How To Use Video In The Classroom For Smarter Teaching

Video is a powerful tool. If a picture alone is worth 1,000 words, imagine how powerful a video can be. As such, videos have been a part of the classroom culture for as long as they’ve been easily accessible. Everyone remembers video day in school, when the teacher would turn town the lights, start a video…and the rest of class become a social hour. But wait, I hardly think that last part is what the teacher had in mind when she decided to show a video in class. When used correctly, videos provide a great way to stimulate discussion and increase a student’s understanding of a topic.

We will delve into the correct way to use a video in class in a little bit, but first, let’s discuss effective and fun ways video can be incorporated into any class.

Ways to Use Video in Class

There are as many ways to use video in the classroom as there are videos. The only real limit is your imagination.

Demonstrate Difficult Concepts

Many concepts can be difficult for students to understand without a visual representation. For subjects such as differential equations, geometry, cell structure, measurements and more, videos provide a great way to visualize the concept. Simply explaining to students the reasoning behind difficult or abstract concepts can be hard to do. But when video is added in, students are able to incorporate visuals into their understanding of a subject.

Student Created Videos

Having students create their own videos on a subject is a great way to get them involved. Split up the sections in a chapter and have each student create a video lesson on their section. Then, have the rest of the class watch these videos in order to learn the rest of the chapter.

Alternatively, students can create video logs, or vlogs, of what they are learning in class. Instead of having students keep a written journal of what they are learning, have them record their thoughts on video.

Demonstrate an Experiment

Experiments are an important part of science classes, but some experiments are too costly or dangerous to have students perform on their own. Video can be used to allow students to experience these experiments without putting them in danger. A low cost, low danger version of this is dropping Mentos in Diet Coke to see the explosion. While this doesn’t meet either of the previous requirements, it can be quite messy, especially if you have 30 students doing it at once. Instead, this experiment can be demonstrated with a video – students are still able to experience the reaction and the ensuing mess has been avoided.

Virtual Field Trips

Field trips are a great way to expose students to new experiences. However, for those who don’t live in a big city or don’t have the funds, field trips can be difficult to accomplish. Instead, try using videos to take students on virtual field trips. With a virtual field trip, distance is no longer an obstacle – students can even be taken on a trip to space or deep into the ocean. For a more traditional experience, try using Google’s Art Project to tour a world famous museum.

Bring Cultures and Time Periods to Life

Learning about a country’s culture is often a large part of foreign language classes. Instead of having students read their textbook to learn about the target culture, show them a film. By using video, students are able to see how people in the country live, dress and interact. Most importantly, they are able to listen to the language as they watch all of this.

For history classes, it can be difficult for students to relate to time periods that are so far removed from their everyday experiences. Students today have grown up in a world where everyone is welcome, and as such may have trouble understanding the tension that surrounded the civil rights movement. They have also never had to live through a draft, and thus may not understand why there was so much controversy and demonstrating during the Vietnam War. Showing students videos from these time periods will help students understand what life was like in a way simply telling them about it never could.

Illustrate Books

Many classes require students to read novels and classic literature. These stories can occasionally be difficult for students to understand due to their complex imagery and old language. There are many ways video can be used to improve students’ understanding of these books.

The most often used method is to show the film version of the story. This method often requires a few days of class time be devoted to the film, and as will be discussed later, is not the best way to ensure students retain the knowledge the film is meant to impart. However, watching the film version of a book can provide a way for students to connect with the story. If enough planning is put in place beforehand, it is even possible to only watch scenes that are critical to understanding the story.

Another option is to have students create their own video depicting the story instead of having them write a report. There are a few ways to go about this, but two of my favorites involve creating book trailers and having students rewrite a scene from the book in the context of a specific time period and then film the scene.

Book trailers are just like movie trailers, but for books instead of movies. To create a book trailer, have students film themselves giving a synopsis of the book. In this video, they should work to convince others to read the book and avoid giving away the ending. Bonus points if you work with the school library to have the book trailers added to the libraries copies of the book through QR codes.

Having groups of students rewrite a scene is one more way to get students involved in a story. In order to avoid having all students’ rewrites be similar, have each group choose a time period to set their scene in. Once the scenes have been written, have students act out and film them.

Flipped Learning

Flipped learning involves creating short videos of lessons for students to watch at home. Then, class time is used for completing assignments instead of delivering lessons. While technically, not a use of video in the classroom, flipped learning provides a way for students to receive the assistance they need while completing assignments. Additionally, they are able to reference the video lecture whenever they get stuck or are studying for an exam.

How to Use Video in Class

When used correctly, students will learn a lot from a video shown in class. Following are a few tips on how to use video correctly.


Choosing the correct video for your students is an important first step. While elementary students may love Schoolhouse Rock, most older students will groan with frustration if expected to sit through the animated musicals. Choose videos that are age appropriate as well as suited to your students’ comprehension level. While an in-depth study of cell structure maybe appropriate for high schoolers, those in beginning biology classes may not be able to fully understand the concepts presented in the video.

Students need to be able to relate to a video in order to stay focused on it. If they perceive the film to be below them they will brush it off immediately, and if they have trouble understanding the video, they will become frustrated and cease trying to understand it.

Break Up Long Films

The worst thing a teacher can do when using video in class is to show a long video. Attention spans tend to wander when given the chance, and long films provide the perfect chance for students to start socializing instead of learning. Especially bad is when a feature film is shown over a few days (I’m looking at you history teachers who show Ben-Hur in its entirety.) There are few times when it is appropriate to show an entire feature film and waste multiple days doing so.

Instead, consider showing only the scenes that are important for students to understand the point. After reading a book or learning about a time frame, students should have enough contextual knowledge to fill in the gaps of the scene shown without watching the entire film.

If showing a long video is unavoidable, be sure to break the film into short clips. Pausing often for discussion requires students to stay focused on the film and keeps them on their toes. Incorporating discussions into videos helps students pick out the important points and retain the information better.

In addition, pausing the film allows the teacher to clarify any points made in the film and answer questions students have. Allowing questions to go unanswered for a long period of time ensures that student’s will begin to lose their focus on the film and instead start to ponder their question, causing them to miss out on the next important aspect of the film.

Have Video Qu’ed up at the Start Point

Every time a teacher turns his back to a class, there is a chance the class will seize upon the opportunity and begin socializing. The longer his back is turned, the more likely this is to happen, and the harder it will be to regain control. Once the class begins socializing instead of paying attention, precious class time must be used to regain order in the class and quell all side conversations. Since there is often limited time in a class period, every minute counts.

Limit the time that your attention is directed away from the class by having videos ready to go. Ensure you know how to use the equipment and that everything is set up. The TV should be turned to the correct channel and setting and the video should be qu’ed up at the desired starting point. Having to spend time fast forwarding or rewinding through a movie to find the part you want to show is time consuming and disruptive.

When used correctly, video has been shown to improve student understanding and retention of a subject. Provide the best learning experience for your students by incorporating video into the classroom in a variety of ways. Not only will students learn more from it, they will have fun while doing so.

Megan Veschio is the marketing coordinator for Inventive Technology/MediaCAST, a digital content management and video streaming solution for schools. Learn more about using technology in education at

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