How to use video to support learning in the classroom

To use video effectively in the classroom, you need to be hitting the pause button – often.

  1. Pause for ‘my turn, your turn’.

When you get to a key word which the children will need to remember, pause the video and say the word. Then get children to say it back to you. Have some kind of signal which tells the children to do this: I point at myself when I’m saying the word, and then point at the children when I want them to repeat it. Once we’ve done this, I write the word down on flipchart paper or the white board.

If the children have said, rather than just heard, a word, they are more likely to remember it. Children need to build their mathematical vocabulary. This only takes ten seconds, so doesn’t slow the lesson down, but it’s useful. Tell the children that if they have said a word as a whole class and you have written it on the board, you always hope to hear them using the word in their talk partner discussions.

  1. Pause for a choral response.

Ask questions with a one-word answer. But if a question has a one-word answer, never ask an individual child to respond. Instead, get the children to all call out the answer at the same time. Have some kind of signal which tells the children to do this: I move my hands out with open palms.

In Maths, the one-word answer will often be the answer to the question – so pause the video before you get to it. But it might also be a vocabulary-based question, for example, ‘Is this an improper fraction or a mixed number?’ (OK, that’s not strictly ‘one word’ but you get my point…)

The choral response will give you useful feedback. How many children answered? How many wrong answers did you hear?

Make it clear that you expect children to say the word in a normal voice rather than shouting. Also make it clear that you expect children to all answer at the same time, otherwise some children will try to answer before you have finished giving the signal so that they can be ‘first’.

Some children might avoid answering. This is usually because of fear of embarrassment: they might call out the wrong answer, and other children might hear them. So, make it clear to the class that you don’t expect every child to get it right first time and make it clear that, in our school/classroom, we never make fun of children who get it wrong. If children are still silent, just have a quiet word with them once the teaching input has finished, explaining that this helps you see that they are learning and that you want them to be joining in from now on.

  1. Pause for talk partners.

Once something has been explained, pause the video. Ask the children to talk to each other to explain the method, explain what they like about the method, explain why the method works, explain how the method is similar to or different from another method which they have learned, explain how the method was visually represented in the video, and so on.

If the children have explained something themselves, they are more likely to remember it. So, give children many opportunities to explain things to each other throughout the teaching input.

Have a good idea of what you want the children to be talking about in each lesson. You should have watched the video before you use it in the classroom and might have jotted down a few ideas in a lesson plan.

Listen to the talk partner discussions of certain children. Have they ‘got it’? If not, why not? Is there something that children have misunderstood that you need to clarify?

Use a clear signal to stop the children (I hold up my hand and count down from 3), and make it clear that you expect children to respond straight away even if they are mid-sentence.

Then ask a few children to share their response with the whole class. Then, depending on whether or not the children have ‘got it’, you can either move on, address any misconceptions or have a class discussion around the idea.

You could also use talk partners to ask the children to predict what’s coming next – so before a problem is solved in the video, pause and ask the children how they expect it will be solved or at least what the next step might be. This gets the children thinking about the topic and they feel a real sense of achievement if their prediction is correct. However, you do need to be careful with this one: there is a danger that getting children to explain things that turn out to be wrong will reinforce those misconceptions. So, if you use this, make sure that you ask the children to explain what was right or wrong about their prediction later on in the lesson.

  1. Pause to give children time to complete a different question which follows the same steps in their books or on their mini-white boards.

Children need to be given the opportunity to practise during the teaching input. This is useful for you because it helps you judge when they are ready to start independent work. It is useful for the children, especially if they can practise answering a question one step at a time before they are expected to complete whole questions independently. It helps ‘break up’ the teaching input, which allows children to stay focused for longer. Children should be practising what they have learned as soon as possible after learning it.

Most videos will explain a method using examples, and then go through a few more examples. Once the method has been explained, once children have had time to discuss the method, once you have clarified any misconceptions, give children the opportunity to answer a question themselves.

There are different ways of doing this. For higher ability sets or easier topics, you might show the video modelling how to solve a question, and then get the children to complete a different (but similar) question on their white boards.

For lower ability sets or more difficult topics, you might show only the first step of the video modelling, then get children to complete the first step of their question. Then you might show the next step, and get the children to add that to their own question. And so on.

