Effective use of video in the classroom


The 15 minute forum tonight was led by history teacher Jack Tyler.  Jack started by dispelling some common myths about using video in lessons:

  • It will get you into trouble – not if it has a clear purpose.  Have the confidence to know why you are using it.
  • The kids will learn nothing – simply not true!  As adults we can probably all remember things we watched at school, and what we learned from it.
  • It’s the mark of a lazy teacher – again, not true.  If it is going to be used effectively, like any resource, it requires planning and thought.
  • It should only be done at the end of term – this is a bad idea.  It creates the wrong impression with students about the usefullness of video as a learning resource.

Jack then went on to share some ideas about how he uses video in his lessons.

Idea 1 – The old ones are sometimes the best


Students have a natural interest in many things retro, particularly if they are a bit ‘odd’.  There are many of these in the BBC video archives, including the above clip from a BBC educational film on nazis, where the nazis have a Geordie accent! This serves to make it quite memorable for the students.

Idea 2 – Voiceover

video3Show students some vintage black and white footage – such as the above, which comes from a propaganda clip ‘Glorious Comrade Stalin’.  Following a discussion, students have to provide the voiceover for the film, as it is shown with no sound.  In order to do this well, they have to have a very good understanding about what is going on.

Idea 3 – Interpretations

Video clips can be a good way of showing how events can be interpreted differently.

So for example, a clip of this film would suggest that one person ended the slave trade  across the world, without necessarily emphasising the role of the uprising of thousands of slaves.  So these two interpretations of the same event can be discussed and unpicked.

Similarly, Jack has shown the trailer for the film ‘Pretty Woman’ during a PSHCE lesson on sexual exploitation and asked the students beforehand, what they think the film is about (as it’s fairly old, most haven’t seen it!):

Most come up with themes such as fashion, relationships, love, fun, money, glamorous lifestyle etc etc.  They are then generally shocked to hear that one of the key themes is prostitution.

Through careful questioning, this can generate a great discussion.

Idea 4 – Bringing it to life

Photos and written sources can be quite dull and 2 dimensional. A video clip gives us the opportunity to bring the topic to life and give it context and meaning.

video6So for example, Jack discussed how it is difficult for students to understand what historical figures such as Hitler were actually like and how they influenced people.  Video clips can do this.  So Jack uses video clips such as the one above, that shows somebody who met Hitler, talking about the experience and the impact it had on him –  a real first hand account.

Again when combined with careful questioning, this can be hugely powerful for the students:

  • Why did this person feel that way?
  • What did Hitler do to make hime feel that way?
  • What was the wider impact of this?

There are many applications of this e.g. looking at internal organs working in science; how a nuclear power station works; looking at important geographical features e.g. Niagra Falls etc.

Idea 5 – The Hook

Video can be useful to hook students in, especially at the start of a new topic.  So, when introducing the English Civil War, Jack shows students a clip of the 1970s film ‘Cromwell’ starring Richard Harris (again the students love a bit of retro!):

During the ‘church scene’ students are asked to think about a series of questions:

  • What did you see happening in the church?
  • Why was the man angry?
  • What religion do you think the man might be?
  • Does anyone know who the man in the film is supposed to be?

Again, through careful and responsive questioning, this can generate a fantastic discussion about the topic.

Idea 6 – Time Travel

video8Video allows us to go back in time, or to places where we can’t go, and so understand a little better what it was/is like.  So for example, a clip from the film ‘Attonement’ can be used  to transport students to Dunkirk and get a real feel for the era.

Final thoughts

  • Give students a focus when watching the video – something to look out for.
  • Watch it beforehand – is it appropriate? Does it serve the purpose you want it to?
  • Avoid over use.
  • Avoid stop starting – this irritates students and ruins the flow.
  • Be selective – only use what you need to show a particular point.
  • Avoid lengthy talking heads – can be very dull.
  • Docu-dramas – great for empathy and understand ‘what it was like then’.

Thanks Jack – a strong case for the much maligned video!

This entry was posted in 15 Minute Forums. Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Effective use of video in the classroom

  1. Sue marooney says:

    Thank you Jack, interesting reflections

  2. Reblogged this on paddington teaching and learning and commented:
    Great practical tips for using video clips in your lessons

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