Live video lessons: 5 ways kids struggle and how to help

Much of distance learning involves assignments students do on their own time. But sometimes distance learning includes live video lessons that happen at a specific time. They take place on videoconference tools like Google Hangouts, Microsoft Teams, or Zoom.

A live video lesson can be a great way for students to stay connected to their classes. But this format can be challenging for some kids. That’s especially true for kids who learn and think differently.

It helps to give students a tour of the videoconference tool. Show them how to use key features like the mute button. This can help kids feel more comfortable using the new tool in general.

Read on to learn about specific ways kids may struggle with live video lessons and what teachers and families can say and do to help.  

Scroll down for a one-page version of these tips.

1. Feeling anxious about being on camera 

Stomachaches, sweaty palms, racing heartbeats. For some students, being on camera causes anxiety. Tell kids that it’s OK to feel worried and that together you can come up with a plan to make live video lessons better. 

What can help: 

  • Do a one-on-one practice lesson to try out the video tool.
  • Check in privately before the lesson starts to help kids name their emotions and talk about possible causes and solutions.  
  • Tell kids to take five deep breaths before the live video lesson. 
  • Check in after the lesson to see how they’re feeling and what to try next time.
  • Talk about when it’s OK to turn off their camera.  

2. Staying focused

Live video lessons tend to come with a lot of distractions. Chat boxes, classmates on camera, and unmuted microphones can make it hard to focus. Let students know you’ll work together to find ways to make it easier to focus during distance learning.  

What can help:  

  • Encourage kids to set up a quiet, clutter-free space before they join the video lesson. 
  • Show the different options for how to view the video and help kids decide which view is less distracting than the others.
  • Talk about when it’s OK to turn off their camera or close the chat box to help them focus on learning new information. 
  • Suggest trying out seating options, like using a different chair, sitting next to an adult at home, or standing up. 
  • Let students know they can take a break after the lesson. 

3. Keeping up with the lesson

Kids may say that the teacher is “talking too fast.” They may need more time to process what they’re hearing or more time to respond when they’re called on. Tell them that it’s OK to take time to think about what they’re learning and that together you can find ways to help them ask questions and review the lesson.

What can help: 

  • Make sure kids know the teacher’s preferred way for them to ask questions during the lesson. Show them how to use the chat box or any features that let the teacher know they have a question. 
  • Encourage kids to write down any questions they didn’t get to ask during the lesson, so they’ll remember to ask them later. 
  • Help kids get a recording or transcript so they can review the lesson at their own pace.

4. Managing sensory information 

Bright screens, incoming chats, background noises. There’s a lot of sensory information to process during a live video lesson. Let kids know you’ll work together to make what they hear and see during live video meetings more comfortable.

What can help: 

  • Suggest using earphones or earbuds to block out sounds from home and help kids better focus on the video. (But keep in mind that sometimes earphones can be uncomfortable.) Try adjusting the volume too.
  • Make sure kids know how to adjust the screen brightness. Some kids like screens that are darker, while some like screens that are lighter. 
  • Help kids try using a fidget tool, like a squishy ball, during the live video lesson.
Teaching tip: Limit sensory information using the features of your videoconference tool. Use the mute button to help students focus on the speaker. Try breakout rooms, small groups, and one-on-one lessons in addition to whole-class sessions. 

5. Remembering key points

Kids may have trouble remembering what happened in a live video lesson. They may say things like “I forgot what we talked about.” Or they may get stuck when working on the lesson’s assignment. Let kids know it may take time to adjust to video lessons and that together you’ll figure out the best way to help them learn the material.

What can help: 

  • Encourage kids to take notes during the lesson. Use sticky notes to jot down key points or try a note-taking tool. Kids who have trouble with this kind of multitasking can ask to review the teacher’s notes after the lesson.
  • Ask kids to write, type, draw, or tell you key points after the lesson.
  • Help kids watch a recording or read a transcript of the lesson. Encourage them to take notes or make study tools like flashcards. 

Download a one-page version of these tips

This printable is available in English and Spanish.

Live video lessons: Challenges and ways to help (English)PDF

Download$opens in a new tab


Live video lessons: Challenges and ways to help (Spanish)PDF

Download$opens in a new tab

More resources

Talking with students about live video lessons and other challenges can help ease the transition to distance learning. For example, teachers and students can have one-on-one conversations to brainstorm which strategies to try. Working together can make learning at home go more smoothly.

About the author

About the author

Brittney Newcomer, MS, NCSP is the associate director of thought leadership at Understood. She has served in public schools for more than a decade as a teacher, evaluator, and curriculum manager.

Reviewed by

Reviewed by

Gabrielle Rappolt-Schlichtmann, EdD is the executive director and chief scientist at EdTogether and an adjunct lecturer at the Harvard Graduate School of Education.