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How to Use Videos in the Classroom to Your Advantage

How to Use Videos in the Classroom to Your Advantage

This tool was never meant to be your portable substitute teacher.

Classroom videos were once only thought of as mindless entertainment or purely academic films that bored students to tears. But the world of possibility has expanded dramatically. These resources can enhance your lessons, and it would be a shame to ignore them. Here's why, and how, to make the most of videos in the classroom.

Emphasize a Point with Video

I was teaching fiction writing to my 6th grade class, and we were discussing different types of conflict—person vs. self, person vs. person, and person vs. nature—using books and short stories we had read as examples. Then we started to talk about movies we'd seen and which type of conflict was in each. "Well, Star Wars is person vs. evil, I guess?" "Alice in Wonderland? Is that person vs. the supernatural? Or person vs. crazy bunny?" There was excitement and inquiry at once. That's when I showed them a few movie trailers to further hammer home the point. We also watched scenes from our favorite movies. As you can see, the use of classroom videos can be a lot of fun!

I use videos in math, science, and social studies as well. It really doesn't matter what subject is being taught. You can use video as a tool to enhance the class discussion and make whatever you're teaching that much more accessible to your diverse body of learners.

Know Videos Are Tools, Not Teachers

So can you just expect to throw on a video, kick your feet up on your desk, and relax? No! The video doesn't teach. You do. Use the video as a method to help enhance a point you're making. As a veteran teacher, I was asked to be an instructional coach, so I shared a video with a colleague who was new to teaching. "Use this to add to the lesson," I told her. Later that day, she said it fell flat. She said, "I showed them the video and asked them if they got it now. No one raised a hand. Nothing." I told her that she needed to use it to help explain and connect concepts. A video should never replace the teacher. Instead, it should offer additional examples that might make things clearer for some students.

Further reading: 5 Motivational Videos for Students

To prepare, I watch the classroom videos I plan to use and practice what my points will be. Whether it's a feature-length documentary that I've broken into small chunks or a quick video, clip, or trailer I found online, it's another tool that will engage my students and widen the application of the points made when used in coordination with a lesson.

Raise Awareness and Support Claims with Video

The world is a very complicated place, especially for children, and making sense of it can be challenging. I use videos from different news sites to help students understand current events and other social topics. How do you explain global warming? How does the presidential election work? What is the distance from the sun to Earth? These are all great questions that videos can answer and expand on.

I have also used videos as homework. I use sites like Newsela to help my students find appropriate articles about the world. When writing persuasive essays, I've also challenged my students to find both print and video sources to support their theses. Students read their essay and show the video to the class, or we have a publishing party and they leave their essay next to a laptop or tablet playing the video. Every year, the kids find the most amazing clips, and this process helps them connect the dots and further their understanding of the subject matter.

Make Your Own Videos

What could be better than students making their own videos? I teach the basics of movie making, such as brainstorming an idea and writing a treatment of the video, a script, and a storyboard, to teach my class how to make their own videos. Then they separate themselves into roles (director, producer, videographer, actors, stylist, etc.) and shoot their video.

Phones work exceedingly well for this project, as well as tablets with cameras and, of course, digital cameras. Making videos in the classroom is a fun way for students to show what they know, and for you to teach them the importance of structure and creativity at the same time.

You can also record presentations your students give in class and use them as a resource later on in the year. "Remember when we did those projects on amoebas? No? Well, let's watch our presentations to refresh our memories." I'm always encouraging students to improve their presentation skills, and showing them a video of themselves and having them critique their own work can be extremely effective.

Further reading: A Class Video Project Can Empower Your Students

Don't think of videos as simple tools you can show your class to keep them quiet for a while. They are incredibly useful teaching tools that are also a lot of fun. Cue up the video!