Daily Videos: A Routine to Spark Engagement

Tonight (Monday), I participated in #sschat on Twitter (that’s a Social Studies teacher chat, for the uninitiated). Our topic of the day was Current Events - how do you use them in the classroom? Why is it important to use current events in the social studies classroom? What are some of the potential difficulties in teaching with current events?

It got me thinking about a new routine I’ve gotten into with my International Problems classes that I think could work in any discipline, across the board.

This routine: the Daily Video.

Each day, when my IP students walk in, they grab their Chromebooks but leave them closed on their desks. Then we spend the next 5-15 minutes watching a short YouTube video and having small- and large-group discussion on the video.

Simple, right? But there’s actually a lot going on:

  • Content: In my case, I use these daily videos to give students a little dose of current world events. Today, we watched two videos about the unrest in Spain over the Catalan independence referendum. Previously, we’ve watched videos on everything from bump stocks (in the wake of the Las Vegas shooting) to the Rohingya ethnic cleansing.

  • Small-Group Discussion: I always make sure to have each table group discuss the video, because I know there are students who may only feel comfortable revealing what they really think in a small setting like that.

  • Large-Group Discussion: The daily video is a relatively recent addition in my classroom, so we haven’t established norms for anything like a mini-debate. Today, I just asked each table group to choose a spokesperson to share one thing their group talked about, and when all tables had shared, others could chime in with additional comments.

  • Media Literacy: I use videos from several different sources, which means students get to see an array of video techniques (which could come in handy if/when they elect to make their own videos to demonstrate their learning). Additionally, we have informal conversations about the source behind the videos - is the source more liberal? More conservative? Is the video out of date, or up to the moment?

Best of all, this daily video can really help to set the tone each day. It immediately cues students into your discipline and gets their brains consciously engaged. Not a social studies teacher? Let’s think about what this could look like in other classes:

  • English Language Arts: The great thing about teaching ELA is that, in many schools, you have a lot of freedom in terms of content. Your daily videos could be on any topic you choose, really - anything you think the kids will engage with. One recommendation would be the videos of the Vlogbrothers, Hank and John Green.

  • Science: Okay, science teachers - the world is basically your oyster. Everything interesting in the world can be brought back to some cool scientific concept, and there are literally millions of great science videos on YouTube. Knock yourself out.

  • Math: If I taught math - which I very much don’t - I could see using daily videos to try to bring a “Yeah, but when will we ever use this in real life?” aspect to the math classroom. Math teachers would probably have to do more diligent searching than other subject areas, but it certainly could be done.

  • World Languages: Ooh - a daily short video, in the language you teach (Spanish, French, Japanese, ASL?) - the possibilities for language learning + entertainment are endless.

  • Other Electives: There are, of course, dozens of other disciplines taught in our schools - too many to list them all with examples here. But you get the idea. Now that video content has become such a desirable medium, the internet is brimming with well-produced, easy-to-understand videos for your students.

Ready to try this technique out? Here are a few more tips from my experience:

  • If you’re looking for videos that are about specific events or concepts, try adding the word explained to your search. For example, I found all kinds of great videos by searching “North Korea explained” on YouTube. The explainer video is a distinct genre that is often characterized by high-quality animations, clear narration, and succinct explanation of complex topics.

  • Once you’ve found some videos you like, try subscribing to the channels that produced them. I’ve built up a subscription list of almost 15 channels that all put out great content on current world events. When I hit YouTube to find the video for the day, I just click on the Subscriptions button, and I can instantly see the latest videos from all those channels.

  • Ask your students who their favorite (school-appropriate) YouTube creators are. “YouTube creator” is now an official career, and the students in your classes are likely already experienced consumers of this content. Perhaps they can turn you on to some classroom-worthy sources.

  • If you’re going to have students discuss the video after watching (and I totally think you should), plan a prompt beforehand. Know what you’re going to ask them to tackle in their discussion. Don’t be discouraged if conversation is a little stilted at first; students need frequent, repeated practice to become proficient in having classroom conversations. There will be some awkward moments as they’re learning, but as your classroom community takes shape, discussion will become more lively.

So give it a whirl this week or next - find a short video, either related directly to the unit you’re teaching… or not! Find something that piques your interest, and your students’. Watch. Talk. And let us know how it goes.

Erin DickeyComment