Using Video in the Classroom


Take control of your resource!

"Because so many programs come in half-hour and hour formats, you may think you have to give up half-hour and hour blocks of class time. Don't forget that every VCR comes with a button that says STOP."


Here are a few basic suggestions reprinted from material in Education Satlink magazine, the National Teacher Training Institute, and the PBS Elementary/Secondary Service:

1. Preview the tape, watching for the parts you want to use. Concentrate on what you need for your lessons and skip the parts that won't work.

2. Include lead-in activities to prepare the students for the tape. You might want to:

3. Leave the lights on. Unlike the old film projectors, most television sets are bright enough for the class to see in full light, and you can keep an eye on the reactions of students. This also gives the students light to take notes. Swivel the television set to eliminate glare.

4. Eliminate either the sound or the picture, if appropriate. For example, a segment may feature outstanding cinematography and/or graphics but may be accompanied by narration inappropriate for your students. In such cases, turn down the volume and provide your own narration. This strategy can be expanded with close-captioned programming; turn down the audio and have the students follow the action by reading along.

5. Segment your viewing. When an important point comes up on the tape, pause it afterwards and ask the students what they saw. Point out details for them to watch for or remind them about the questions they are trying to answer. Ask them what they think will happen next, then continue the tape until the useful portion is over or until you want to pause again. Consider pausing the video for a still picture to point out background visuals, characters' expressions or a longer look at an object. Using frame advance / slow motion provides an extended view of a process.

6. Discuss the video afterwards. "Tell me what you saw" can be a good way to start students discussing their reactions, opinions and questions. Not only does this reinforce the information for the students, it also tells you how well they understand the lesson and what concepts caught their imagination. More advanced classes may want to practice critical thinking skills as well: Why things were said a certain way, how the clip was structured, the impact of character portrayals, etc.

7. Follow-up Activities can help students integrate the concepts. These can include further research, group projects, role-playing, bulletin boards or almost anything else. Many programs come with a teacher's guide that usually has several suggestions to consider.

8. Make notes for yourself on what worked and what didn't, as well as any ideas that came to you later to improve presentation and student reactions. One of the most common challenges teachers face when using video is the time to locate and preview the programs. Start small, keep notes and network with other teachers. Within a few years, you will have your own personal library of useful video clips, complete with notes containing your critiques, lesson plans and suggestions for classroom use.