 2008, video had made its way into the OPD digital materials,but the authorial vision of a cross dissolve from page to reality didn't make the cut.

Still, I am a terrier at heart.

I ruminated and pondered and came up with an answer I should have had all along: turn it over to the learners! LEARNERS could make VIDEOS inspired by the stories they saw in the OPD. 

The sales and marketing group were enthused and plans began for the...
OPD Tell the Story Video contest. 

As one would expect, the vision has had to be adapted in order to make it manageable. The Tell the Story contest asks learners and their instructors to choose from one of four story pages in the OPD in order to create and act out a video script. The story serves as the narration that frames the action, and learners write the dialog and action to flesh out the story.  Once the class is happy with their work, they rehearse the script and perform it for the camera, upload the video to YouTube and await the video judging in June.

The teacher of the grand prize-winning class wins a Trip to TESOL 2015 in Toronto
Teachers of First-Runner Up and Second-Runner Up Classes win and iPad and an iPad mini respectively

Learners get prizes too, of course. The Grand Prize class get the iPhone OPD app
or a choice of print dictionaries, and first and second place classes get a choice of dictionaries as well.
(There's even a Learners' Choice Award given to the video with the most votes from the ESL community participating in the contest.)

All contest submissions must be in by June 2, 2014.

While the prizes are certainly lovely, I think the task-based learning at the heart of the contest will be the bigger pay off.* This is an opportunity for learners to collaborate and get creative as they determine what parts of the story to tell and how. (All the materials you and your learners need are provided free through the Oxford Teacher's Club.*) Here's a sample: Tell the Story Lesson Plan. The recording process is an added benefit to learners. It allows them to capture and celebrate their successes and identify language skill areas they want to refine.

I hope you'll consider trying out the materials and entering the contest!

*This year the contest is open to US learners in secondary and adult classes, but the free materials for "telling the story" are available to all teachers and their learners at The Oxford Teachers' Club. You'll need to register, but registration is free. And once registered, search for OPD Tell the Story. You'll be directed to the free materials through a link on the site.)