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Ten Ways to Maximise Videos in your Classroom

Playing videos in the classroom can elevate engagement to new heights. Chris Hobbs from History Bombs provides his top ten tips for using videos as part of valuable and engaging lessons.

Videos in the classroom have an image problem. While the days of dated documentaries whirring away on tired VHS tapes in front of half-dozing students may be a thing of the past, playing videos in class carries an implication of laziness; a suggestion of teachers shirking their responsibilities to prepare ‘proper’ lessons. 

Nowadays, however, this simply isn’t true. Classrooms are going through a digital revolution and there has been an explosion of captivating short-form education video content. 

When used effectively, short-form videos can become a hugely valuable part of an engaging and impactful learning experience. Here are my top 10 tips for maximising the use of videos in your classroom.

  • Keep it short
    Playing a captivating five-minute video at the start of class acts as a great ‘hook’ into the lesson topic and fire up students’ curiosity. These ‘starter’ videos should be engaging, clearly focused on your lesson’s learning objectives and, ideally, no longer than seven minutes.
  • Introduce the video
    Context is key. Before playing the video, introduce the focus of your lesson and the wider context. This will ensure students are prepared for the information and engage with the information presented.
  • Pose a question
    Ask a key enquiry question to your students before watching the video. This will encourage your students to watch the video critically and make their own judgements, which can be discussed afterwards. 
  • Choose videos that challenge students

There are plenty of videos that answer the ‘What’, meaning they may offer simple summaries of events, people, or themes etc. However, more valuable video content will go deeper and also look at the ‘Whys’ and ‘Hows’, which is much more enriching for students.

  • Start debates
    Quality video content can kick-start lively classroom debates, which are a fantastic way for students to work through key arguments. Videos that present competing arguments and themes lend themselves naturally to debate – as students can be tasked with representing a particular argument or even character’s point-of-view. 
  • Make them laugh
    American poet Alfred Mercier said, “What we learn with pleasure, we never forget”, and this is particularly true for young audiences. Using videos that are both highly focused and highly humorous will make your lessons accessible, while boosting your students’ willingness to engage.
  • Check the tech
    There is nothing more frustrating than forgetting a password, wrestling with wires, or struggling with dodgy internet connections – especially in front of an audience with a short attention span. To minimise frustration and maximise effectiveness, be sure to test-run your technology and any videos before class.
  • Invite students to take control
    Videos also lend themselves ideally to the ‘flipped learning’ teaching approach. Longer videos can be set as homework tasks – possibly integrated within your school’s learning platforms – to then be discussed within the classroom. Thereby also optimising lesson time.
  • Make it fit your class
    Videos can fit a myriad of teaching styles, student ability levels, and even tap into a cross-curricular approach. For example, one video on history can be accompanied with different tasks for your higher-achieving students, as well as more creative, cross-curricular tasks, such as writing letters to video’s producers or re-enacting scenes.
  • Remember revision
    Captivating short-form educational videos are perfectly suited as revision aids – either as energetic kick-starts or lively ways to break up heavy revision sessions. 

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The author

Chris is the founder of History Bombs, an innovative media company producing BAFTA award-winning educational video content to empower history teachers and bring history to life in classrooms. Outside the classroom, History Bombs produces educational series for BBC Learning, Historic Royal Palaces, and English Heritage, as well as for its award-winning YouTube channel, with more than 10 million views.

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