Looking for inspiration? These teachers leverage video to share educational and engaging lessons.
May 20, 2020
If teachers weren’t comfortable with video chat before the pandemic, they are now. These days, nearly everyone, from preschoolers through grandparents, is familiar with the Brady Bunch-look of a Zoom meeting in gallery view. But some teachers have gone beyond holding class on video chat or recording and sharing videos of their lessons. These teachers are using videos in creative, exciting ways: They’ve duplicated the spirit and warmth of a kindergarten classroom in their living room, demonstrated science experiments in under 30 seconds, and taken lessons about fractions to the kitchen.
Take a look at how these six educators are harnessing video platforms such as YouTube and TikTok to keep kids engaged in learning.
Read-Alouds & Writing Prompts
During the pandemic, Mia Philichi (Oklahoma City ‘17) has uploaded more than a dozen videos for her kindergarteners. Most begin with her warmly greeting students by saying, “Good morning, Champions.”
Then, she tells kids to take a finger and “touch your snout” and take a deep breath in through their noses, out through their mouths. This exercise is intended to help get students centered and ready to listen.
Even before Mia flips open the book, she introduces it: She mentions who the author and illustrator are (and what each of these people does), defines vocabulary words, talks about reading skills, and so on. Only then does her active, involved reading of the story begin. Mia points out when new vocabulary words come up, counts items on the page, and so on. Then, at the end of each video, she shares a writing prompt: “What’s your least favorite food?” (after Green Eggs and Ham) or “What three things did you clean up” (after reading The Berenstain Bears Go Green).
Getting Creative to Keeps Kids Engaged
Even before the pandemic, Garrett Gray (Chicago-Northwest Indiana ‘19) was using TikTok as a motivational tool with his high school chemistry students. During the first semester of the school year—in response to enthusiastic requests—he agreed to do a version of the Renegade dance with his students (in the lab, of course) if they hit certain metrics.
“Once we made the transition to remote learning I knew I’d need to focus on increasing engagement and come up with creative incentives,” Garrett says.
The answer? TikTok.
“I created a competition in one of the early weeks of remote learning where I tracked engagement and the class period with the highest percent engagement was able to vote on which TikTok dance I would record next and send to them,” Garrett says. On the video, as Garrett does the moves (in triplicate!) for a dance that may seem familiar if you’re a TikTok devotee, text appears that says, “This is for you, 3rd period.”
Garrett notes that the week leading up to his TikTok performance “was one of our highest engaged weeks.” Since then, Garrett’s done another dance—and it’s not necessarily his last. “It has been great to see how excited students get to see me loosen up a bit and have some fun!” Garrett says.
A DIY Kids’ TV Show for Students in Special Ed
What’s happening during Mr. Logan’s Quarantine? The YouTube videos from Logan Roberts (Los Angeles ‘19) are reminiscent of a kids’ TV show—when he goes for a walk, there’s a reminder to maintain six feet of distance from others, and when he returns to his home, there’s a Mr. Rogers-like moment where he takes off his shoes and coat and dons large, fuzzy animal slippers and a sweater.
Logan teaches special education to seventh graders at Charles Drew Middle School in Los Angeles. Accordingly, the videos he’s made focus on middle school skills: Reading comprehension is spurred by an article on vaping and integer practice happens on the basketball court.
“It can be challenging to think about how to deliver content to students in a whole new way. Special education classrooms in particular tend to need a more engaged approach that's hard to capture from a distance, and like every school we’ve had issues with limited technology at home and parents who still need to work and aren’t able to guide their kids learning day to day,” Logan notes on the TFA Los Angeles Facebook page.
Still, through his videos, he’s found a creative way to help his students stay engaged and practice skills. “[Teachers are] always thinking creatively and doing the best we can with the resources we have—this is just another way we’re going to have to adapt to provide quality education for all our students,” Logan says.
Taking Fractions to the Kitchen
For kids who are sick of worksheets, Helen Gerety (Washington ‘18) proposes a new way to practice fraction skills: Baking.
In this video for her sixth grade students in Washington’s Sequoyah Middle School, Helen first shows off her mom’s famous oatmeal chocolate chip cookie recipe—it makes a whopping two dozen cookies, so Helen then walks through the process of halving a recipe. It’s a good way to review how to work with fractions (and a reminder that math skills come in handy in everyday life).
As Helen notes, “Mathematics lives in the kitchen!” And the math lesson doesn’t stop there: In the kitchen, Helen describes all the units of measurement she’ll use, and then shows off the delicious finished product. In other videos, Helen offers an over-the-shoulder look at her paper, where she walks through the steps involved in solving a math problem, as well as sharing a walk-through of the week’s assignments.
Exploring Science on TikTok
Nancy Bullard (Jacksonville ‘12) uses her TikTok channel to show students how to make a catapult launcher using rubber bands, popsicle sticks, and a plastic spoon. (Use it to launch things at your siblings, the caption on the video jokes.)
Nancy’s channel boasts “simple and fun science activities,” like making leaf rubbings, bottle rockets, and more. The videos on mrs.b.tv are fun, and all the choices—music, platform, and featured activities—meet kids where they are, offering an easy way to explore science from home.
Read-Aloud Sessions That Promote Representation
School buildings in Washington State may be closed for the school year, but that doesn’t mean reading should stop. To encourage kids to engage with books—and, in particular, with books by and about people of color—Brandon Hersey (Washington ‘16), director for Seattle School District VII and a teacher at Rainier View Elementary School, read the story Ada Twist, Scientist. The book is a charming look at a STEM-loving young girl of color, inspired by real-life scientists Ada Lovelace and Marie Curie.
Brandon’s video was part of a trio of videos of black educators reading books by black writers—Emijah Smith, a community education advocate, and Marissa Mcdowell, the executive director of Education Unchained, were also involved in the project. Reading a story aloud isn’t Brandon’s first foray on video—on his YouTube channel, the College of Equity, he shares social commentary. Through this channel, Brandon hopes to “bring a lens of equity and education for students of color and female students.”
More Resources for Remote Teaching
Looking for more ways teachers are responding to the pandemic? Take a look at these articles:
- Getting Creative When Schools Go Remote
- 7 Tips for Being a Great Virtual Teacher
- How Teachers Can Stay Balanced During the Pandemic
Plus, support educators and community leaders helping students and communities who have been disproportionately affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, with Direct to Community Donations. If you have ideas for other stories or great teachers you want to highlight, send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org