If a video is showing a further example of something that has already been explained, you might pause it and ask the children to complete the question in the video – and then, once they have done this, play it back so children can see whether they answered correctly or identify any mistakes that they have made.

  1. Pause to use the (non-interactive) white board or flipchart.

Perhaps the video assumes too much knowledge. For example, a video on adding fractions with different denominators might assume that children know how to find equivalent fractions – and perhaps not all children in your class are secure with this. So, pause the video and revise equivalent fractions at the relevant points before moving on. In any teaching video, there is likely to be something that is either assumed or explained only very briefly. You will need to add the necessary explanation so that all of the children are able to access the new learning.

Or perhaps the children know one method, but in this lesson, they are learning a different method. If so, use the video to explain the method they know, then pause the video at each step and explain the step for the new method on the white board or flip chart. (Or do it the other way around: explain the method they know on the white board, then have the video teach them the new method.) This makes it clear to children that the video is explaining one method and you are explaining a different method. If you try to explain both methods, the children are more likely to become confused between them. And of course, with this, you’ll need to use lots of talk partner discussions, getting the children to compare what is similar and what is different about the methods.

  1. Pause when the video explains something badly.

On average, a video explanation will be better than your teacher exposition. If you don’t believe that, then record yourself explaining something to the children. You’ll soon notice that you say errm more times than you thought, that some of your sentences don’t make sense, that you rambled on for ten minutes when you could have explained it far more concisely, and so on.

But no video explains something perfectly. Could the video have explained something more clearly? You will be able to spot this. Pause to clarify the intended meaning to the children.

Or, even better, ask the children what they think of the explanation. Say, “I don’t think they’ve explained that in the best way. What do you think I don’t like about it? What do you think of that explanation?” Get the children to analyse the explanation and try to come up with something better.

  1. Don’t pause to give children feedback on their attentiveness.

Are the children focused? Are their eyes on the board? You need to know this. But one thing you don’t want to do is to keep on pausing the video to tell the children where their eyes should be. This will slow things down too much and make the learning more difficult for those children who are trying their best to learn.

Instead, note down the names of the children not listening on a post-it note. Then, when you next pause the video (e.g. to use talk partners or for any of the other reasons given above) you can call out the children who are not listening. “Paul, Jane and Joe, I noticed that your eyes were not on the board just then. I need your eyes to be on the board because it is important that you are learning in this lesson, and I need to see that.” If necessary, take off a house point/ dojo point / whatever you use to record behaviour.

Alternatively, while the video is still playing, you might quickly walk over to Paul, Jane and Joe and point to the board. This is usually enough to get them back on task.

With a new class, it’s useful to play a video for an extended period of time without pausing. This gives you a chance to observe the children and see how attentive they are. Knowing this can help you decide on your seating plan and, if necessary, have conversations with certain children about your expectations.

Obviously, for significant disruption or misbehaviour, you might still need to pause to address it.

If a child is persistently misbehaving or not listening and usual behaviour management methods haven’t worked, you could try allowing that child to sit at your desk and be in charge of pausing the video. Children always love this responsibility, and it is at least something you can take away from them if their focus does not improve.

  1. Don’t try to do too much while the video is playing.

While the children are watching the video, you shouldn’t be handing out books. This will distract them. It will also mean that you lose track of the video so miss opportunities to pause it to give children the opportunity to talk about or practise what they have learned.

Similarly, if another member of staff walks into your classroom to ask you something, it can be tempting just to leave the video playing while you talk to them. Don’t do this, especially if the member of staff is senior management. They will assume that your teaching input consists of ‘just playing videos’ because they will see the video playing but won’t be seeing all the learning that takes place when the video is paused.

  1. Use video to help children catch up on what they have missed.

Was a child absent yesterday? Most classrooms will have tablets, laptops or class computers for the children to use. Use these to make sure that they’ve at least watched the videos you used yesterday before you start today’s lesson. This could be during registration time or during break time.

Obviously, it’s not ideal: they won’t have had the talk partner discussions or the practise time to support their learning. But at least they’ll have some idea of what’s going on when you teach today’s lesson.

  1. Use videos to encourage home learning.

Children could be watching videos at home to revise topics they have learned in school. I haven’t used this much, but there’s definitely the potential for this to really help children. I will report back when I have experimented with this a bit more!

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